How to boost our Linksys WRT150N's signal -- across the house?

Currently, we have two DSL lines:
EAST SIDE OF HOUSE: in an add-on "office" room separated by thick
walls). This DSL line leads to a Linksys WRT150N router, which is
connected one computer and three TiVos.
WEST SIDE OF HOUSE: in the living room. This DSL line leads to a
Linksys WRT300N router, which is connected to one laptop, and one
color printer.
We are about to get rid of Line #2, the DSL line in the living room,
leaving only the DSL line in the office, and we would like all devices
to be connected to that one router. However, the wireless signal gets
very weak as it travels through the thick walls of the add-on room and
across the house.
Can we increase that signal -- either by boosting it at the source, or
by adding something like a "repeater" somewhere in the middle of the
house?
Years ago, we had some kind of "booster" device that connected
directly to our old router. The old router had removable antennae,
and this booster device sat right on top of it, connected to the
router by two wires. The booster looked almost exactly like the
router -- blue, and about the same size. It had its own antennae.
I notice that the antennae don't come off of our current WRT150N, so
that might hurt the "booster" idea.
Another solution...? We're about to have a spare WRT300N just sitting
around. Perhaps we could park that somewhere in the middle of the
house and it could pass the signal along...?
However, I've heard comments like "Adding a repeater splits the signal
in half."
The number one use for our bandwidth, by a longshot, will be from the
computer in the office, the one about six feet from the WRT150N. The
only other devices that might even come close would be the TiVos --
say, if we watch YouTube videos, or decide to watch a Netflix movie on
demand.
I hope I've provided enough information for someone to help us with
our choice. Do we already have all the devices we need, or do we need
to buy some additional "booster" or "repeater?"
Thanks in advance.
Reply to
dgates
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On Sat, 27 Dec 2008 16:34:51 -0800, dgates wrote in :
Best solution: Use powerline networking to connect the WRT300N as an access point (not router) in the living room to the WRT150N in the office. Put them on non-overlapping channels with the same SSID.
Repeaters cut speed in half by retransmitting everything, and can be a security hassle.
Reply to
John Navas
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John, what is all of that about?
Reply to
AriĀ®
12:30AM. My appologies if my brain is not quite functional.
Thick walls are bad for RF.
Yep. This is not a good use for wireless. Some other method of connecting the two routers will be necessary.
Nope. 1. It probably won't go thorugh the thick wall any better. Increasing the power at one end of the link doesn't magically do the same for the other end. You would need two of these repeaters (one at each router) in order for it to work. 2. MIMO (802.11n) doesn't like repeaters. That's another reason why the antennas are non-removeable. MIMO requires seperate paths between the antennas with slightly different delays. Unfortunately this only increases the speed, not the range. As soon as you have a marginal signal quality, the wireless access point will revert to 802.11g speeds ( that might hurt the "booster" idea.
Yep. MIMO (802.11n) routers usually do that.
Sure, lots of alternatives. Have your credit card handy.
It reduces the MAXIMUM speed in half (or less). For example, if you manage to squeeze a 12Mbit/sec wireless direct connection through your thick wall, you'll get a theoretical maximum thruput (50% reduction due to protocol overhead). Add a repeater in the middle, and you cut that in half again for a maximum thruput of 3Mbits/sec. As I mentioned, that's under ideal conditions and is usually somewhat less.
That's a fairly typical mix. Netflix is a big bandwidth user.
Yeah, fairly good description. The distance between the two routers would have been useful. Some suggestions:
1. Run CAT5 ethernet cable between the two routers. This is the best and fastest alternative. The WRT150N goes to the DSL modem and gets to play router. The WRT300N acts as an ethernet switch, wireless access point, and has the router section disabled. Note that any wireless router can be uses as an access point:
Having a wireless connection at each end of the house might be handy if you have laptops and PDA's with wireless. Also, put the two wireless routers on different non-overlapping channels (1, 6, 11) so that they don't interefere with each other.
