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Extending a wireless network in a large home

Posted on 2010-08-25
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I am trying to provide wireless access to a large home (at least to the first floor). I recently installed a Linksys e3000 and setup WPA2 encryption. It's hardwired into the network and works fine except it does not cover the full length of the first floor.

How can I extend it so that if you walk from the kitchen area (where the e3000 is) to the living room, with iPad or laptop in hand, it automatically switches to the closest access point(?) without user intervention?

I've heard of 'Bridging', but I don't know if this is what I need. Or do I need a repeater. Or can I just add another hardwired AP and just make it auto connect when in range. (How would a wireless device know when to switch over?) Would the e2000 or e1000 work. The e3000 is kind of expensive ($200).

I need to do this tomorrow, so quick advice would be appreciated.
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Question by:Tom Beck
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by:Dave773
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If you change it to B/G only, you can use one of these:
http://homestore.cisco.com/en-us/rangeexpanders/linksys-wre54g-wirelessg_stcVVproductId53934613VVcatId552009VVviewprod.htm
Alternatively, you may want to try to reposition the AP somewhere else.
You can't set these up to roam seamlessly. That is a feature of much more expensive APs.
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Gary Dewrell earned 200 total points
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A wireless repeater would be your best bet. Something like this.
http://www.google.com/products/catalog?hl=en&rlz=1T4ADFA_enUS366US366&q=wireless+repeater&um=1&ie=UTF-8&cid=5872740843227684656&ei=8GN1TKCIE4H-8AaZn8SLBw&sa=X&oi=product_catalog_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CD0Q8wIwAA#

However unless that house is really big you should be able to get pretty decent coverage. Might look and see if can place your current AP in a more central location.  Also might consider changing the default channel in case  you are getting some contention with other nearby devices.
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by:Tom Beck
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Thanks for the quick responses. Unfortunately, this is not my first attempt to get this house wired for wireless. I installed a number of low cost routers in the past and was always disappointed at the lack of range. Part of the problem is the construction of the house. The walls are thick plaster with wire mesh reinforcing underneath. It swallows wireless signals. Put a cheap AP in a room, and it's basically good for that room. The new Linksys e3000 has much better range, but still cannot cover the whole first floor. It is strategically placed now so it has line of sight down the main corridor that runs the length of the house. Still, the signal is weak at the other end. Step into a room down the hall and forget it! If I made it more central it would not serve the breakfast room which is important to the client. Sounds like a repeater is the right device to use, however, it would need to cover wireless N for the iPad.  I actually purchased a Linksys WRE54G repeater for this house 3 or 4 years ago. Hard to believe they don't have a newer model. Aside from the fact that it only handles wireless G, I seem to recall difficulties with encryption.
Any experience with this brand? http://www.google.com/products/catalog?hl=en&q=wireless+repeater&cid=13280308897405130855#
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by:Dave773
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No experience with that brand, but it's worth a shot.
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by:Gary Dewrell
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No but as long as you can get one from a vender that has a decent return policy I would give it a shot.
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by:Tom Beck
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Yesterday I installed a Hawkin HWREN1 Repeater. Followed the instructions and it works. I get four bars in a room at the end of the hall. The problem is, it's not seamless. If I move from the kitchen area to the living room area, I have to disconnect from the kitchen AP and connect to the living room repeater. It acts just like another stand-alone AP. The instruction tell you to name it so you can distinguish it from other APs. It's IP address is provided by the main AP's DHCP capabilities. I used the 'Wizard' software that came with it to set it up. What's the point of a repeater if it acts like another AP? It saves me from wiring, but wiring is not the problem I was trying to overcome. Would giving it the same name as the main AP cause it to be seamless? (I just thought of that now but I'm no longer on site to try it.)
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by:Gary Dewrell
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Let me pull up the specs on that repaeater. Get back to you in a minute.
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by:Gary Dewrell
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What firmware version did it ship with?
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by:acstechee
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Could you not try a ethernet over power solution for your access point. Have a look at the device below.

http://www.devolo.co.uk/consumer/9_dlan-wireless-extender_starter-kit_product-presentation_1.html?l=en
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by:Gary Dewrell
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Looking through the manual I see a few things you can check.

