Airport Extreme - need a little help on range

Discussion in 'Mac OS X Server, Xserve, and Networking' started by DustinT, Sep 13, 2011.

  1. DustinT macrumors 68000

    DustinT

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2011
    #1
    Hey, I am trying to link two apartments so one can share the other's wifi. In the first I've got a gen 5 Airport Extreme mounted about 5 feet up the closest wall to the apartment I want to provide access too. When testing in the second apartment I'm showing really poor signal on both my 2011 MBA and MBP. My iPhone 4 won't sustain a connection for more than a few seconds. I'm attaching a screen shot of my MBP connected to this Airport Extreme in case you are looking for specifics.

    What I'm wondering is this, would an Airport Express in repeater mode be able to deliver the internet connection more reliably? I'm afraid that its going to be in the same boat as my laptops are and just barely be able to hold onto a signal.

    Looking at the Airport Extreme it doesn't look like there's any way to hook up an external antenna to it. Should I be looking at a different router?
     

    Attached Files:

  2. AtomicGrog macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2011
    #2
    I find coverage pretty poor with wifi (especially 'n') and having to run 2-3 routers in a reasonably large 4 bedroom house (with studded walls etc. i.e. no concrete...).

    I've done it by daisy chaining a airport express onto an time capsule to provide the same Wifi service which allows roaming and consistent name/key.

    I dont think switching to another router is the best option for you, ideally you'd run a wired connection between the extreeme and second router/repeater and extend the service that way.
     
  3. DustinT thread starter macrumors 68000

    DustinT

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2011
    #3
    Unfortunately, there's no way for my run any ethernet OR locate a device in the middle. Basically, I need a way to get from point A to point C and I can't touch B at all. There's an apartment in between that I don't have access too... Sadly.
     
  4. basesloaded190 macrumors 68030

    basesloaded190

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    Wisconsin
  5. DustinT thread starter macrumors 68000

    DustinT

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    Feb 26, 2011
    #5
    I'm not sure.

    To me the question is, does the Airport Express have better distance than a MBP or MBA. If yes, I can install one to extend the signal and all will be well. If not, I need to return the Airport Extreme and find another solution. Probably something involving my old DIR-655 and some high powered antennas. That would probably be the most cost effective.
     
  6. mainstay macrumors 6502

    mainstay

    Joined:
    Feb 14, 2011
    Location:
    BC
    #6
    This is an interesting problem.

    At first I thought you meant across an open gap between two buildings, but now I understand this is all within one building.

    Could you provide more details as to the construction of the apartment, the distance between you, etc.

    In the old college days we would string ethernet cable outside the building to go from window to window. Although the way we did it was pretty sloppy (think duct tape), it could be tidied up and made to be discreet.

    Do you have access to crawl spaces or drop ceilings to run your cables?

    What if the neighbor gets a free repeater w/ access to the net?

    If the building is all concrete w/ rebar then your going to have a tough time of it.

    I've repeated AEBS in a couple of different tricky places (warehouses, big concrete homes, my own home / yard) and the results are ALWAYS different. For instance, the warehouse which is by far the biggest area and spans multiple rooms only needed 2 AEBS and the coverage is phenomenal. But my own house (wood frame construction, rancher) has a good deal of dead spots even though I have 3 AEBS.

    You could temporarily buy a second AEBS to see if it sees the network better than the mba etc. and return it if it doesn't cut it.
     
  7. monokakata macrumors 68000

    monokakata

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    Hilo, Hawai'i
    #7
    Several years ago I had to construct a long-distance link, and I used medium-gain antennas that were quite flat.

    I wonder if there's any chance that you could extend an antenna out a window, pointing at one outside the other window? Probably that would give your landlord fits but if you could do something like that -- antenna screwed to the outside wall, cable passing through to inside -- that would make a solid link.

    If you wanted to keep your AirportExtreme you'd probably have a find a WAP from some manufacturer, one that had external antenna(s) that you could remove and cable to.

    Use ethernet cable between Extreme and WAP. Same thing on the other end. I haven't looked for a WAP for years. When I was using then, they were all G.

    It's indeed an interesting problem. Glad it's not mine.
     
  8. DustinT thread starter macrumors 68000

    DustinT

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2011
    #8
    Thanks for the thoughtful reply. I wish I could just run a couple hundred feet of ethernet out the windows. That would be the cheapest, easiest and by far, the most reliable. Unfortunately, this is a pretty nice place and the management would definitely not approve. Same thing for the roof and crawl space. While I do have access and have run plenty of cat 5 in attics, they would have a fit if I pulled a stunt like that. So, I'm left with wireless options.

    The apartments are made from pretty standard wood frame construction. I'm on the third floor and the apartment I'm trying to supply network access to is on the second floor. So, there would an apartment between us and then drop down a level. You could think of a 'L', if it helps.

