Wifi Range Extenders

Discussion in 'Technical Corner' started by Let'sgoflying!, Jul 13, 2017.

  1. Let'sgoflying!

    Let'sgoflying! Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    Do they work or is it bogus?
    Or, maybe some work - which?
     
  2. Tantalum

    Tantalum Cleared for Takeoff

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    I have this one and it works decently well.. I would say I'm decently happy with it. The setup can be kind of wonky but once it is up and running it is good. I have it plugged in at the opposite end of the house so we can use WiFi and stream music in the backyard

    Pros
    -cheap
    -once installed there is nothing to do with it, just leave it plugged in
    -speed is *okay* - I can stream Pandora just fine and other music sites.. YouTube works well, browsing works well.. some high def streaming like HBOGO will occasionally stop to buffer
    -the range isn't great, but it is at least as good, if not slightly better, than the one ATT gave us

    Cons
    -it has it's own SSID, which can be annoying because you have to toggle on your phone or computer or tablet or whatever between WiFi sources and pick the strongest signal. I can't figure out why our Android and iPhone products don't just pick the best signal
    -occasionally it just stops working... maybe once or twice a month or so I have to unplug it for a few minutes and plug it back in
    -it will sometimes flag an error on the computer "connected to WiFi but no internet" but that's a lie, at least in our case the internet works. Might just be a weird firewall thing with the office computer
    -you lose an outlet, and the way the plug is designed can make the other outlet tricky to plug stuff into

    My brother in law has one of these for his house, they have a huge yard and a big house, and this works great for them, streaming music even way at the other end of the pool. But it was overkill for my needs
     
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  3. Stewartb

    Stewartb En-Route

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    I have a NetGear Nighthawk AC1900 like is linked above. I needed it to make a wireless printer work in the location I wanted it. No joy without the extender, works perfectly with, so yes, I'd testify that mine works.
     
  4. Badger

    Badger Pattern Altitude

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    more info.
    How far? Is this to a specific point (like a hangar or shop) or general range extending in all directions (like via mesh network)?
     
  5. Checkout_my_Six

    Checkout_my_Six Final Approach

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    we changed ours out for a few APs.....and they all have the same SSID, so it's seamless.
     
  6. flyingron

    flyingron Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    I used a few range extenders of different models. They all have issues.
    I've also had a few of the multipoint wifi routers. I can tell you some stories:

    The EERO is a complete unmitigated disaster and a waste of money. The things can't operate on themselves. You can't configure them without going to their server. They came non-functional, but the tech support was good and got the firmware updated over my existing internet so I could get them to work. They phone home every 45 seconds and your entire network BRICKS a minute after your internet line goes down. No local traffic, no response from the routers, nothing. Deader than a doornail.

    I got the Netgear ORBI. These are a star network rather than a mesh and this is what I'm currently living with. The nice thing is they give you more ports on each unit. In addition, the base station has better range on its own than the EERO did so you get more coverage from the central unit. The remote units setup fairly easily. You can use their cloud based setup or you can configure it just like any other netgear router by connecting to it via a web browser.

    What I'm going with in the long run is with multiple Ubiquiti access points spread around the house and hangar.
     
  7. sferguson524

    sferguson524 Cleared for Takeoff

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    One thing I will caution about using range extenders, is you're already cutting your speed in half since it has to basically relay the info from the repeater back to the AP. If you have existing Coax in place, MOCA bridges from your ethernet network will work.. I am using several of them in my hosue to put ethernet drops in places that there is a coax connection.
     
  8. sferguson524

    sferguson524 Cleared for Takeoff

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    This is the best solution here. I have several Meraki APs throughout the house, and with 802.11r, i just roam between them like a cellular network.
     
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  9. rtk11

    rtk11 Line Up and Wait PoA Supporter

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    Not much to add to the above other than you will "half-plex" speeds as you extend through each device.

    I gave up on the early range extenders as they were flakes. Probably a lot better now. But I went Apple and used the AirPort Extreme Base Stations as a repeater to extend my network, and they have been excellent for the last 8 years I've used it.
     
  10. FORANE

    FORANE Pattern Altitude

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    we have several ubiquiti long range Ap's.
    They require a little bit of setup that one might expect of enterprise level equipment over the plug and play consumer grade products. once setup they have worked extremely well. highly recommended.
     
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  11. CT4ME

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  12. weilke

    weilke Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    Thats what I went with. An AP Pro on each floor and it works seamlessly. Simple to set up with their software. Haven't touched them since.
     
  13. Dana

    Dana Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Another plug for Ubiquiti stuff, it works great, though it's commercial grade stuff and so not cheap or user friendly to set up. I manage a camp wifi system over a large area with a Ubiquiti base station and two repeaters. I've also had good results on a smaller scale with a D-Link consumer grade router configured as a repeater. Where repeaters work well is when your device (especially phones and other handheld devices) can see a signal from the access point, but isn't strong enough to push its own signal back to the AP and complete the connection without the help of the repeater.

