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!

 

Access Point (AP) Antenna Replacements

August 21, 2013 at 10:00 AM

 

Upgrading the antennas on your WiFi access point: How to determine the correct AP connector

 

Our technical support department often answers questions like: "How do I upgrade my access points' antennas?" or "How do I identify the type of connector on my WiFi access point or router?" There are a few simple steps to adding or replacing the antenna on your wireless product.

 

First you must check to see if the antennas on your access point are removable.

 

                               Front of an EnGenius wireless access point (AP) showing antennas behindBack of an EnGenius wireless access point (AP) showing antennas

Front and back of a WiFi Access Point showing removable rubber duck antennas installed

 

Back of an EnGenius wireless access point (AP) showing antennas removed

Back of a WiFi Access Point showing rubber duck antennas removed.

 

Next you should identify the type of connector the antenna jack is on the access point. One tip is to check with the manufacturer's website or user manual for your specific make and model listing for the antenna connector type. If you cannot find it on the manufacturer's web site, you can compare it with our common RF connector chart shown below.

 

Common RF Coaxial Connectors

 

Also, you may want to upgrade to a higher gain rubber duck antenna on your access point to increase the signal range and strength. View our 2.4 GHz Rubber Duck antenna selection.

 

Or you might want to connect your access point to an outside antenna. In this case you will need to connect a low loss coax pigtail cable to your access point and then to a longer antenna feeder cable to reach the outside antenna as illustrated below.

 

Illustration of low loss coax pigtail used to connect wireless AP to an antenna

Quick tip: If you need a new antenna, try L-com's Antenna Product Wizard to make your search easier. The wizard will walk you through three steps to identify antennas that match your criteria.

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.
 

How to Install Wireless Amplifiers

July 10, 2013 at 10:00 AM

 Setting up a WiFi Booster for an Indoor Wireless System

 

An Assortment of WiFi Amplifiers

If you do not work with wireless components every day, the prospect of adding a new component to boost the power of your signal may seem daunting. While we always recommend you have a professional install communications equipment to ensure it is done correctly, this brief tutorial will give you the basic steps to set up a simple WiFi booster. If it helps, you can also take a look at the video in this post or visit our complete tutorial here.

 

 

 

If you have a WLAN setup that requires a stronger signal, a simple WiFi booster may do the trick. Due to FCC regulations, if you are doing this installation in the United States, you need FCC approval to buy the amplifier. If you don't need an amplifier with power over 1 Watt, you can purchase an FCC certified amplifier kit which requires no special operator's license. Either way, most setups follow this simple procedure.

 

Diagram of an RF amplifier setup

On the amplifier, you will typically see two coaxial cable jacks, one labeled "Antenna" and the other labeled "Radio". There should also be a power jack (usually a DC jack requiring an external power adapter), which is where the amplifier gets the power to repeat the signal.

 

Using low-loss coaxial cable, simply connect the antenna to the antenna jack on the amplifier, and the radio (or access point or router, etc) to the radio jack. Then, after the two sides are hooked up, attach the power adapter and plug it in. Most amplifiers have LED lights to indicate activity, which helps you to see if it is working.

 

It's that easy!

 

Quick note: L-com has a huge selection of top-quality wireless RF amplifiers for the 2.4 GHz WiFi band and 5.8 GHz WiFi band, as well as 900 MHz, 3.5 GHz, and 4.9 GHz frequencies. These ampifiers feature HyperLink's® Active Power Control (APC), which automatically maintains a constant output power regardless of the length of the attached cables. Aside from the indoor wireless amplifiers, L-com also carries HyperLink® brand outdoor wireless amplifiers for all-weather operation.
 

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.

 

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