    ----------

    Great tips. I appreciate the. There is a porch that has a straight line of sight to the other apartment. Unfortunately its exposed to the weather. I'd imagine that I could get couple of outdoor rated antennas and a 20' cable to get inside to a decent place to mount the router. Honestly, thats not too bad of an option, although it requires special equipment on both apartments.

    ----------

    My first effort will be to relocate my Airport Extreme closer to the window. When I did some signal testing in their apartment last night I noticed the signal was much stronger closer to the outside walls and windows. I suppose it makes sense it would be stronger there since it can bounce off a nearby hill and back into the windows... I'm hoping if I put the airport in the windows next to my desk enough signal will make it into their apartment it will all work. I'll let you all know how it goes.
     
  9. Consultant macrumors G5

    Consultant

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2007
    #9
    Also, see what channels other stations are running, and pick a channel with least interference.

    I run a Airport Extreme (first floor office near glass) -> Airport Express (second floor walkway) with mostly no problems. Also, new Macs are more sensitive.

    Airport Express is due for refresh, with AE refreshed recently.
     
  10. DustinT thread starter macrumors 68000

    DustinT

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    Feb 26, 2011
    #10
    Does the auto channel selection do a decent job of picking the channels with the least interference? I'm in a very crowded wireless environment.
     
  11. Consultant macrumors G5

    Consultant

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    Jun 27, 2007
    #11
    I have the first gigabit A Extreme, the auto didn't seem to change from default channel when other routers are on the same channel.

    I am guessing it only changes when there is severe interference.

    Easiest way: see if 1, 6, or 11 is least crowded. Most routers default to 1. Takes one minute to do.
     
  12. monokakata macrumors 68000

    monokakata

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    Location:
    Hilo, Hawai'i
    #12
    My ex-business partner bought me out, and he might still have the antennas. He's shifted to another technology, so I don't think he's using them. It's easy for me to find out. If he has them (and the cabling, which isn't cheap) they'll be near Syracuse NY.

    You can see one of the antennas in the image. We used them outside but usually for only a couple of hours at a time. I don't see why they couldn't be outside permanently. They were meant to be.

    The masts are standard - nothing special.

    I'll track down the supplier, because they also offered WAPs and other stuff. They were on Long Island somewhere.
     

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  13. DustinT thread starter macrumors 68000

    DustinT

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    Feb 26, 2011
    #13
    Thanks, that would be very useful.
     
  14. monokakata macrumors 68000

    monokakata

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    Hilo, Hawai'i
    #14
  15. brantdevlin macrumors newbie

    brantdevlin

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    Sep 15, 2011
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    Los Angeles CA, USA
    #15
    I thought I read once that Airports don't like to be vertical. If you mounted on a wall then it is vertical. Try mounting it on the ceiling or just put it on a desk.
     
  16. satcomer macrumors 603

    satcomer

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    The Finger Lakes Region
    #16
    Plus really consider getting an Airport Express and have it "Bridged Mode" and like it to the main wireless signal to boast that network.
     
  17. mainstay macrumors 6502

    mainstay

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    Feb 14, 2011
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    BC
    #17
    If anything they LIKE to be vertical. They have a wall mounting kit which is pretty slick but ridiculously priced at $50 for a bit of plastic.
     
  18. DustinT, Sep 16, 2011
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2011

    DustinT thread starter macrumors 68000

    DustinT

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    Feb 26, 2011
    #18
    Again, thanks to everyone for their helpful posts. I may not be replying to each of you individually but I'm reading and absorbing them all.

    I did a lot of testing yesterday and tried out some new equipment. Some results were good and some weren't. I spent a little time and a lot of money at Fry's and grabbed some Amped Wireless equipment. Online reviews had been positive and the seemingly knowledgeable sales rep agreed. I bought two items:
    • SR300 1000mw amplifier
    • Wireless-300n Smart Repeater

    The amp I connected to the D-Link DIR-655 that had a suitable connection. While the signal was greatly improved I found that overall throughput really dropped. The effective range was actually smaller. That was pretty much a complete waste of time and money. Well, its going to get returned today, so it wasn't a complete waste. Just mostly. I retired the D-link DIR-655 after this since the Airport Extreme has significantly outperformed it so far.

    The Wireless-300n Smart Repeater was an interesting choice. I grabbed this instead of an Airport Express since it has a larger antenna system and a radio system that is optimized for sensitive reception and transmission. I thought it might be more effective than the AE due to the above features.

    Unfortunately, the results were not positive. The radios and antennas were about to grab a signal at strengths of 62-72%, which was sufficient to maintain a stable wireless link from the Airport Extreme. However, the firmware issues in this device make it unusable. On the first boot, it starts a setup wizard in your browser to tell it which wireless network to extend and setup the security options. Once that was configured things should have been working fine. And they did work fine for a little while. But, that wizard kept appearing even though the setup had long since been completed. Any reboot would always force the wizard to reappear as would any blip of the wireless signal. I was able to get it working for only about 20-30 minutes, even after updating to the latest firmware, posted 9/8/2011.

