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So there could be walls, bigger antennas needed, etc. Are there any calculations that I can do before choosing the right antenna/wireless card for a wifi hotspot? Or the whole "design a wifi hotspot" is just an approximate guess? Are there any physical calculations for it? [so that I can buy an antenna that is just enough for the job]

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Typically WirelessN gives you the best chance for distance and penetration through walls. However, I would think that every product would differ. On situations where you need to go further than the standard antenna or even with a better one, look into repeaters. – kobaltz Dec 21 '11 at 4:49


The majority of the power of a radio signal will be lost in the air. Even in a perfect vacuum, a radio wave loses some of its energy since some energy is always radiated in directions other than the link axis. The Free Space Path Loss (FSPL) measures the power loss in free space without any obstacles. So for end-users, it is important to know the approximate distance between the transmitter and receiver while maintaining a certain link quality at different data transfer rates.

FSPL depends on two parameters: First is the frequency of radio signals;Second is the wireless transmission distance. The following formula can reflect the relationship between them.

FSPL (dB) = 20log10(d) + 20log10(f) + K

d = distance
f = frequency
K= constant that depends on the units used for d and f
If d is measured in kilometers, f in MHz, the formula is:

FSPL (dB) = 20log10(d)+ 20log10(f) + 32.44

From the Fade Margin equation, Free Space Path Loss can be computed with the following equation.

Free Space Path Loss=Tx Power-Tx Cable Loss+Tx Antenna Gain+Rx Antenna Gain - Rx Cable Loss - Rx Sensitivity - Fade Margin

With the above two Free Space Path Loss equations, we can find out the Distance in km.

Distance (km) = 10(Free Space Path Loss – 32.44 – 20log10(f))/20

The Fresnel Zone is the area around the visual line-of-sight that radio waves spread out into after they leave the antenna. You want a clear line of sight to maintain strength, especially for 2.4GHz wireless systems. This is because 2.4GHz waves are absorbed by water, like the water found in trees. The rule of thumb is that 60% of Fresnel Zone must be clear of obstacles. Typically, 20% Fresnel Zone blockage introduces little signal loss to the link. Beyond 40% blockage the signal loss will become significant.


d = distance [km]
f = frequency [GHz]
r = radius [m]
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