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I have been trying different routers at my house for the ideal wi-fi setup and have been struggling to find something that works well. Our house is medium sized (4 bedrooms, 2100 sq.ft) and the wi-fi router is in my office, which is the upstairs corner room. Also there are a LOT of 2.4 GHz WAPs in my neighborhood. My laptop is seeing 15-20 access points above -70 dBm.

After trying a bunch of different routers I bought the Cisco Linksys EA2700 which appears to get good reception throughout the house using 2.4 GHz band. However the 5 GHz band is pretty much useless anywhere outside of my office. I configured the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz using the same SSID thinking it would failover to 2.4 GHz whenever I leave the office. However this "failover" process is not seamless as you would expect - if I'm on a VOIP call on my laptop then it will drop the call during this transition. I've even had it happen in the middle of a conversation while sitting in my office!

So the question is - how can I take advantage of both bands given this scenario? I'm thinking i might as well just return this thing and get a single band (2.4 GHz) wireless-N router! Is the 5 GHz band just "hype" since the range is apparently really poor.

Thanks for the help.

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3 Answers 3

While the 5 Ghz channel can give better throughput and be less congested, changing your routers 2.4 Ghz channel (defaults are 1,6 and 11 depending on where you live I believe) should give you some better 'reception' with your devices.

Also, I do not believe there is a seamless way to use both of these frequencies, or simultaneously for that matter, since a wireless connection needs to be connected to only one or the other, moving across would require a 'reconnect'.

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I have used Inssider to see what is sharing the same channel. Looks like the Linksys is doing a good job of selecting the least busy channel - although there are still 6-7 WAPs sharing the same channel, other channels have 8+. Does it make sense to invest in newer AC wireless router? I'm curious if the range is better on those. –  avirex Feb 13 '13 at 21:53
    
I'm not entirely sure if newer is better really, it's one of those specialist things where if you look, you can find older more specialized routers that will do a better job for you and maybe even be a tad cheaper. If you look at the detailed specs of another router you find and like, then you should be able to see its' channel ranges, if only by googling it's model number. - As a personal rule of thumb, whenever I need something for a specific feature or task, I always look for a cheaper, slightly older corporate version with all the same features. –  Alastor Feb 13 '13 at 22:00
    
@avirex I don't believe an ac router will be of much use because it runs in the 5ghz band (only) which does not work well in the original posters environment. Also, very few devices support it, so it does not really help to connect his clients. the OP would be better off looking for an 802.11n router with MIMO. –  davidgo Feb 13 '13 at 22:46
    
@david-go Thanks for all the help. Can you suggest any 802.11n routers with MIMO(?) that are KNOWN for having extremely good range? –  avirex Feb 13 '13 at 22:50
    
@david-go Whoops! That was my bad right there, I didn't know what he meant by AC router; Also I'm afraid I'm out of my league now with this an will have to concede to the specialists, though I'm sure Linksys may have something you're after, they have very good routers. –  Alastor Feb 13 '13 at 22:51

To answer the last part of your question - the 5GHz band is not just hype, the characteristics of it are quite different because its a higher frequency. Importantly it does not handle obstacles as well, and its range is shorter, but it is much less congested.

Not sure if it is much good to you, but the way I have my setup configured is I use the 2.4 gig band for feeding clients and the 5 gig band for linking to access points - Where I live, houses are pretty much made of cardboard.. This works really well in my environment, but your mileage will probably vary a lot, and yes, from what you have described its probably a waste of money for you.

(From what I have read, Dual band adaptors can only use 1 band or the other at a time, hence the switching problem).

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"I use the 2.4 gig band for feeding clients and the 5 gig band for linking to access points" Thanks, can you please elaborate on that? Not sure I follow what you mean. –  avirex Feb 13 '13 at 21:52
    
I have 2 WIFI access points - I use the 5 gig band just to connect the access points together, and the 2.4 gig band to devices. That way I get better coverage in my house. –  davidgo Feb 13 '13 at 22:39

Sorry, this is a long reply, read to the end and it should be worth the effort. :)

Putting your router in a more central location in the house would definitely help the other areas of the house, at the expense, of course, of decreasing the strength of the signal in your office. Locating your router on the top floor AND at the corner of the house means very little of the wifi transmit signal power is going to much of the house. If it's really located in the upper corner of the house approximately 3/4 of your wifi signal is going outside into the neighborhood and not doing you much good inside the house. Plus, I've noticed that placing many routers up high tends to rob devices located below them of much signal. I think many of them are designed to transmit their best signal at the same height as the router in a circular pattern -- thus the reason most of your signal is probably going outside at the second floor level and being wasted on the neighborhood.

One thing I would try is relocating your router to a more central location on the first floor near the ceiling (perhaps on a high shelf or bookcase). Then test to see what sort of signal you get in the other parts of the house (upstairs and downstairs). Of course, this might require that you run some Ethernet cable from wherever the cable-modem or DSL-modem is located. It's okay to separate the two, you just need a nice long Ethernet cable! :)

If you have an Android tablet available, like the second generation Nexus 7 (sorry this won't work with an iPad or iPhone), you can use it to get a very good sense of your router's signal reach and the level of the neighbors' signals you are competing with. There's a great little app (free) called "Wifi Analyzer" by "FARPROC" on the Android store that gives you a real-time display similar to the one that inSSider does on your PC. This thing is much easier to use for testing your setup than inSSider because you can walk around the house with the display in front of you and get a better of sense of where the interference is and where the signal is dropping. You'll need an Android device that receives on both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz channels to be able to see everything. The first generation Nexus 7 tablets only support 2.4 and many early Android phones also only support 2.4. Note that you need to switch between monitoring 2.4 and 5, you cannot see both at once on the app's display, but it's a very fast and easy switch (touch the upper left of the real-time graph and it will switch between 2.4 and 5 if you're device supports both).