    When it did work the performance was abysmal. The Airport Extreme would push a signal to the HP laptop we were using for testing just barely. It was showing 1-2 bars of signal. Yet, testing at speedtest.net showed a 7.5 mb\s download speed. This is down from the 12 mb\s I get inside my apartment but I believe it's still a reasonable number. When the repeater worked I saw performance of 2.44 mb\s download MAX even though I had a full 5 bars of signal.

    So, all this testing shows me that the Amped Wireless gear isn't working. At this point I'm trying to relocate the Airport Extreme and I found that a VERTICAL mount dramatically improved the signal in the distant apartment. With that completed, I'm going to grab an Airport Express and see how that works. Of course, any repeater will cut bandwidth, but I'm hoping for better results from the Airport Express. If that doesn't work I will probably get a second Airport Extreme and use that as the remote endpoint. Although, the possibility of a directional antenna still exists and I may just do that. We'll see.

    Again, I thank you all for your thoughtful and helpful posts. I'll update this later with more results as I have them.
     
  19. Benraymond macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    May 5, 2011
    #19
    Have you thought about powerline adapters? May not work, but might be worth a shot. How is the electricity distributed? If each apartment has it's own meter, you're probably screwed. I used this system in my father's very long house; separate panel didn't seem to bother it. Go from a router - use the powerline adapter as a bridge - to another router in the apartment.

    Be very aware of what mass you have around the router - if the closest wall is a kitchen, it may not be your best bet due to appliances, metal, ductwork. Ducts in my experience will really attenuate the signal, where brick is a piece of cake. Higher always seems to be better when I muck around - ? less interference? Also, if the walls have metal lath, you're also in trouble. I would definitely look into the other suggestions of going outside with line of sight antennae or cat 6 cable descretely drilled through the window frames.

    Good luck

    Ben
     
  20. DustinT thread starter macrumors 68000

    DustinT

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2011
    #20
    Ben, thanks for the tips.

    I bought an Airport Express this morning and it has solved the problems. Whereas the Amped Wireless repeater had some firmware issues that were causing problems, the Express was a piece of cake to setup and so far its working just fine. I tried all the outlets in the apartment to see where it would have the best signal and was about to maintain a connect at speeds slightly better than the Amped Wireless repeater. But, the main difference is the Expresss is working properly with the Dell 11z and iPhone 4. The Amped repeater was having wifi connection issues for those devices although it was working fine with an HP laptop. Picky little bugger!

    I'll play with the positioning of the Extreme and the Express a little more in a while and see if I can improve the signal, but for now its working reliably, if not at blazing speeds.
     
  21. Forum-User macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jul 8, 2009
    #21
    Airport Extreme can be a repeater also

    While it's about double the cost, a second Airport Extreme set up in the same way as the Airport Express might yield higher throughput since the wireless range of the Extreme is significantly larger than the Express. I had a large room where an Express wasn't providing consistent connectivity, so installed a (wired) Extreme, which resulted in way better coverage. An Extreme can be configured to extend your Extreme's network, but because it has both more & larger antennas than the Express, you might get much better throughput for the extra money.
     
  22. DustinT thread starter macrumors 68000

    DustinT

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    Feb 26, 2011
    #22
    Yes, I may have to do that, but so far it seems to be working ok.
     
  23. mainstay macrumors 6502

    mainstay

    Joined:
    Feb 14, 2011
    Location:
    BC
    #23
    Dustin,

    What is the distance between A and B?

    Just curious to know "what works"....


    A
    |
    |
    |
    |
    |--------B
     
  24. Ruahrc macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2009
    #24
    I think something along the lines of the SR300 is on the right track, but you just need to get a directional antenna?

    Since you are only trying to extend in one specific direction, you can leverage that by getting a directional antenna, looks like the SR300 is omnidirectional, which helps to extend total effective coverage, but you're looking for extended range in one specific direction.

    Ruahrc
     
  25. DustinT thread starter macrumors 68000

    DustinT

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2011
    #25
    Well, since I'm feeling lazy I'll estimate it... I'm on the on third floor and the other apartment is on the second. So, there's a ten foot drop there. There's a 1200' sq^2 apartment in between. So, I'd say 250 feet and probably about 8 drywall and wood frame walls. Plus all sorts of electrical wiring, plumbing, sprinklers and assorted other items like metal doors. All in all, I think the Airports are pretty remarkable. I'm sure if I switched into another Airport Extreme I'd have pretty solid range and performance. But, I've spend more then enough money on this project already so I'm quitting unless the complaining starts.
     

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