    For a repeater to work, you have to have at least some signal at the point where you place the repeater, then it will support devices farther away. They also tend to work much better if the repeater is the same brand as the base access point; many have proprietary protocols that won't work with mismatched units.
     
  14. CT4ME

    CT4ME Cleared for Takeoff PoA Supporter

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    Google Wifi 3-pack (good for approx 4,500 sq feet) is down to $269. Single units are down to $99...Add 'em as you need 'em.
     
  15. denverpilot

    denverpilot Taxi to Parking

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    They don't sell the cheap and good ones anymore but the Apple routers all had their own proprietary way to extend wifi networks. One as main access point the rest a single checkbox to "extend a wireless network".

    Works great and brain dead easy.

    Problem is, Apple killed the useful little wifi devices like the Airport Express units that had audio outputs on the back (Airplay tunes to any stereo in the house), and Ethernet jacks that could be plugged into as bridged extensions of the main network, etc...

    They were truly plug-and-play for what most folks wanted a home wifi system to do and more.

    But, it's the new post-Jobs Apple and they don't do "useful" anymore.

    So if you buy used, the Apple stuff is great. New, ignore them.

    For new, I'm in the Ubiquiti crowd.

    We've done office buildings and outdoor shots with their gear and they're great.

    Nothing is perfect. Their major firmware upgrade last year started a three month back and forth with them about why a random AP would reboot mid-day and they never seemed to figure it out before we got annoyed with their patched versions that didn't work, and just downgraded the things to a previously solid and stable version. Like, rock solid.

    We almost completely ignore them and they handle 85 people between three APs in a difficult warehouse and neighborhood RF environment. Multiple VLANs, Gigabit to each. Happily push their full data rate over wireless all day long if needed. Both bands.

    Most houses truly do NOT need the Long-Range versions of the Ubiquiti products. Generally the user devices can't transmit back at anything near the power level the LR's can dish out, so they're not as "LR" as they might seem. The regular ones have such hot receivers that they hear other APs miles away from our buildings anyway. They'll hear stuff in a typical sized house until metal or lots of material get in the way of 5.8 GHz and 2.4 will usually still do the job.
     
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2017
  16. flyingron

    flyingron Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    I think you meant the user device can't transmit back the LR power level.

    Yep, but I can't hit all my house with one unit and the cell-phone coverage is so crappy here I'd like to have wifi out in the yard too.
    It's probably 200' from one end of the house to the other on three (and a half) levels.
     
  17. denverpilot

    denverpilot Taxi to Parking

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    Correct. Edited.
     
  18. Justin M

    Justin M Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I was going to use unifi Ubiquiti, but independent testing showed the antennas were the worst of the batch tested. I'm going to try out some Ruckus Wireless APs.
     
  19. RJM62

    RJM62 Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    I just run Ethernet for anything important.

    Rich
     
  20. chartbundle

    chartbundle Line Up and Wait

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    I'm very happy with my Ubiquiti gear. Obviously they work best if wired. I'd certainly consider their mesh stuff if I couldn't cable them. One of these days I'll see about getting one of their outdoor units and see if I can reach the beach.
     
  21. denverpilot

    denverpilot Taxi to Parking

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    Which models? They have numerous.
     
  22. Justin M

    Justin M Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Ruckus 610s. I was told the 710s series would be overkill.
     
  23. denverpilot

    denverpilot Taxi to Parking

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    I was talking about those "independent antenna tests". There's tons of products in the Ubiquiti lineup.
     
  24. Justin M

    Justin M Pre-takeoff checklist

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  25. denverpilot

    denverpilot Taxi to Parking

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    Well, I can see some really "unrealistic" things in their test setup, that's for sure. I also see little in there (unless I haven't gotten far enough into it) that's anything close to a proper "antenna" test... which is what I was interested in.

    Can give solid real-world feedback that if the Ubiquiti AP Pro actually had the low throughputs they show from their "10 iPad" test, we'd have thrown ours out already.

    But seeing that they turned off 40 MHz channels and some other really strange decisions in the testing, I bet they had some of those APs completely screwed up, configuration-wise.

    There's also some of those products (I've used about five of those brands/models) that ship with out-of-the-box software versions that are so out of date, they shouldn't be used... ever. They didn't mention flashing the products to the latest updates from all manufacturers, but depending on the manufacturer and whatever warehouse the stuff came out of... the code versions in them could have been all over the map... even different between units.

    Also noticing that the report is over 4 years old... and that's an eternity in networking devices. I wouldn't rely too much on that thing for an installation/deployment going on in 2017.

