I'm looking into an 802.11 network for my condo association. The condos are all two story units, each on their own plot of land. They are all within an approximate 600 foot diameter circle. I'm thinking of putting a wireless access point at the center of the development. I'm concerned about propogation into the units, however. For that reason, I'm considering suggesting repeaters to retransmit the signal into each unit. I've also been reading about mesh networks. Are there repeaters that will form a mesh network in case a particular repeater does not have line of sight to the WAP? Also, are there repeaters that have a wired LAN connection in case someone wants to connect a wired device (perhaps a SIP phone)?
This past summer I installed a system for the marina where I keep my boat - 140 slips - and also extended it to several adjacent condos including mine. See this link for info on what I did.
last tab - Marina Wireless Network.
Also look at my tin cantenna for a low cost way of connecting a PC at a window with a line-of-sight transmitting antenna.
YOu can get around the premise repeater by using a tin cantenna or other USB based directional antenna - see my article - in a window pointing at the transmitting antenna.
If the PC location in the condo is not near the front window, or wireless within the condo is desired, you probably want to use a premise device to receive the signal and convert to ethernet. What is commonly used is an access point set in client mode. Some are available that are in weatherresistent cases, use Power over ethernet so only one cord goes out of the condo. See these links:
I also have been intriegued by the mesh networks, especially the locustworld ones, which I have read a lot about. Would LOVE to try one out.
What the windows like? If they're clear glass and picture windows, RF will go right through just fine. If they have aluminized energy efficient reflectors, window screens, metal louvers, or wood shutters, you're going to have problems.
How many condos? How many units (client radios) will be required?
No problem with range if the users radios are:
In a windows that can see the central access point radio.
There are no trees, hedges, bushes, or obstructions in the way.
The client radio has some kind of decent gain antenna (8dBi patch or panel antenna).
Yep. If everyone can see this central access point, it should work.
Retch, barf, puke, bleah, argh. Don't do that. Store and forward repeaters are evil. They cut the effective bandwidth in half and retransmit everything twice. Airtime is precious and wasting it sending the same packet twice is no better than pollution. Besides, at 600ft, you don't need repeaters. Put your money into multiple radios and sectored antennas as you'll surely run out bandwidth.
Retch, barf, puke, bleah, argh 2.0. Same problem. Mesh networks resend the same packets over and over wasteing airtime. Same problems as repeaters. Think of mesh networks as a big ad-hoc network with repeaters.
You wouldn't be asking that if you had line of sight to every condo. I take it some of them are hidden. It would be easier and cleaner to run a CAT5 cable to some location which is visible to these condos than to play repeater. Mesh networks are nothing but (evil) repeaters.
VoIP has nothing to do with repeaters. Each client radio is a bridge that will bridge exactly one MAC address. If the condo owners need to connect more than one computah or want to add a VoIP phone, they will need either a suitable ethernet router or another client radio.
Have you seen the price on the AP? The DWL-2700AP is about $950. Ouch.
I'm not going to recommend specific hardware because the access point can be almost anything. What's important is the toplogy (system layout), backhaul, RF paths, antennas, and client radios. You're going to have far more client radios than central access points to deal with. Unless you use 3ea central access points with 120 degree sector antennas, you're going to be stuck with an omni antenna at the center. That isn't going to give you much gain for a reasonable vertical beamwidth. That means your client radios are going to need some gain at their antennas. Having your customers supply their own client radios is fine, but someone is going to have an authorization and authentication managment nightmare keeping non-paying resisdents, visitors, and hackers out of the system.
First off, the condos have stucco walls. I don't know what's under the stucco. I'll try to find out.
The arrangement of the units is pretty interesting. Imagine a street making a circle. Around that are short streets heading off radially. Garages front onto these streets. Between these streets are walkways, also heading off radially. The entries to the condos are on these walkways. Most windows face the walkways, which is not toward the center of the development.
With this in mind, it would possibly be best to put an access point on each of the radial walkways. This could be fed from the central access point (evil repeater). Due to the much shorter distances here, we might get reasonable coverage inside each of the units without external antennae, etc. Along the each walkway is a light pole. Possibly an access point could be put on top of this.
Regarding "evil repeaters," the store and forward mode obviously doubles the traffic on the air. How about transmitting on another channel? I don't know if any repeaters do this, or if you'd have to wire a couple WAPs together, one in client mode and the other in access point mode. It seems that this would deal with the reduced bandwidth problem by moving the increased traffic to another channel.
I'm heading to the 802.11 Planet show in San Jose (CA) tomorrow to see what's out there.
Again, THANKS for ideas! I'll do some experimenting hopefully without wasting a lot of money.
Chicken wire. A fairly good RF barrier at 2.4Ghz depending on size of the mesh.
What are the garage doors made of? If wood, then 2.4Ghz will go through the wood fairly well. If vinyl, even easier. If steel, forget it.
Can you hang something out the window (cantelevered) over the walkway in order to "see" the access point?
[Insert predictions of doom and disaster]. Repeaters do work. The tricks are to set the channels and locations so that you do not create your own interference. This is the most common problem with wireless networks. It can be done if planned properly, but I still think there are better ways.
Have you thought about maintenance? Wanna climb one of these light poles in the dark or during a storm when something breaks or fills with water?
Two radios is the preferred way to do both repeaters and mesh networks. Some vendors have dual radio access points that work well with this arrangement. I could prepare a list of likely vendors, but you're going to the show, so I'll leave it to you to do the reaseach.
Good, fast, cheap. Pick two.
If your condo complex has access to the telco/cable conduit, you may wanna look into using wires instead of wireless. I've never done a condo complex with coax, but I've done small office buildings. There are also products to piggy back data over CATV coax:
've built my own version of the same thing that works well. If using or running coax to each condo is unacceptable, at least use it to run from your backhaul (T1 ?) to various poles or condos where additional access points can be located to eliminate (evil) repeaters.