2. If you have any other runs of wire between routers (i.e. phone wire, 25 pair bundle, alarm wire, CATV coax, zip cord, junk wire, barbed wire, etc), you can run ethernet over the 4 wires. Various common technologies are: - HomePNA phone line networking - HomePlug power line networking - 10Base2 ethernet over coax cable - 10baseT ethernet over CAT5 or whatever else you can scrounge. Just about any kind of wire can be bludgeoned into carrying ethernet. There's also fiber optic cable and media converters, which will work if you have access to a source of cheap fiber.
I don't wanna explain how all of these work and are used. If one or more looks interesting, post a reply and I'll fill in the blanks.
Reply to
Jeff Liebermann
Thank you for the reply.
I have some extra detail to offer about our house, and also some extra questions. But I find that I've already typed most of it in my reply to Jeff Liebermann's post.
Still, I should ask:
If I tell you that the WRT300N router doesn't have to stay on the far west side of the house, and that by moving it to the middle of the house, it will get a not-bad wireless signal from the WRT150N router, does that change your recommendation?
I'll paste my ASCII diagram, along with a summary of what signal strength is carried along to each room.
============================================================
East: DSL Modem. Signal starts here.
Middle: 25 feet away in a straight line (through thick walls). Or about 40 feet, through the door and around corners.
West: About 20 feet further than Middle.
South: 25 to 30 feet away from Middle.
25' or 40'
West -- 20' -- Middle --| |-- East | | | | ---- 25' | | South
East (office): "94% (excellent)" from a TiVo.
Middle (family & dining room): "64% (good)" from a TiVo "2 out of 5 bars" from a laptop
West (living room): "2 out of 5 bars" from a laptop
South (exercise room): "41% (marginal)" from a TiVo
============================================================
Reply to
dgates
Never mind the over or under statements. How many walls? What are the walls made from? Any aluminium foil backed insulation in the walls?
Rule of thumb: 1 wall is usually no problem. 2 walls are a problem but can be made to work if sufficiently thin. 3 walls will get you an unstable and unreliable connection. If there is any foil insulation in the walls, forget it. Also, RF likes to travel in straight lines, so count the number of walls along the RF path, not through doorways, hallways, closets, etc.
2 out of 5 is not my idea of good. Lacking real numbers, I would guess 3 out of 5 bars would be a minimum.
Same as above. Barely tolerable. As I previously mentioned, you can make it work with this signal level, but I don't think you'll enjoy having it drop out every time something moves or changes along the path.
Yep. Still functional but I would hate to measure the speed and reliability.
Close. Place two guys far enough apart so that they can just barely hear each other. Now, place a 3rd guy in the middle to play repeater. He listens for one of the other end guy to yell something. When he hears something with a destination address of the other guy, he saves the message, turns around, and yells it to the other guy. The reply goes the same way. The middle guy just stores and plays back the message.
Now, what's important here is that the end guys can just barely hear each other. If both the end guys are yelling at the same time, the middle guy will be confused. If the middle guy is replaying a message and the originating guy decides to send yet another message, the other end guy hears both at the same time and gets it muddled. Lots of other combinations that won't work.
The answer is that only one of the 3 guys can do their yelling at a time. The means that the repeater monopolizes about twice the air time as a single transmission directly from end to end. That's where the bandwidth gets cut in half. Also note that to have it cut exactly in half, the 3 guys have to have perfect timing. That's rarely the case and collisions are common. The result is that a repeater typically reduces maximum thruput by more than half. Also note that it works best if the end points cannot hear each other.
One solution is to use two radios as a repeater. The link between one guy and the repeater is one channel. The link between the repeater and the other guy is on a different channel. With two radios in the repeater, they can transmit and receive simultaneously, thus eliminating the 50% max performance hit.
You won't find these at consumer prices, but you can build your own. All it takes are two wireless ethernet bridge radios and a crossover ethernet cable. They're also becoming common in wireless mesh networks to solve the same problem.