    The only reference to "antennas" is in a vague statement they make assuming some stuff they think the manufacturers are doing, and their "Spectrum Analyzer" they used, most definitely isn't a lab grade spec-an... that's for sure. Any RF engineer worth their salt would laugh them out of the room calling that any sort of RF test. They didn't even control for on-site noise or show a baseline analysis of what the bands looked like BEFORE they started the test...

    That test is a mess. I'll give them credit for trying, but wow... that's not how you do RF testing. It's not even how you do "real-world" testing, and they even admitted same when they said they got a "flood" of complaints about their test methodology. Yeah, there's a REASON they got that flood of complaints.

    Even the choice to use all Apple clients is at its core, busted. But I can maybe see that in Education which seems to be their "target market" for the test. I've never had an all Apple client network EVER in Enterprise WiFi... that limitation they put on their testing actually had me LOL'ing at my desk.

    We have seen some VERY interesting behavior of Apple clients (and Intel, and Realtek, and ...) on busy mixed wifi networks... so much so that we've had to do some tweaking on ours to provide the network types each of our highest number of clients wishes to see... Apple devices... they'll tend to hang on to an AP once connected to it, but if you KICK THEM OFF when the RSSI gets too low, they properly go looking for "whatever's best/closest/strongest"... but they're clingy... and... even weirder, Apple mobile devices (iPads, iPhones) will try REALLY hard to be on 20 MHz channels on 2.4 GHz and NOT 5 GHz, if given equal signal strengths... whereas Apple OSX devices (laptops, and desktops) will try like hell to hang on to an untenable 5 GHz signal.

    One chipset that's popular in our building (just because Dell uses it and we're a Dell shop) has an absolute FIT if you try to force shape it via kicking it off an AP if the RSSI is too low... it will cling to one AP like Miley Cirus leg humping someone on TV for attention... whereas INTEL chipsets... they're even weirder... they'll cling to a 5 GHz 20 MHz signal and even try to find that AP again if the AP boots them off. They will completely ignore a stronger signal RIGHT ABOVE THEM ON THE CEILING if it's not 5 GHz and 20 MHz wide. Even with the latest drivers.

    So... their "test" is pretty crappy. Like I said, I'll give them some credit for trying, but have seen MUCH more dynamic behavior than their test would show. The Ubiquiti stuff with LAST YEAR's firmware is rock solid and fast. (This year's, is a bit up for grabs... if you're doing centralized auth, you may have serious problems... maybe they've fixed it, but we've avoided it after living that nightmare for a week.)
     
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  26. weilke

    weilke Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    That is like testing cars by putting a brick on the accelerator, count the minutes until the engine kabooms and use that as the basis of your assessment on which car is 'better'.
     
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  27. Justin M

    Justin M Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Thanks very much for the feedback. I appreciate the insights.

    I've trimmed out some of the parts of Nate's reply:

    [/QUOTE]

    I appreciate the feedback. You're right, this is only one test, and only one kind of test. These aren't the only places that are claiming that the antenna hardware on the Unifi stuff is consumer grade. I think Toms Hardware did a breakdown of the chipset. I referenced the CARNnet test. Then there are other tests provided by the manufacturers. This was one test which looked more independent than the others.

    Even though it was four years ago, I haven't seen a newer independent test published on the Internet.

    They give commentary on the 40 Megahertz issue you raised.

    There is a test that does exactly what you describe that is used in the automotive industry. In fact, Mobile One used a similar test to advertise their products.

    I'd say the test is more akin to putting a motorcycle on the dynometer and checking horsepower and torque. It tests and evaluates something specific. Whether you think the test is valuable is up to you.

    I didn't really consider it until today, but as it happens, I have a network with Unifi APs that is more akin to this test. It's a retail location that gets about 1000 people over the course of 6 hours; mostly Apple iphones; some Android devices; no Dells. We have interference from other APs in the same location which provide access to a different network, a common problem in my geography. So some of the parameters in the test match my environment. I wouldn't have noticed that without your comments.

    But it's not a perfect test. I see that.

    I really appreciate the thoughtful responses.
     
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  28. John221us

    John221us En-Route PoA Supporter

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    We have been using and selling these for a couple of years with no issues. They are quite a bargain for the price and the management tools are great. We have not seen any range issues. You do have to plan your deployments properly, like any brand of AP, but they work well. Attenuation and interference are just things you need to account for in your planning, as well as device saturation (with all the cell phones an tablets out there, we are seeing more of this).

    To the OP, range extenders are a cheap solution, but can definitely be inconvenient (having to manually switch SSIDs) and do cause some loss of performance. But, they can solve certain problems, in a pinch, without having to pull wire. I carry one in in my laptop bag (it was more of an issue when I was traveling a bunch), but it can fix some issues with some hotel Wifi restrictions (authenticating each device).
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2017
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