How to Extend the Range of Your Wireless Signal

September 4, 2013 at 10:00 AM

 

 

One of the most common questions we are asked is: "How do I extend my WiFi signal?" Whether you need extension for an indoor or outdoor application, here are your options:

 

Use a higher gain antenna: By using a higher gain antenna you can extend your wireless signal range, though one thing to consider when using a higher gain antenna is potential loss of vertical signal coverage. Typically when you increase the gain on an antenna the RF gain pattern becomes more focused and produces a narrower horizontal beam. Read more about this phenomenon of higher gain causing less vertical signal coverage.

 

Add a WiFi amplifier: By adding a WiFi amplifier you can boost your wireless signal. We suggest trying one of our WiFi booster kits that are available for purchase by anyone in the United States without the need for a special FCC license. These kits offer easy set up and strong signal extension and coverage capabilities. Additionally we offer RF amplifiers for export, military and FCC licensed users supporting frequencies ranging from 900 MHz to 5.8 GHz.

 

Upgrade from 802.11b/g to 802.11n: If you are currently using 802.11b or 802.11g access points and wireless adapters, consider upgrading to the latest IEEE standard, 802.11n. 802.11n offers better range and speed than 802.11b and 802.11g standards products.

 

Use a higher power Access Point: A typical WiFi router or Access Point provides about 30mW of transmit power. By upgrading to a higher power access point or router you can boost your wireless signal resulting in extended coverage.

 

As with any wireless installation, Line of Sight and the Fresnel Zone must be considered along with other factors such as multipath interference. These phenomena and your physical environment (obstacles, obstructions etc.) all affect your signal strength and range.

 

WiFi Antennas WiFi Amplifiers WiFi Access Points
WiFi Antennas WiFi Amplifiers WiFi Access Points

 

By using one or a combination of these aforementioned upgrades and additions you can provide greater wireless signal coverage. Good luck!

 

How to Install Grid Antennas

July 24, 2013 at 10:00 AM


Grid Antenna Mounted on a Mast or Pole with Downward Angle

To make installation for your application easier, here’s a rundown of what to look for. First though, let’s decipher this: why use a Grid Antenna?

 

For point-to-point communications, a grid antenna has a lot of advantages that may make it the best choice for your application. First- since they are directional, they can provide better gain by focusing the beam in a particular direction. Second, though they are typically larger than other antenna types, they usually break down easily to fit in a box for easy transport to the installation site, or for storage while not being used.

 

Once assembled, the grid provides better wind loading than dish antennas. They are very also very easy to mount in either vertical or horizontal polarization and easy to tilt for precise aiming.

 

 

Assembly

 

We suggest double-checking the quality of the antenna before you purchase, especially if the installation is outdoors. The grid should have a UV protective coating and all of the hardware should be stainless steel.

 

When you order a grid antenna, it usually comes disassembled. Different manufacturers make grid antennas with slightly different installation instructions. When putting the grid antenna together, take all normal safety precautions to avoid coming into contact with dangerous electrical lines, etc., then go over the parts list. All grid antennas need the grid itself (often broken into two halves to reduce shipping costs), mounting "L" bracket, mast clamps, hardware such as screws, nuts and washers, and the feed horn. The feed horn is the long, protruding piece in the center of the grid that sends the actual signal. The below video (or this tutorial) demonstrates step by step assembly of the grid antenna. 

 

 

Where can you find a reliable antenna? L-com's HyperLink® line of grid antennas features tons of options for 2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz bands, along with specialty versions for the 900 MHz, 1.9 GHz, 3.5 GHz and 4.9 GHz. Many options are available in convenient 5-packs that save you time and money. There are also hardware packages for replacing or maintaining components of a grid antenna.
 

Picking the Right Antenna for Your Application

May 29, 2013 at 10:00 AM

 

How-To 

 

A log periodic antenna mounted on a pole or mast

If you are new to wireless technology, the multitude of antenna shapes, sizes, styles and gains can be bewildering at first. Will you need a dish antenna, a grid, a Yagi or just a rubber duck?