Short opinion: Repeaters usually suck.
Yep. Your laptop should give you an indication of connection speed. Move some traffic, such as streaming audio or video, and start walking around. Look at the connection speed, which will go up and down. I doubt if you can maintain 54Mbits/sec farther than about 5 meters away from the access point. With lots of reflections in the room, probably less. Once you go through a wall or two, your speed will drop down to much lower speeds. That's marginal. No way are you going to maintain a MIMO speed connection with such an arrangement.
Yes. The AG0100 usb dongle is 802.11b/g with 54mbits/sec max.
Before we dive into alternatives, I suggest you consider your performance and bandwidth requirements. If you're moving video files between your DVR and computah or running a video server via ethernet, you're going to need LOTS of bandwidth and performance. I just setup one of those that required gigabit speeds to be usable. You won't get that with wireless, but you can get that with CAT5. You also won't get it with power line, phone line, zip cord, barbed wire, etc. You can with fiber, but you won't like the price.
Chart of common routers and their maximum performance:
The WRT160N is listed at 43.9mbits/sec max (that's with MIMO active). You won't get over 25mbits/sec with 802.11g only. Incidentally, there is quite a bit of really good stuff on this above web site.
The problem with power line networking is that there are several technologies available. Basically, there's 14mbits/sec (HomePlug 1.0), 85mbit/sec (Homeplug 1.0 Turbo) 200mbit/sec (HomePlug AV) speeds. The first is useless. I can't seem to find any benchmark results on the others, but I doubt if you'll get anywhere near the specified maximum.
Incidentally, for running performance tests, see IPerf and JPerf.
tutorial
Ok, I can work with that. Your maximum DSL speed is about 1.5Mbits/sec. If you use a direct wireless connection, you'll need an error free connection speed of no less than 3Mbits/sec. The closest is 5.5Mbits/sec. If you add a repeater, you'll need at least 6Mbits/sec. The closest 802.11g speed is 9Mbits/sec.
That works if everything you do goes through the DSL connection and to the internet. That's possible but rather improbable. For example, wireless printing, Tivo to PC, PC to PC, running backups over the network, shared file/video server, and such are all local traffic that will need to go MUCH faster than DSL speeds. Therefore, with your office arrangement, I suspect that you'll need much more than the minimum of 9Mbit/sec thruput.
Is that 5% of the number of megabloats you're moving, or 5% of the time? I think you'll find the file sizes to be rather huge and the speed requirements rather high if you're playing video server.
Do you have a Tivo 2 or Tivo 3?
I always think in terms of numbers. Units of measure are also handy.
Try watching Netflix online on your laptop with a not so great wireless connection. For extra entertainment, try doing something else with the wireless at the same time. That's important because wireless airtime is a shared resource. If two wireless clients are doing something at the same time, then the available bandwidth gets split (not necessarily equally).
I think it might be handy to have wireless at both ends of the house. You have the hardware so use it.
That would work were it not for the number of walls in the house. If you think you can get adequate coverage from a wireless router in the middle of the house, by all means, try it. However, if you're going to run CAT5 to the router half way across the house, I suggest you finish the job and go all the way from end to end.
Yep. Too many (thick) walls and no single ideal location. Going through windows might work, until something gets in the way. Watch out for low-E window coatings. They block RF. It might be possible to locate the single router in the South part of the house, and shoot through windows in both the West and East ends. That might work for a fixed antenna located in the window, but I doubt it will work for the laptop with an internal antenna. It's easy enough to try.
I would normally suggest installing directional antennas but your existing MIMO routers have non-removable antennas.
With gigabit routers at each end, and less than 100 meters of CAT5, you can move data at almost 1000mbits/sec. That's really handy for giant video file transfers and running video servers. Both your existing routers have built in gigabit switches. With the usual 10/100mbit/sec ethernet switches, you'll get a bit less than 100mbits/sec. Reminder: the BEST you can do with wireless 802.11g is 25mbits/sec.
