Wireless Home Project Part Two: Bigger Antenna

By Dave

I just recently searched through eBay to find help for my project. I knew I was going to need some equipment, and not only that, I was on a very tight budget. Buying a house drains money fast, who knew?

The first thing on my list was seeing if I could increase the range of my D-Link Di-524. A pretty basic wireless router. It was able to do 802.11b and 802.11g, and since that was what my Lenovo ThinkPad supported, it was thumbs up from me.

Why did I need to increase the range? Well, in our six hundred square foot apartment, the wireless signal was a bit low when going from my office, to the living room. Being that the living room is only around forty feet away, I never expected this to be a problem, but it was a little low for my liking, especially knowing that the house was going to be far bigger.

I will give the router some credit though, as it almost has to go through two walls to get to the living room, but this whole apartment has very thin walls. I can hear my neighbors when they do anything, and I mean anything.

After searching around on eBay for a while, I found a 7dBi antenna. I was going to have to pay nearly $25, and have it shipped from the UK, but it had the right connection. It was a Reverse SMA connection, just like my router.

There seems to be two types of connections for wireless antennas, and they are Reverse TNC and Reverse SMA.

There are also different strength ratings which start from around 2dBi and up. The most common ratings are in the 5-7dBi range. I wanted to get as much dBi as I could, without really knowing what it meant. But more is always better right?

Wikipedia lists dBi as:

“a measurement of focus that an antenna has compared to a mathematically ideal isotropic antenna which has a uniform focus in all directions.”

So my 7dBi antenna has more focus than say a 5dBi antenna.

I did a very unscientific test with my new antenna. First, I went into the living room, and saw what signal strength and connection speed I got with the current antenna. I was able to get a signal strength of between 58% – 67% which is good, but to achieve that, the speed dropped to a transmit rate of 36Mbps.

Next I tried it with the new antenna, nothing else changed, and I was able to get 73-80% signal strength at the full 54Mbps.

While this isn’t an amazing difference, I am happy with the results. I expected a bit more from the bigger antenna though, especially considering the size difference. I don’t see any options in the router to increase the transmit power, but I hope this helps me in my end goal of getting Wireless spread throughout my house.

I have two wireless routers on the way, which I hope to set up in client mode, or repeater mode to get wireless to my multimedia computer and my Xbox 360. I am going to be trying the DD-WRT firmware software, and so if anyone has any experiences with this sort of project, feel free to contact me via the comments. I’d love to start a dialog with others that have done this.

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