Jaap Haagmans The all-round IT guy


Expanding the reach of a WiFi network

I live in a modern home, where all bearing walls and floors consist of fortified concrete. Our internet connection enters the house on the ground floor, where our WiFi router and my office is located and we sleep on the second floor (or third floor if we'd live in the US or Russia). The (first-world) problem with this is that we have nearly no WiFi signal in our bedroom. During the winter, I always like to use my laptop in bed on weekend mornings, but we only have one RJ45 socket in our bedroom, which means my wife will have to use the crappy WiFi connection (as I usually wake up earlier).

So I've picked up the plan to expand the reach of our WiFi network to the 2nd storey. To do this, I'm buying a second WiFi access point that I can connect to one of the RJ45 sockets on our first floor. By setting the authentication settings (including the SSID) to exactly the same configuration as the other WiFi AP, all our devices (phones, tablets, laptops, refrigerator, just kidding) will be able to connect to this second AP seamlessly. However, you need to make sure your second AP doesn't interfere with the first one. To do this, first disable any router functionality on the second AP to create a "bridge" where the first AP (and router) serves as a DHCP server. If you can, also give your second AP a static IP address not included in the DHCP range so you can easily access it.

The second important step is to pick a WiFi channel for both your APs. These channels correspond with frequencies (usually) ranging from 2.4 to 2.5 Ghz, usually numbered 1 - 12 or 14. The bandwidth of a WiFi signal is approximately 20 Mhz while the steps between the channels are 5 Mhz, which is why it is advised to keep 4 unused channels (25 Mhz) between your used channels. This is why you'll find that most networks use channels 1, 6 and 11. You're not bound to these channels though. So, pick two channels you like (e.g. 1 and 6) to make sure the two networks don't interfere with each other.

You can also easily expand to three APs this way, but when expanding further, make sure that when you place your APs, they don't interfere with APs within your network that use the same channel. This can be done using measurement tools like WirelessMon. This will need some careful planning though.

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