Ture. Try the relocated router in either the Middle or through windows at the South. It might work well enough for internet traffic, but any large file transfers across the wireless LAN are going to be painfully slow.
Running CAT5 under the house is a messy project. That's what kids are for. The nice thing is that it always works (unless the kid pounds a staple through the cable) and requires no tinkering, adjusting, configuring, tweaking, and swearing that's common with wireless. If you add up the elapsed time involved, deployment time might be comparable.
Fastest transfer speeds. Fast is fun.
Wired via CAT5 ethernet. However, I forgot to mumble something about WDS repeaters. Looks like the WRT150N and WRT300N do NOT support WDS. Never mind.
Yep. It's on the wireless page of the router configuration. It's only necessary to change it in the routers. The clients will automagically follow the change.
All those have to do with MIMO (802.11n). If you use "wide", it's fixed to channel 6 as it now hogs the entire band. The only way you can set the channel is to use standard (narrow) bandwidth.
I don't have any specific recommendations for power line networking equipment. My guess is about $100 per end. For $200, I'm sure you can bribe the neighbors brat into getting filthy under the house.
My guess(tm) is that it will work going through windows at the south end of the house, but will be flaky and unreliable going through walls in the middle location.
I don't see that the decision has to be made immediately. You have enough equipment to do a live test for the wireless arrangement. Try it, see how it plays, see how stable it runs, and make the determination. If it's as bad as I predict, then run the wires.
Reply to
Jeff Liebermann
I may reply in more detail later, but I wanted to reply immediately to say thank you very much for your time and detailed answers.
We might do some sort of wireless tests first, but I think at this point we're pretty convinced that we should run the CAT5 across the house.
There may be some subtleties involved. For example, the living room's router is on the opposite side of the wall as the family room's Tivo, so if we're running the CAT5 wire already, we might consider having it lead to jacks on each side of the wall. But those are fairly small decisions that we can make later.
You mention having a "kid" do the wiring, but I'm pretty sure we want to hire a professional. Any idea where we might find a guy to come out, run the cable, install 2 or 3 wall jacks, be professional and trustworthy? I'm guessing that since you guessed we'd pay the "kid" $200, that you figure we'll pay the pro a fair amount more than that...?
In any case, even if you don't type another word, thank you very much, again, for your time and assistance.
Reply to
dgates
On Mon, 29 Dec 2008 01:00:16 -0600, dgates wrote in :
Jeff likes CAT5, and so do I, but it's an expensive pain to pull CAT5 and wire up outlets properly.
I'm willing to bet you'll spend less money and I know you'll have a lot less hassle with powerline networking.
Newegg will sell you two LINKSYS PLE200 (up to 200Mbps) PowerLine AV Ethernet Adapters for $130 (much less than Jeff's $200).
Reply to
John Navas
Well, as John points out, you can get HomePlug AV adapters for less than my guess. It might be a suitable alternative.
If you buy some, make sure that they can be returned and be sure to save all the packaging.
I have a pair of 85MHz SMC boxes that I use for emergencies (like when the mice chew up the CAT5) and for loaning to customers for testing. The loans have resulted in mixed results. Some buildings have far too much conducted EMI (electro magnetic interference) sitting on the power lines. One test showed that traffic thruput just stopped whenever the elevator was moving. Since HomePlug is basically BPL (broadband power line), the noise generated by the HomePlug hardware trashed one neighbors shortwave ham and CB reception. When I tried it at my house, my OTA (over the air) TV reception became slightly noisy on some channels. The nice thing about CAT5 is that you don't have these kind of ummm.... issues.
The right way to do the wiring is one wall jack on every wall going to the connected equipment from a centrally located ethernet switch. That's the way most offices are done and is expensive and serious overkill. A low cost alternative is to use multiple small 5 or 8 port ethernet switches (also known as the workgroup method). The dramatically reduces the number of CAT5 wires that need to be run. However, some planning is necessary. It's an absolute mess trying to run a wire across a doorway. Normally, there's a wall jack on either side of a doorway, but there's no guarantee with the workgroup topology. That means you might need 2 jacks in some rooms, usually on opposite walls. Another advantage of the workgroup method is that it can be reconfigured and expanded quite easily. The down side is that the wiring pretzel can easily become a tangled mess.
