Wireless on the 2nd floor

Question from Email:

I have a customer that is having a real problem with her wireless signal in a 2 story hotel. She has tried everything from getting another Netgear range max router and still can not get a signal on her outer areas of the 2nd floor. I recommended the WRT54GL and the DD-WRT firmware. That would increase the signal of the wireless on that router correct?

My Reply:

The NetGear Range Max is marketing hype. The reason that it doesn’t help her is simple – even if the access point can transmit a considerable distance, that doesn’t mean the remote device (laptop) has the strength to transmit back. The main advantage to the devices with MIMO technology is that they are less prone to interference.

Wireless N won’t help either since the majority of laptops won’t support N and will fall back to G.

The WRT54GL flashed with DD-WRT or Tomato (what I recommend now) is an excellent choice. Of course, it’s what I recommend due to features, cost, and performance. Plus, the WRT54GL runs 16MB of onboard RAM, which means it can handle higher numbers of devices well. I’ve set them up with 80+ devices connected and no performance issues.

However, her main concern is going to be saturating the wireless to the 2nd floor. You have to remember that the G band basically comes out in an umbrella shape. Even turning up the transmit power (available under Tomato and DD-WRT) won’t guarantee The best solution is to run ethernet to the 2nd floor and connect a 2nd WRT54GL setup as a switch/AP.

If she can’t run ethernet cable to the 2nd floor, then a 2nd WRT54GL can be setup as a repeater. As long as you place the “repeater” in decent proximity to the 1st floor access point, it should work out fine. Again, remote devices at the edge signal on the 2nd floor may still experience connectivity issues. It depends on total square footage of the 2nd floor, walls, other interference, etc.