Networking

DIY: Setting up wireless access points as repeaters to extend wireless range

Do you have a need for wireless access, but your location is too large for only a single wireless router to cover? Without having to pay for a costlier router or boosters, here's what you can do.

I have received this request on a number of occasions, so I thought I would address it here as it makes perfect sense (and will save quite a bit of money). The situation is this: You have a need for wireless access, but your location is too large for only a single wireless router to cover. You don't want to have to pay for a costlier router (with an extended range), boosters don't seem to work, and you want to keep all of your clients/employees on the same wireless network. What do you do?

Believe it or not, this is actually fairly simple to take care of. What you will need is this:

  • Two wireless routers. To make things simple, I would suggest the same model with the same firmware.
  • A working network connection.
  • A machine you can temporarily  hard-wire into the routers so you can set them up.

Since every wireless router is different, I am going to speak in fairly general terms. It shouldn't be that much of a challenge to translate these general terms into that which can be applied to your specific routers.

Let's make sure we know exactly what we are doing:

  • Adding two wireless access points (Wireless Routers) using the same SSID so that wireless coverage.
  • Set up wireless security on both routers.
  • Set up routers such that there are no DHCP or channel conflicts.

Okay, now that we know what we are doing, let's do it!

Step 1: Configure SSID

The first step is the easiest step. What you need to do here is to configure both routers so they have the same SSID. This should be fairly straight forward. If these routers do not have the same SSID, when a mobile device moves to a different coverage location that mobile device will have to join the new network.

Step 2: Configure wireless security

Just like you did in step 1, you need to configure both wireless routers so that their security is the same. This means the security type as well as the password must be the same. If this differs, the mobile device will not be able to seamlessly roam between networks.

Step 3: Configure DHCP

This is where things get a bit tricky. You need to set up both routers so that IP addresses will be handled properly and neither router will issue a DHCP conflict. The first thing to do is assign each wireless router a static IP address. Let's use the 192.168.100. address scheme. We'll assume the 192.168.100.1 address is taken by the gateway, so you will use 192.168.100.2 and 192.168.100.3 for your wireless routers. We'll assign .2 to the primary wireless router and .3 to the secondary router. Now, here's another trick - when you are configuring the static IP addresses for your routers, you will want to only have one router on at a time (or only have one router on the network at a time.) When the router turns on it will most likely default to 192.168.100.1, so get one router working with a static IP address and then get the second working with the static IP address.

With the static IP addresses set you now must address DHCP. We can only have one router handing out DHCP or there will be addressing conflicts. So on the secondary router, turn DHCP off. On the first router you will turn it on, but you will also configure DHCP so that it will begin handing out addresses at the 192.168.100.4 address. You must not allow it to use the .3 address as that is being used for the secondary wireless router.

Finally, you'll want to make sure the primary and secondary wireless routers are not on the same channel and the channels are far enough apart as to not cause conflict (you could use channels 6 and 11 to make sure you won't have channel problems.)

Step 4: Locate and fire up!

The final step is to locate the routers such that, between the two, your entire building will be covered. Remember, the two routers will need to be able to "see" one another by way of ethernet. The easiest way to handle this is by plugging each into a wall jack that is directly connected to your network (and on the same IP address scheme as your routers.) If you don't have the ability to do this, you might have to run a cat5 cable from one to the other (which can run up the cost on this little project). When they are in place and connected, it's time to fire up both routers and get them online. When they are on line, grab a mobile device and connect to one of the routers. Once you have a connection made, walk from one router to the next to make sure you remain connected. You should. If so, congratulations, you just saved yourself some cash!

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

Editor's Picks