At a minimum, install one 5 port ethernet switch in the middle of the house, and one each at the 3 end points. Such switches cost about $40 ea. Then connect the boxes with CAT5.
Incidentally, it's not really necessary to install wall jacks unless you want to do it right. There are surface mount jacks and "muffins" that can house the ethernet jack that does not need to be installed inside the wall. 1/4" hole in the floor (under the molding if possible) and a short piece of exposed CAT5 going to the jack.
The right way is to find a BISCI certified wiring contractor. My guess(tm) is about $150 per wall outlet for in the wall, and about $100 per wall jack for surface mount. Since the $.15/ft CAT5e wire is cheaper than the labor, run extra wires to locations that you think might be useful in the future.
Electricians can do an adequate job, but usually lack network wiring and topology experience. Phone jack installers can also do it. I've done an awful lot of cleanup work on sloppy wiring. Be careful. I only know the local installers, so I can't offer much help in locating anyone. You can also get more info on wiring and contractors in
Reply to
Jeff Liebermann
I came across this a while ago and was worth a read although biased.
There was also this on the Solwise forum where it was noted that some people had noticed a large discrepancy between TCP and UDP throughput.
I was one of those who had overheating problems with the Netgear XE103 so am a bit wary of using these if they are left switched on permanently.
The HomePlug Powerline Alliance today announced that the IEEE P1901 Working Group approved proposals including key HomePlug technology as the baseline for an IEEE powerline communications standard last Thursday at the P1901 Working Group meeting in Kyoto, Japan.
Reply to
LR
On Mon, 29 Dec 2008 18:36:52 +0000, LR wrote in :
Good advice, although I think you'll find they work fine.
85 MHz isn't Homeplug AV.
Also not Homeplug AV, and not what is being recommended.
Reply to
John Navas
Your original post "Best solution: Use powerline networking to connect the WRT300N as an access point (not router) in the living room to the WRT150N in the office."
Homeplug AV? Where?
Reply to
LR
On Mon, 29 Dec 2008 18:48:01 +0000, LR wrote in :
Follow-up post:
Newegg will sell you two LINKSYS PLE200 (up to 200Mbps) PowerLine AV Ethernet Adapters for $130 (much less than Jeff's $200).
Please do keep up. ;)
Reply to
John Navas
Quote from same post:- "I'm willing to bet you'll spend less money and I know you'll have a lot less hassle with powerline networking." The fact that Newegg will sell Powerline AV adapters does not alter the fact that you SAID " Powerline Networking" in that post as well and in neither post did you specify a recommendation only for the use of "Powerline AV adapters".
Reply to
LR
I've never played with a HomePlug AV 200mhz system. The above article shows "typical real world" performance to be 45mbits/sec. That's good enough for the OP's applications (video and general web browsing).
Also, they use PCATTCP for benchmarking:
which works ok. However, I find the IPeft and JPeft to be more up to date and far more accurate for higher speeds.
Yep. I get the same thing with IPerf and JPerf. I have no idea why or what's going on. (Yet another project). In general, TCP is accurate, while UDP is a crap shoot. Incidentally, you have to set both the server and client to UDP (the default is TCP). If different, the program still belch results, but the thruput is really low.
Those were one of the first HomePlug products. I agree on the overheating problem. Not good.
I was trying to work with products that one can actually. However, it's great to know that everything available is now instantly obsolete thanks to the standards process. Argh.
Drivel: A neighbor calls complaining that his router is acting weird. I tell him to "unplug the router, wait about 30 seconds, plug it back in, and try again". 4 tries spaced over an hour time and no luck. When I arrive, I find that he's unplugging the ethernet cable. I can tell this is going to be a bad week.
