Monday 2 July 2018

Patio WiFi: extending wifi range

Its been dry and very hot down here in Sunny Southern England during the last couple of weeks.

Great weather for gardening or for doing other jobs outside, except for a couple of hours either side of midday when it is just too darn hot!

So that's the time to retreat down the garden to our pergola-shaded-patio and check out BBC News, or scan FaceAche, or waste a bit of time on Twatter.

Unfortunately wifi communications between house and patio are worse than useless. So I started to think of options for extending wifi coverage.

I've noticed many wifi extenders advertised, were a remote unit simply connects wirelessly to the main access point (wifi/router) and re-radiates it. I have a couple of problems with this approach.

As you move further away from the main access point, the signal level drops. The secondary affect is that the data transfer speed also falls, which implies that the extender must be close enough to the primary access point to benefit from good data rates.

In addition, the extender is trying to maintain a wireless conversation with the primary access point as well as any remote devices using its service.

Ideally, to get best wifi coverage from running both a primary access point and a secondary extender/repeater, you'd like the repeater to be positioned just on the edge of the reception area from the primary access point. But this won't work very well because of poor inter-access point communication.

So the best solution is to link the primary and secondary (extender) access points via an ethernet cable. This is often easier said than done.

Looking at the bits and pieces that I already have just gathering dust at the back of a cupboard, I thought I'd try to re-use an old Netgear router.

The secondary wifi access point is just an ancient Netgear DG834G 54Mbps wifi router.

Instead of using a direct ethernet link, I have a nice pair of TP-LINK Powerline adaptors which use the mains wiring in the house as a transmission medium. This method is not perfect, in that some parts of the mains power circuit do not work as well as others (e.g. house to garage). But it works fine between most rooms within the house.

wifi router settings

The primary router settings remain pretty much as they are, but the DHCP range needs to be limited (e.g. to so that the secondary router can be set outside this range (e.g. Switch off DHCP on the secondary router.

Both routers need to be set to the same SSID (e.g. "HOUSE OF FUN") and use the same security and password. Use different channels for primary and secondary routers.

There are also 2 settings on my secondary router labelled:-

  1.  Does your internet connection require a login?
  2.  WAN, Connect automatically

...which I set to "NO" in the first case, and I just disabled the second setting in the hope that the router would not waste any time trying to make a direct connection via a [non-existent] internet connection.

And that's about all there is to it. Devices automatically connect to my wifi via either the primary or secondary router access points depending upon which ever is the stronger.


  1. I'm using a tp-link CPE 210 at the end of a 150m Poe run. It's directional-ish but can stream video from a pi zero w 20m away up a tree in a wooden box. There used to be a version with Poe pass-through which would have been better, but I didn't know that when I got it:

    1. This looks like a great system. I like the spectrum analyser display which I think should be included in all wifi routers. Its better than phone apps that just check for other wifi access points, because there are other non-wifi devices on 2.4GHz that can cause problems (e.g. AM & FM video senders).