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What is the typical range of a Wireless LAN ?

The range of a residential Wi-Fi network depends on the wireless access point (WAP) or wireless router, its' antenna(s) sensitivity, as well as the exact 802.11 standard being used. Factors that determine a particular WAP or wireless router's range are:

- the specific 802.11 protocol being used (802.11a/b/g/n)
- the overall strength of the device transmitter
- the nature of obstructions and interference in the surrounding area

A general rule of thumb in home networking says that 802.11b/g WAPs and routers support a range of up to 150 feet (46 m) indoors and 300 feet (92 m) outdoors. Another rule of thumb holds that the effective range of 802.11a is approximately one-third that of 802.11b/g.

802.11n devices typically have twice the range of 802.11b/g devices.

All of these rough estimates fall on the high end of the range seen in practice. Obstructions in home such as brick walls and metal frames or siding can greatly reduce the range of a Wi-Fi LAN by 25% or more. Because 802.11a employs a higher signalling frequency than 802.11b/g/n, 802.11a is most susceptible to obstructions. Interference from microwave ovens, cordless phones and other equipment that operates in the same frequency as the WLAN also affects range.

Of course, it's possible to extend a Wi-Fi LAN to much longer distances by chaining together multiple wireless access points or routers, or simply changnig to higher-gain directional antennas.

Another benefit of 802.11n technology is much better coverage. Wireless-N devices use "reflections" of the signal (from walls, etc.) to strengthen it and eliminate cold or weak spots in the signal.

  User Reviews/Comments:
by Mark McGinty - 2016-06-05 05:51
"Chaining" WiFi radios using WDS cuts bandwidth in half at each radio in the chain because they all must use the same channel. Also the need to mount and supply power to each of them would make it an expensive solution, as well as inefficient.

A better alternative is a pair of long-range WiFi radios, functioning as a backhaul. The main thing that sets long-range WiFi apart is the ability to alter ack frame timing parameters. Adequate signal isn't enough to make a WiFi connection, a frame may be transmitted and received perfectly, but if it doesn't arrive within the timeout limit, it still discarded.

Long-range radios both figure out how much to extend the time window on their own, and can be configured for optimal performance at a given distance up to 30 km. (Even farther when one or both are at a high elevation, the 30 km constraint is imposed by the earth's curvature.)

And it's surprisingly affordable, radios with integrated high-gain antennas can be had for under $50 a piece, Ubiquiti offers several equipment options that work very well, and are cost-effective.
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