Ultimately, finding the best location AND the best channel (1, 6 or 11 on 2.4) for your wifi router is a bit of a try-test-try-test... cycle. There is no perfect solution, especially if you have only one router to work with.

As others on this thread have already noted, 5Gig wifi channels are much less crowded AND they do not travel nearly as far as 2.4Gig signals in the house. In general, the higher the frequency the more energy it takes to transmit the signal over the same distance. 5Gig channels aren't less useful, they just tend to be more useful for more special needs -- like a dedicated channel for your home office laptop that needs to connect over a VPN or for a Netflix device or similar in the family room that only connects over wifi. Otherwise, your phones and tablets and casual PC email/net browsers should get by just fine using a 2.4Gig wifi channel.

I currently live in a two-story house (3100 sq ft) and ultimately ended up running some Ethernet cable through the attic and a few walls to get better wifi coverage in my house. If you end up doing something like this you can also run some wire to provide some "hard-wired" Ethernet taps in a few key locations so things like your office can just connect using a direct Ethernet connection, rather than wifi. To date, I've done this in three different houses I've lived in, it's a bit of work but in the long run it's well worth the effort. :)

Anyway, what this means is that I actually have MULTIPLE wifi access points located throughout the house. Two on the upper floor and two on the lower floor, located at each end of the house (this house is long and narrow). If your house has a fairly square footprint, like many newer homes, you could probably get by with just two wifi routers, one on the lower floor and one on the upper floor, probably offset from each other.

This is where the App Analyzer tool comes in to play. To figure out the best placement for one or more wifi transmitters in your house, you can disconnect your router from the network and just locate it somewhere else to see how the signal fares in that new location. "But what about my Internet connection?" you ask. Not important for testing, the router will happily transmit it's wifi signal, you won't be able to do anything with the Internet while you're doing this, but you'll be able to see how locating it in another spot affects the signal by using the App Analyzer on your Android tablet of phone (I recommend using a tablet if you have access to one because the antenna in the tablet is bigger and does a better job of distinguishing the various signals you're picking up.)

Once you figure out the best location for your router, you'll want to figure out the best channel to use. This gets tricky, because it depends on your neighbors, so a lot of the variables are out of your control (also one of the reasons I ended up flooding my house with multiple access points). On the 5Gig channel there should be several free ones to use, pick anyone and use it. On the 2.4G side it will be crowded. In the ideal scenario you should only use 1, 6 or 11. (There's lots of explanations out there as to why, trust me, I've experimented with it and my brother is on the IEEE standards committee for wifi -- 1, 6 and 11 are your best choices.)

When choosing between 1, 6 or 11 on the 2.4 I recommend the following in priority:

1.) a channel that is free of other signals (perfect and ideal solution)

2.) a channel that has a very strong neighboring signal ("say what!?")

3.) let the router find the best channel

4.) pick the one that has the least "overlapping" non-comformists (see below)

Number 1 is obvious, if you can get a channel all you to yourself take it! Of course, as your neighbors change or update their equipment your free channel may disapper. :(

Number 2 is not so obvious. Choosing the channel that your nearest neighbor is using (the neighbor with the strongest signal invading your house) seems counter-intuitive, but it works. The problem is that you are sharing these channels (you're sharing the radio waves), whether you want to or not. It's better to share with a strong signal than a weak signal, because when the two (or more) shared routers and devices see each others signal they will negotiate access to the signal. Trying to negotiate with a medium level signal that is spotty results in lots of bad transmissions and retries, ultimately causing your throughput to go through the floor.

Number 4 means try to avoid a channel that has overlaps from people who have configured their router to center on something like channel 4 and 8. There is a popular theory out there that you can actually put together an array of wifi routers that use 1, 4, 8 and 11. There are also some very good explanations about why that doesn't work. The explanations are very hard to follow, but they are correct. Just for grins, since I have four routers in the house, I tried it for a week. My throughput was AWFUL for that week. The 1, 4, 8 and 11 theory is bogus, don't subscribe to it!

Thus, number 3 is there to keep you from getting hung up on number 4. :) Also, near a microwave it's best to use channel 11. And, if one of your neighbors has turned on the ultra-super-uber-fast-turbo mode on their 2.4 signals their router is trying to use TWO of those precious three channels on the 2.4 spectrum. Figure out who they are and ask them to turn off the turbo mode. Most devices won't use it and it really raises cain with everyone else. Not to mention that their actual Internet connection is probably not even that fast! One way to avoid trouble with such a neighbor is to stick to channels one or six (one is best choice -- those turbo things grab the next channel to the right when they kick in, so one is more predictable).

Hope there's something useful in this rambling. :) Good luck.

p.s. I didn't explain how I actually configured multiple wifi routers to work on a single home network, it's not obvious or for the faint of heart. I recommend you find the best location for the 2.4G signal on your router and, if you're lucky, you'll be able to use the 5G channel for a dedicated purpose (like Netflix or your office network connection).

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