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Central or Multiple?, WiFi emission setup for the size of 3 to 5 houses area.

Hi!   Everyone,

I am setting up WiFi singal coverage for my church, I would say the size of property is about 3 to 5 houses.    The source of high speed Internet is CABLE, and I want to keep the current CABLE setup.    The only change I want to try is to set up reasonably good WiFi signal at all area of my church property.     And here is the question.    Without spending big money, one of church member is suggesting me to setup multiple WiFi emission devices at each of church's housings (administration building, chapel, friendship building, gym and patio), so total 4 or 5 WiFi emission devices.  

What do you suggest?    Instead of multiple WiFi devices, is it the central powerful one WiFi emission device possible?      One or multiple?    Which do you think better?    Which is economical and efficient in terms of WiFi signal strength?      Thanks for your help.

4 Solutions
Depending on the distances, you can get high power transceivers, but the limitation will be on the user devices. They will be able to recieve the signal, but their transmitters will not have the power to reach the main unit unless it is in line of sight with no trees, walls etc.

I would draw a scale map of the property, get cut outs of the signal strength diameter( to scale) of an average unit in your price range. Then find how many and where you need to place them on your map to get your coverage. Then you can run buried cable to each location, or use wireless bridging to distribute the network coverage and internet.

Ideally you would use buried cable as it is no where near as weather/line of sight dependent as wireless bridging.
A few factors when placing your access points.  This doesn't necessarily answer your question but will help you decide how many wireless access points are needed and how to place them for best performance:

Number of concurrent wireless users:  I'd recommend for optimal performance no more than 10 users per wireless access point.  Most definately keep it under 20 or you'll run into serious performance problems.

Channel usage:  most all computers will  be equiped with 802.11b/g technology that runs in the 2.4GHz ISM band.  This will probably be the frequency you'll want to use for best compatibility.  There are only 3 available channels in this band that don't interfere with each other: 1, 6, and 11.  with 5 AP's you'll want to strategically map these channels where they don't interfere with each other.  I'd recommend doing a site survey with a free program called "net stumbler" .  to do this, start in 1 corner of your building and place you access point there temproarily.  Using netstumbler on a laptop, start walking away from the AP toward the center of the room.  When you signal drops to around 67dB, this will be where you want to place your first access point.  Move your access point to this position and continue this process until you have the coverage you need.  Keep similar channels farther away from each other using a channel pattern of 1, 6, and 11.

These access points will need to be cabled back to your router which should be connected to your cable modem.  If not enough ports are available on your router you will need to purchase a network switch to connect them to your router.
mkidoAuthor Commented:
Thanks, washburnma and zulazen,

I have to carefully read again, and I need to test it what you are saying.    So give me a few days to get back my feedback.   Thanks.   You guys are great!   Bye now.

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Jakob DigranesSenior ConsultantCommented:
Multiple AP's, no doubt:
Here's why:

- bandwidth: Remeber that each wireless communication on each channel is broadcast - so all connected clients will share that bandwidth. Depending on AP's hardware - you could easily put 20 - 50 wireless users on an AP, since just dividing available bandwidth on amount of users is wrong - they all get fair amount of air time, and most likely, in you scenario users will not utilize heavy traffic.
We had a test in a Hotel environment - and with 30 user on each AP and 50% shared amon 802.11b and 802.11a/g clients.

Redundancy - if you loose one AP, others will be able to cover some extra area.

Channel planning - true, use channels 1, 6 and 11 for the 2,4 Ghz area - but look into buying AP's with dual radio - so you can broadcast on both 5Ghz and 2,4 Ghz, 5 Ghz have a bit shorter range - but the 5Ghz band is less crowded and have little interference

Site survey - remember  that a site survey in an empty building - isn't the same as a site survey in a full building. People do drecrease signals.

Look into buying PoE switches and PoE enabled AP's - then you would not need AC cables to the AP's - all you need is ethernet cabling
mkidoAuthor Commented:
Hi!  zulanzen and jakob_di,

Please excuse me this layman (beginner's) question on WiFi tech.    What is AP?     If it is an acronym, may I know the full name?    
mkidoAuthor Commented:
It is ACCESS POINT (AP).      I got it, Multiple Access Points (APs).     Make sense.    

Now a few more questions.    

I saw 802.11b/g, 802.11b, and 802.11a/g among the comments.     When should I have to pay attention on these technical specification difference?     When setting up the Access Point Router?    OR these tech difference mainly should be concerned with User's Laptop side specification?

Final question was about "PoE", however, I looked at Google/Wikipedia and figured it out.   It stands for POWER OVER ETHERNET (PoE).   These PoE enebaled Access Point (AP) routers are slightly higher price than AC powered one in the market.  

 I will go for NetStumbler test shortly, and I will feed back to you my test result.   Bye now.

Jakob DigranesSenior ConsultantCommented:

Yes, AP is access point - different from routers, which have routing/firewall capabilities, the AP only have LAN capabilities, no DHCP, routing capabilities, hence you need a router firewall in addition (which you have in your cabled setup). Still, you can probarbly stumble upon other definitions.

802.11a/b/g/n is configured on AP/wireless controller side - how you configure this is different from vendor to vendor.
PoE is good, since you need no ac-adapters mounted with the APs. Buy you need PoE switches or injectors in datacenter as well.

You look at inSSIDer from www.metageek.net insteadof netstumbler, which is rather old.

Do you need to separate wireless network from wired? Is the wired used for just nternet or corporate data as well?
mkidoAuthor Commented:
Hi1  washburnma, zulazen, jabob_di.

Thanks so much.   I have to get driving in a day or two for long distance, so I close this question now just for my convenience.    I may repost continuation of my feedback as another question later.    Thanks so much.    Multiple Access Points (AP), I got it sure.   Bye now.

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