Which WLAN router has the best range

How to increase the range of your WLAN

Armin Stabit, Christoph Hoffmann, Eric Geier, Michael Seemann

Some manufacturers advertise their wireless routers with a range of 300 meters. But at home, the WLAN often goes on strike only two rooms away. With a few tricks you can improve the transmission.

When the WLAN slows down, websites, emails and videos trickle slowly through the airwaves. Then it's time to act to get your WiFi back on its feet! Within the radio range unterwegs of your WLAN router, data packets are usually on the move at lightning speed. But often a thick wall between the router and receiver is enough, and the speed drops massively. This reduces the wireless range, the data throughput and, in the worst case, the wireless connection is interrupted or lost. If the data only trickles into your wireless network - you should take countermeasures. This also applies if you have hardly any WiFi reception in some rooms or on the balcony. With the tips described here, you can get most of the WLAN transmission stress under control.

10 tips for a fast and stable WLAN

Avoid a snail's pace in your own wireless network

In theory, modern WiFi routers promise ranges of up to 300 meters. The reality is different, however, because a good signal level often ends after just a few meters. Poor WiFi reception on notebooks, PCs, smartphones, tablets and smart TVs is the cause of a number of annoyances such as picture or sound dropouts when streaming, interruptions in calls with Voice over IP and interruptions during larger downloads. On the way to faster and more stable WLAN connections, the first thing to do is to determine poor reception within your WLAN. This is done very systematically with the free Ekahau Heatmapper tool, which you can use to create a reception map of your premises.

The WLAN signal display in the status bar of your smartphone and tablet is also an important indicator of the quality of the connection to your wireless network. The symbol shows how good the current WiFi signal quality is from the point of view of the mobile device. The more bars there are, the stronger the signal at the respective location. A simple change of location often helps against WLAN dropouts or trickling data flows by changing your position within the room and moving closer to the router overall. Watch the signal symbol on your smartphone or tablet. But it is hardly practical to walk around in your own four walls to get better WiFi reception.

Reduce dead spots through site measures

EnlargeThe TP-Link TL-WA3500RE looks like a large plug-in power supply and is operated in the socket. It amplifies WiFi signals in the home.

Often, even a slight repositioning of your wireless router brings a noticeable increase in reception. As a general rule, the further away the receiver is from the router, the slower the transmission will be. The speed gradually decreases depending on the distance. The reception can sometimes be improved by placing the router on a cupboard rather than on the desk or floor. A central, elevated location is ideal.

Place the WLAN base stations so that the device can radiate freely in all directions - so avoid placing them under the desk or in corners. You should also avoid placing it next to or on top of a computer case or near household and entertainment devices. If you also want to surf on the second floor or on the ground floor, you should set up the router above or below the respective room.

Tip: With the free InSSIDer tool for Windows and Android devices, you can analyze existing WiFi networks in your area and measure their reception strength, for example. For example, you can easily determine the optimal location of the WLAN router with your notebook. An alternative for Android smartphones is the WiFi analyzer, which shows the signal quality of the available wireless networks and can also provide information about the router location.

The alignment of the antenna also has an influence on the range. Most routers are equipped with movable antennas. Test different antenna positions on the housing. If your router has several antenna rods, align one vertically and one at an angle of about 45 degrees to ensure the best possible reception. If the WLAN is to broadcast over several floors, place one of the router antennas horizontally - this way you ensure optimal radiation.

Typical sources of interference in the radio network

The actual range of your WLAN and proportionally also the area in which you achieve the maximum transmission speed on the notebook, smartphone or tablet is influenced by walls, closed doors, cupboards and glass surfaces that impair the data traffic. Even massive furniture can reduce radio signals so much that in some households the network only extends over a few rooms or one floor. Reinforced concrete and metal in particular are an obstacle. Even a larger aquarium can prove to be a WiFi fishing rod. Inside buildings there are numerous other sources of interference such as microwaves, power lines or power distribution boxes that affect the WLAN radio signal to the router and thus the data throughput. Cables that run close to your WLAN base station can also have a decisive influence on reception. In addition, many neighboring electrical devices can interfere with the radio signals in a house or apartment, for example cordless telephones, baby monitors, Bluetooth devices, radio speakers, radio remote controls for TV and household appliances, garage door drives or wireless video signal transmitters. Unplug these devices as a test and watch your notebook or smartphone to see whether the WiFi signal and the effective transmission speed improve. If so, look for a different location for the device in question or use a switchable socket and only activate it when necessary.

Switch to an alternative radio channel

For a better WLAN connection, it is often sufficient to change the channel of the WLAN router, especially if neighboring WLANs get in each other's way and slow each other down. So that the wireless networks of the individual parties do not block each other in apartment buildings, WLANs operate in the popular 2.4 gigahertz frequency band on one of 13 channels. The further away the ducts used in a building are, the less they overlap and interfere with one another. For this reason, you should try another channel in the operating menu of your router if the WLAN data throughput is low - channels 1, 6 and 11 are recommended. A change from the 2.4 gigahertz frequency band to the less busy 5 gigahertz -Band is also worth a try.

EnlargeTo optimize the signal strength and thus the transmission performance of your wireless router, experiment with the alignment of the antennas.

To change channels, call up the router administration interface in the web browser and then manually set a different channel. You then have to reconnect the clients previously connected to the wireless network to the WLAN. The encryption method set on the router can also affect the WLAN speed. TKIP, which is compatible with older devices, is often activated, which limits performance to 54 Mbit / s instead of a possible 600 Mbit / s. For WLAN tuning, switch - if possible - to WPA2-AES, currently the most secure encryption that does not require a speed limit.

Increase transmission power in the router menu

EnlargeThe transmission power of the Fritzbox Repeater 1750E can be set to 6, 12, 25, 50 or 100 percent.

With some WLAN routers and repeaters such as the popular Fritzbox models, the transmission power of the radio module can be adjusted. To do this, set the transmission power to 100 percent in the administration menu of the device. With older router models, it is also worth changing to new hardware, as this often increases the range. On the PC, you can use the free Heatmapper tool to check the WLAN strength in the individual rooms and find out what effect the pimped transmission power has.

Install better antenna

If you set up your wireless LAN in a larger building, you will quickly reach the limits of the standard transmission range. Because thick walls and radio wave reflections significantly limit the theoretical range of many devices of around 300 meters. If so, you should consider getting a more powerful antenna. In the Internet mail order business, there is a well-stocked selection of antennas at prices from around 10 euros, which should offer between 3 and 25 dB gain in performance. A 10 dB antenna increases the theoretical range of a WLAN to around 800 meters. A requirement for the installation of such a super antenna is a socket in the SMA standard, as is already provided by many modern access points and routers.

Homemade antennas for tinkerers

Numerous instructions for various do-it-yourself antennas are circulating on the Internet. The radio amateur Bodo Woyde shows some possibilities for external antennas on his website. However, you should bring some manual skills and a healthy dose of creativity with you. For example, you can build a WLAN waveguide antenna made from a copper rainwater downpipe (diameter 85 mm) from the hardware store. It is somewhat easier to use a commercially available tin can. With copper wire and an elongated piece of styrofoam you can also make a clip-on antenna that is supposed to amplify the signal from the standard antenna. Stefan Bregenzer converts a kitchen sieve with aluminum foil, for example, into a WLAN antenna.