1. Conntec to the repeater with your webrowser and login to the managemnet interface.
2. click on the Status tab.
3. Look at Mode, Is it set to Universal Repeater?
4. Look at channel, is it set to the SAME channel your AP is? If not change it to match your AP.
5. Click on the security tab. Make sure all of the security details MATCH what you have in your AP.
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by:Tom Beck
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@acstechee,
That could be the solution for this house if it:
1.) handles wireless g and n
2.) handles at least WPA encryption if not WPA2
3.) works with the funky wiring in this old house.
Checked out the website, but could not answer those questions from there.

@gdewrell,
Your suggestions will have to wait until next week. I can tell you that the Hawkins allowed the same WPA2 encryption scheme I had set up on the Linksys e3000.
Same channel, Universal Repeater mode? I'll have to look for those. I never looked at the actual configuration screens, just the wizard setup. It was 4:30 when the thing arrived in the mail, and 6:00 by the time I was done setup/testing. I wanted to go home.
I don't know what firmware version.

Thanks for the suggestions.
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by:Gary Dewrell
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OK that device can be put into multiple modes one of which is AP mode. For your setup it should be in repeater mode and set the same channel and security as your AP.

Good luck.

Gary
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by:Tom Beck
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Ahh, that makes sense. It must default to AP mode. I wish it was not 50 miles away, I'd like another crack at it now.
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by:acstechee
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The answer to all 3 questions is yes. It certainly supports 802.11g and n and also no problem with WPA. Also I have used these adaptors in a few very old buildings and seem to work very well across different ring mains.
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by:Tom Beck
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Well that's interesting @acstechee. There's a lot more of this house that the owner would like covered. I'll see if I can convince him to try the product. Thanks.
Pardon my ignorance, what are ring mains?
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by:acstechee
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Ring mains are seperate electrical circuits within a house. Sometimes you would have a seperate ring main for each floor or a seperate one for lighting etc. I'll include a link which explains it pretty well.

But as i mentioned these units work well over different rings.

http://www.ultimatehandyman.co.uk/ring_main.htm
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by:Tom Beck
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Even if circuits a just two wire (no ground)?
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by:acstechee
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I dont think they use the earth circuit to transfer the data, if memory serves correct the earth pin on a uk circuit is a blank and they certainly seem to do 2 pin versions.
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by:Tom Beck
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Ok, really just a difference in terminology between UK and USA.
I just went back to the Devolo website but they don't appear to have an American counterpart. I will have to look for a similar product for US style outlets.
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by:acstechee
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It looks like Corinex do a similar product but I could not vouch for it as i've not tried it personally.

http://www.corinex.com/product/1673.html
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by:Darr247
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This item works in the USA.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16833124306

D-Link, Netgear and others make similar products. Google "powerline adapters" for more. If you're going to use multiples of them, I would stick with the same brand. Those work best if they're on the same pole (not necessarily the same circuit, but being on the same circuit doesn't /hurt/, either) of the standard 120/240 2-pole systems used in the US, or on the same phase of 208/120 3-phase systems that are somewhat-less common. If you connect multiple units together that are on both poles, then they would all talk together no matter what outlet was used (as long as the outlet doesn't have a noise filter on it, as many power strips have... that could attenuate the signal). I recommend hiring an electrician to sort that out for you if you decide to go that route... but just having them on a single pole should be sufficient.

You would still need to connect more access points to them at strategic locations to give full wireless coverage. If the same channel and SSID are used on multiple APs, the only problems I've seen with seamless roaming between them was caused by the drivers for the wireless adapter, not by the APs (regardless of their cost) per se. Without credential caching and pre-authentication (also called Enable Fast Reconnect - see attached) using dot1x (enterprise) authentication, you will likely always see a little momentary lag when switching between APs, but again the price of the AP itself is not a factor in the cause of that.
FastReconnect.png
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by:Tom Beck
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As it turns out, all I needed to do was change the SSID of the Hawkins repeater to match the SSID of the main AP to get somewhat seamless roaming (except for the lag mentioned by @Darr247). Thanks @gdewrell for originally suggesting the repeater. Thanks to @acstechee for the wireless over power lines idea and to @Darr247 for fleshing that out. I look forward to trying that in the future.
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by:TetraSA
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I know this issue is resolved, but for anyone else who is looking for seamless roaming, I dont think seamless roaming is ONLY acheived with high end APs. I currently have 3x USR 9108 APs that I purchased 5 years back and they are by no means "HIGH END" they only cost 95$ each ! Yet they are doing extremely well in seamless mode covering my entire house.

Just thought of sharing that info........Im currently looking into purchasing the E2000 and I was actually wondering if it has that capability, but I guess their is only one way to find out ! :S
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