Wireless Access Point Recommendation

Posted on 2011-03-16
Last Modified: 2013-12-27
Hello Experts,
I am looking for recommendations for a good, reliable, stable wireless access point for a small office area.  This area is approximately 60' X 70', with a conference room in the middle of the area.  The WAP will be mounted in the ceiling in the center of the conference room.  There will be up to 12 wireless systems in the area that need to connect to the WAP.  I have tried the "basic" Linksys and D-Link WAPs with some success, but would like to look at something a bit more robust.  Don't want to spend a ton, but am willing to go beyond the cost of the basic offerings.  
Thanks in advance for your help,
Question by:rdillion
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LVL 21

Expert Comment

ID: 35153379
What are you looking for beyond what the "basic" LinkSys and D-Link WAPs offer?  That is somewhat critical.

Expert Comment

ID: 35153623
Well I have used Cisco 1232 AP and never had an outage with those, not even one failure.

Author Comment

ID: 35155629
Thanks for thaking a look at my question.  Basically, I am looking for complete coverage of the entire area, with at least 802.11g speed throughout.  Since the signal will need to traverse through a wall on each side of the conference room to the adjoining office space on either side, I am concerned that the products I have tried in the past may not have the signal strenght to accomplish that.  I also need to ensure that the WAP can handle up to 12 simultaneous connections without becoming saturated or having performance issues.
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Author Comment

ID: 35155634
Thanks lomejordeesto, I'll take a look at the specs on that one.
LVL 21

Expert Comment

ID: 35160666
I've been using the Asus RT-N12 router in a variety of applications and have been happy with it.  It may  not qualify as a "premium" device, but it has worked for me.  It is inexpensive (under $40) and does support the DD-WRT software if that is your preference (though I've not used that yet).

One feature that I like (may not be of use to you here) is that it can be used as a router, access point, or bridge, depending on the setting of a switch.  That is useful to me as it allows me to standardize on one device regardless of the application.

I wouldn't think that 12 simultaneous connections is a problem for any reasonable wireless access point.  Coverage through the wall is likely to be very dependent on what is in the wall.  If you have easy access to the site, it shouldn't take much to set up the WAP and test it for its ability to get through the wall.
LVL 24

Accepted Solution

rfc1180 earned 250 total points
ID: 35172625
>I am looking for recommendations for a good, reliable, stable wireless access point for a small office area.  This area is approximately 60' X 70'

Do you have a scaled floor plan? Please attach

>There will be up to 12 wireless systems in the area that need to connect to the WAP.  I have tried the "basic" Linksys and D-Link WAPs with some success

A RF Radio is an RF Radio, some will have different characteristics, but for the most part function the same; the only difference is that in the output power, receive sensitivity, and gain of the antennas (Additionally, if the antennas are internal or external).

Stay away from access points that have internal antennas; use APs that have external APs.
Do not mount the AP in the ceiling (Above the drop tile), you will want to mount the AP below the drop tile. If this is not an option, you will want to invest into a External antenna that has the capability to be installed below the drop tile. This is a requirement for the best coverage, if not the AP, the antennas mounted external (Below the drop tile) are essential to the design.

Other reasons why you might have had little success is that you have:
1. Noisy environment (other access points in the area, microwave interference, bluetooth, etc.)
2. Type of material used for the walls between the conference room and the office area is very lossy, 3 - 12dB loss (Typically, drywalls are about 3dB of loss and can be upto 5dB depending on the type of drywall is installed; bricks can be up to 9dB of loss and concrete walls can be up to 12dB of loss). You will have to consider any type of metal studs in the wall, this can cause signals to propagate much differently than one would consider.

Wireless design is not as simple as installing an AP, turning it on and hoping that it works between rooms. In its simplest form, it is easy, it is NOT rocket science; well for the non-technical it might seem that it is.... At any rate, there are many factors to consider a good deployment/design of a wireless system and just because you are going to pay $500 for an AP that is more robust and has higher power does not guarantee the system will function reliably with stability in mind.

My point is that a $60 AP that has the same output power, antenna gain, and receive sensitivity with a $500 AP will perform about the same, meaning, you will not see much of a difference in performance between the two.

To start out, do you have a floor plan of the office area (you might not have one handly, but you can use one of the emergency exit floor plans that are near office exit doors or in the hallways of the office building). I can assist with the design, just indicate the type of walls exist for the office and conference room area.

Also, the make and model of the Access Points you currently have that you had little success.

LVL 21

Assisted Solution

CompProbSolv earned 250 total points
ID: 35172865
Why not just (temporarily) set up an AP where you want to place it and then walk around with a laptop to see what the strength is in different areas?  If you survey the area well, especially at the perimeter and also checking for "shading", that can go a long way toward knowing if a single unit will do the job.

With this approach one has to move slowly as the signal strength meter on the laptop may not update very quickly.

There are apps for Android-based phones (and likely for others) that can be used in a similar way.

Author Comment

ID: 35183098
Hi rfc1180,
Thanks for your insight and sharing your expertise.  I have attached a rough floor plan showing the four rooms that will require coverage.  The conference room is in the center, with the approx. position of where I would intend to place the AP marked.  I had intended on mounting it above the ceiling tile for asthetics, but will look into mounting it on the bottom of the ceiling tile.  The interior walls are drywall on metal studs.  I have had some success with the D-Link DAP-1522 Xtreme N Duo Wireless Bridge/Access Point in another area on our campus, but it has an internal antenna.  Any thoughts on what would be a good AP choice that has an external antenna are appreciated.  
Thanks again,
Russ -0321134916-001.pdf

Author Comment

ID: 35261733
I have, for the time being, installed a DLink WAP that I noted above, and it seems to be working.  I do appreciate the help, and wish I could have gotten some better recommendations for a WAP with an external antenna that might work better, but need to get moving on other things and want to get this question closed. I have elected to split the points for the help you folks have offered to this point.

Author Closing Comment

ID: 35261744
no additional comments, other than my last submission.

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