It may be that Draft N will put us out of our Wi-Fi range misery but for the moment, if you want to extend the range of an existing 54G network, one of the simplest and cheapest ways has to be swapping the existing antenna on your access point (typically a 2dBi one) for something a little more meaty, such as the Hawking 12dBi Hi-Gain Directional Window Antenna.
The Hawking HA12W Hi-Gain 12dBi is a slim white plastic box that you can attach to your access point or router. Most use RP-SMA or RP-TNC antenna connectors and the Hawking can cater for both types.
t comes with a 1.2m cable but don't be tempted to use a longer one – long antenna cables can cause dramatic signal loss, which rather defeats the object. You can either fix the Hawking HA12W Hi-Gain 12dBi antenna to a wall or use the supplied sticker feet to attach it a suitable window.
We used NetStumbler to measure Wi-Fi reception on a ThinkPad R50e laptop, equipped with an Intel 2200BG WiFi adaptor. NetStumbler displays a real-time graph of the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) of a chosen access point.
This is measure in dBm, where a lower value is better. We located a Netgear DG834G at the rear of a Victorian house, hooked up the Hawking HA12W Hi-Gain 12dBi antenna and hung it from a rear-facing window. We then strolled around the house, measuring the SNR with NetStumbler.
With the laptop next to the router, both the standard 2dBi antenna and the Hawking 12dBi produced the same SNR, -25dBm. Shifting the laptop to the bay at the front of the house, almost 15m away, we measured an SNR of -70dBM with the standard antenna and -60dBm with the Hawking HA12W Hi-Gain 12dBi, so we gained about 10dBm from using the Hi-Gain antenna. Don't forget that dBms are logarithmic so the gain is larger than at first glance.
Careful experimentation with placement of the Hawking HA12W Hi-Gain 12dBi antenna to optimise its performance is also time well spent.
A quick and inexpensive Wi-Fi range extender, the Hawking HA12W Hi-Gain 12dBi doesn't halve your bandwidth, like Wi-Fi repeaters do. Don't forget to change the settings on your client WiFi adaptors from 'power-saving' to maximum range/power. After all just because your access point can transmit another 15m or so doesn't mean the clients have enough power to go the 'extra mile'.