Wireless Networking Essentials (Part 2) : Wireless Repeater, Limitation Of A Wireless Network

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Wireless Repeater

A wireless repeater or 'range extender' is a simple and effective way of extending the range of a wireless network you already have. Just put the wireless range extender within range of your main access point or wireless router, and it 'bounces' the signals out to wireless devices that were otherwise out of range. Ideally, you need to position your repeater well within comfortable range of the main router. The repeater then acts as a relay station, receiving and re-transmitting wireless traffic, thereby extending range. It should be noted that a wireless repeater will have a slight negative impact on both latency and speed of a wireless network. If you don't need one, don't use one, but if you find your house or flat is a little too large for a single centrally-located router, these cost effective gadgets are a real life saver.

Description: Wireless Repeater

Limitation Of A Wireless Network

Description: Wireless Router Network Diagram

Wireless Router Network Diagram

Although a wireless network is an incredibly quick and easy way of networking devices within your home, its limitations need to be understood.

Multiple connections are easily set up with a wireless network, but you need to remember that the bandwidth and resources of the network need to be shared among all devices. If you have a 54Mbps connection with 20 devices communicating across your network, for example, they only have 2.7Mbps each when all are connected and communicating at the same time. This is why you might find your gaming experience suffers when playing over wireless on an Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 while your partner watches EastEnders on iPlayer!

The problem is exaggerated further should you try and stream from one wireless device to another. If you have a Media Centre Extender or Xbox 360 that you want to use to stream a movie you downloaded on your desktop, for example, you will find it probably works acceptably so long as you have enough signal strength and connection speed. Try to do the same over a wirelessly connected laptop and it almost certainly won't work, as the data has to be simultaneously sent from the laptop to the router, then from the router to the Xbox or extender, thereby halving the available bandwidth for both devices.

In general, wireless is pretty lousy for high bandwidth streaming as a rule. Low quality web video and music files will stream fine, but it's an entirely different kettle of proverbial fish when you try and stream high definition content. This is because much more bandwidth is required to transfer all of that data, resulting in drop outs and stuttering on your playback. It's where a physical wire holds far more of the cards.

Improving Wireless Speed

Description: Improve Wireless Speed DAP-1522 Xtreme N Duo

Improve Wireless Speed DAP-1522 Xtreme N Duo

The easiest way of improving the speed of your wireless network is to invest in more up to date infrastructure. If you are using a 'G' or 54Mbps network, by switching to a 300Mbps or 'N' compliant network, you could increase your connection speed by a factor of up to five.

Wireless N technology isn't magic, however. If your performance is poor because you are overstretching the range or bandwidth available on wireless, or if you live in a property with unusually dense walls and floors, upgrading will not fix your issues. In this case you are better off investing in a Powerline network, which converts your home's power grid into a cabled connection.

If you already have an up-to-date wireless network but still want more speed, you could try using channel bonding mode. This will use two adjacent wireless network channels for up to double the performance, but doesn't always work well - especially when you live in an area with a lot of wi-fi traffic. Antenna upgrade kits can help by boosting the range of your existing equipment, though you should make sure your hardware has standard screw-in ports before investing in these.

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