Best Way to Set Up Wireless Network

Posted on 2009-02-10
Last Modified: 2013-12-27
I am looking for the best way to set up my home network.  My house came with a "junction box" built into a wall in the basement, which contains cat5 cables to all of the data and phone ports in the various rooms of my house.  The typical, intended setup, is for the cable modem and wireless router to reside in the box.  I haven't been getting the best wireless connectivity or throughput, so I am concerned that the fact that the wireless router is in the basement, which surrounds it with cement and puts it at a distance from the first and second floors.

Here are 3 ideas I had for how to set up my network.  I've identified the pros and cons.  What I need from you is the experience to know which concerns are non issues and which are important.  What will and will not have an impact?  What should I optimize for with my choices?

1) cable modem, wireless router in basement
PROS: I can connect wired devices to the router that are not in the same room as it.
CONS: Wireless signal suffers from cement and distance from the first and second floors.

2) cable modem, wireless router on first floor
PROS::  Less distance and no cement blocking wireless signal.
CONS: The quality of the signal seen by the cable modem may suffer because of a few things: First, it would have to travel a further distance up a floor before hitting the modem.  More importantly, it would have to go through some additional splitters.  Right now, the main cable comes into an 8-way passive splitter and then one lead goes into the cable modem.  In configuration #2, the signal would have to go through a splitter in the basement, go up a floor, then get split again so that it could feed the cable modem and the TV in that room.

3) cable modem and non-wireless-router downstairs, wireless router upstairs
PROS: max signal strength for the wireless.  allows connection of wired devices that are in other rooms than the router.  cable modem gets best possible signal.
CONS: Every computer has a second router to pass through.  My speed testing with the tools at showed me how much worse throughput I got when going through my existing router versus plugging directly into the cable modem.

So which concerns will dwarf the others?  What is the best option above (or do you have a better option?) and *why*?    Please justify your answers with experience and data.

By the way, I have a Linksys wireless-g router now, but I am considering buying an 802.11 draft-n router.  The new laptop I'm getting will have the Intel WiFi Link 5100 802.11 AGN card.

Thanks so much for your help.
Question by:mjw
    LVL 89

    Expert Comment

    by:John Hurst
    The only right answer here is what works for you.

    I keep my wireless router in the basement behind a concrete wall with an 8-inch steel I-beam beside it. I get good reception on the second floor and outside on the patio.

    I do not see any speed degredation comparing speed tests through the cable modem directly and then through a wired router.

    If you want your wireless router on the main floor, run an RG-6 cable from the first splitter in the incoming cable (there must be at least one) to the main floor and locate the cable modem on the main floor. Likely, this will not cause a problem. You can always run an ethernet wire back down to the junction box and put a fast 1Gbit/sec switch in there.

    Finally, if you keep the main system in the basement and run a wire to the main floor to the wireless access point. If you use a good quality wired router in the basement, you should not have a serious wireless speed problem on the main floor.
    ..... T

    LVL 28

    Expert Comment

    Here's a small twist on option number one. or three.  Switch to an Apple Airport Extreme wireless router and use an Airport Express to extend your network. I had a fairly high-end Proxim wireless access point in my home and I was trying to connect to it from another room on the same floor with my Windows-based PC and my Mac. There was almost nothing between these two rooms other than air and some sheetrock. Signal was terrible and I had the radio turned up all the way on the AP.  Anyway, bought an Airport Extreme and Express with the intention of replacing the Proxim and then using the express to extend the network into the basement for my son's laptop.  However, the quality signal that I get from the Extreme has never given me anything less than Excellent on my two computers and my son's connects just fine as well; I've never really needed the express... but I don't have to go through the level of concrete that you might.  You can also download software from Apple to manage the Airports from a Windows PC.
    LVL 89

    Accepted Solution

    I just wanted to post back here. Since I posted, and today, I introduced a LinkSys RV042 VPN router as my main home router. It is connected directly to the cable modem.

    Not wanting to lose wireless, I connected my Netopia 3387WG-ENT to the LinkSys, disabled DHCP and get the WAN IP as the next number up from the LinkSys.  So this is your point 2 where you worry about signal degration and throughput problems. None for me. Works great.
    .... T

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