Reply to
Jeff Liebermann
On Mon, 29 Dec 2008 19:47:54 +0000, LR wrote in :
That's a pretty lame comeback. :) Whatever.
Reply to
John Navas
On Mon, 29 Dec 2008 11:48:14 -0800, Jeff Liebermann wrote in :
That's why I tell my clients to wait until the lights go out (and stay out for at least 20 secs) before plugging it back in. ;)
Reply to
John Navas
They stacked the number slightly in their favor: They're using 64K socket buffers. 5000 source buffers (twice normal) 8760 buffer size (slightly larger than the 8192 default) My guess(tm) is that using more realistic values, the thruput will be noticably less. Hmmm... no numbers, no test results, very strange.
Reply to
Jeff Liebermann
How funny. Somehow, I got the idea (I guess because the two of you were both listed at the top of the
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that you (John N) and Jeff L were on the exact same page -- that if one of you recommended a solution, it was basically both of you recommending it. In hindsight, it should have been obvious that this couldn't always be the case.
I'm now leaning back toward the powerline solution, for a couple of reasons:
1. I get the sense that a lot of Jeff's recommendation for CAT5 was based on requirements that, on reflection, I don't actually have (e.g., moving video files between DVR and computer, running a video server via ethernet).
2. Now that you've given me a model number, I can see that I can buy two PLE200's (as a PLK200 "kit") at Amazon for $125:
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This compares to something over $400, and many hours of work and shopping around to do the CAT5 wiring.
The cost and effort involved in "running a CAT5 line across the house" seems to increase with each conversation, currently about $150 per wall outlet, plus some amount of topological knowhow.
In short, buying two devices from Amazon, and seeing if they get me what I need, seems like the much simpler plan. That 4-star rating at Amazon is very promising, and I suspect that the actual average would be much higher than that if happy customers were as motivated to post as unhappy ones.
I'm now re-scanning Jeff's email, looking for possible gotchas. He mentions:
"Since HomePlug is basically BPL (broadband power line), the noise generated by the HomePlug hardwaretrashed one neighbors shortwave ham and CB reception. When I tried it at my house, my OTA (over the air) TV reception became slightly noisy on some channels."
However, these CB and OTA TV type problems don't seem like they would apply to me.
My only (mild) concern, after reading nearly all of the 70 Amazon reviews) is that the originating DSL signal comes from an add-on room. I know that the circuit breaker for the add-on room is in the same box as the circuit breakers for the rest of the house. But I wonder if there isn't some surprise around the corner.
Still, for $125 (which I can presumably get back if I need to return these) and very little effort, I think I have to try the Powerline route.
I notice that there's a newer model, a PLK300, which is:
much newer (2008, rather than 2006) twice as large (10"x9", rather than 4"x5") a little more expensive ($149, rather than $125) not as well reviewed at Amazon (3.5 stars from 5 customers, rather than 4 stars by 74 customers) presumably faster (300, rather than 200, although it's speed that I don't think I need).
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Any thoughts on the new model?
Again, thank you both (Jeff and John) for your time and effort. I actually appreciate the fact that you two don't agree 100%. It's similar to how I get more out of an Ebert & Whoever movie review when the two critics don't completely agree, and each offer counterpoints, rather than a simple, monolithic recommendation.
To follow the movie critic analogy, I think that good reviewers can lay out so many facts for the viewer that he might decide that he'll like the movie, even if the reviewers didn't. I believe it was this way for me with Ebert's thumbs-down review of the original Die Hard.
So, thank you both.
Reply to
dgates
On Mon, 29 Dec 2008 12:03:54 -0800, dgates wrote in :
Since Ethernet limits you to 100 Mbps, I'd go for the LINKSYS PLK200 PowerLine AV Ethernet Adapter Kit, $125 at Newegg with free shipping:
Thank you for taking the time and effort to say thanks. All too many do not bother.
Reply to
John Navas

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