 

Fortunately, by following a few rules of thumb, you can get a hang of the different styles and the applications they fill. It starts with a complete survey of the area where you need coverage: its shape, size and obstructions found within it. With these details on hand, you'll need to consider the following factors:


 

Beam Width


One of the key differences between antenna styles is the "beam width" and direction. In general, the narrower the beam width the more powerful the signal is in a particular direction. That's not to say Omni directional antennas are weak, but merely that the signal strength is spread in a different way (which may or may not be appropriate for your application).

 

Read this article for more information on signal gain patterns and wireless network design.

 

Vertical and horizontal beam patterns
Beam Pattern of a Log Periodic Antenna

 

 

Antenna Polarity

 

Another aspect of antennas to keep in mind is the polarity. While wireless signals travel, they move as a wave. Just like ripples on the surface of water, waves that move in the same direction cancel each other out. Waves in different directions do not. In a similar way, too many antennas set up in a vertical polarization in an area can cancel each other out, resulting in extremely poor signals.

 

In the case where a lot of wireless signals in the same band may be required, setting up antennas with different polarities can improve the performance of each signal. In some instances, you may want to set up "dual polarized" antennas, which include both vertical and horizontal polarities. These and other types of polarities (such as "cross polarized" and "circular polarized") can improve the strength and distance of signals in multiple ways.

 

This article offers some great information on antenna polarization.

 

Antenna Polarization Diagrams
WiFi Antenna Polarization Schemes

 

 

Antenna Gain

 

The final consideration for choosing your antenna is antenna gain. Measured in decibels (dB), it is commonly written as a number followed by "dBi" (the "i" at the end is for "Isotropic", and indicates that the number is relative to an imaginary, "perfect" dipole radiation). In general, the higher the dBi the stronger the signal in whatever direction it is going.

 

While it may seem tempting to simply buy the antenna with the highest gain for your beam width and polarization, it may not be relevant for your application. You should seek a dBi relative to the size of the space that the signal needs to cover. In many cases, a high gain will provide poor coverage closer to the antenna and better coverage further away.

 

For instance, setting up an Omni directional antenna in the center of a small cafe would require a smaller gain. If you use an antenna with too large a gain, people using devices in the street outside of the cafe would have better signal than those in the cafe itself because the total signal would be stretched.

 

This article explains why too much gain is a bad thing.

 

Small gain antenna used in 300-foot courtyardLarge gain antenna used in 1000-foot courtyard
An 8 dBi Omni directional antenna is more appropriate for a 300' space in a cafe courtyard than a 14 dBi antenna.
 

Quick note: L-com's technical resources section has tons of helpful information for the WiFi newbie or established expert alike. Also, for help selecting an antenna, try the Antenna Product Wizard.

 

What is an Omni directional antenna for 2.4 GHz?

May 15, 2013 at 10:00 AM

 

Omnidirectional antenna

As wireless technology continues to grow and develop, several antenna shapes and designs have arisen to provide different types of coverage. An Omni directional antenna is so called because it provides a wireless signal in a 360° radius, or in "all directions". These types of antennas are very common, and typically look like a very straight, stick-like shape.

 

Since the energy of the signal is not directional or pointed in a specific way, Omni directional antennas tend to be of lower gain than directional antennas such as parabolic dish, Yagi, and panel style antennas. However, higher gain isn't usually required for small installations such as Wi-Fi "hotspots" in stores and cafes. For those kinds of applications, a single Omni directional antenna installed near the center of the location often does the trick.

 

The 2.4 GHz band is typically designated for Wi-Fi use, and is the most common band for things like laptop and tablet wireless access. Therefore, if you are setting up a network for customers or visitors to access the Internet wirelessly, you'll often be installing a 2.4 GHz antenna. However, check the specifications of the access point that is being hooked up to the antenna to make sure the frequencies match. 

 

Quick note: L-com has a huge selection of 2.4 GHz antennas, from parabolic dish antennas, to Omni directional and everything in between.
 
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