WiFi as WAN Utilization and Tips
|Friday, 10 May 2013|
WiFi as WAN Utilization and Tips
WiFi as WAN has become a "hot" feature lately, and it's available on many routers and WiFi bridges. It's a very useful feature, but many users aren't familiar with what it is or if they need it. Simply put, WiFi as WAN (WAW) means that the router or bridge can pick up the WiFi signal from an external source* (for example, campground WiFi at an RV park, free WiFi at McDonald's, or even the hotspot feature from a smartphone like the iPhone or Android Phone) and create a new secure, private network from it. In other words, the router or bridge is using the external WiFi network as the internet source instead of utilizing a wired connection like cable or DSL or a cellular connection like a 3G or 4G USB modem.
Even if you have your own cable, DSL, 3G or 4G internet connection, WAW can come in VERY handy. Below is a list of some applications for which WiFi as WAN is popular:
While WAW is definitely a very useful tool, it does have its downsides. One unfortunate truth of WiFi as WAN is that the speeds will always be slower versus connecting directly to the source network. This is primarily caused by two factors: environmental noise and distance from the source.
First, since there are so many WiFi networks being used these days, there can be a lot of RF noise in the environment (unless you’re in a very rural area with very few WiFi networks around!). In addition to all these other WiFi networks, computers, printers, phones, and even fluorescent lights can all interfere with WiFi transmission. Now, think about what happens when you add a WAW connection into the mix. WAW routers utilize a single WiFi radio to both receive a WiFi signal AND to broadcast its own WiFi network, creating even more noise in the environment. All of this noise causes the WiFi signal to degrade and speeds to slow down.
Distance from the WiFi source also impacts the speeds you’ll see from a WAW connection. The further away your WAW device is from the source (the campground WiFi, Starbuck’s network, or whatever it may be), the weaker the WiFi signal is going to be and bigger hit your speeds are going to take. For example, let’s say you’ve got a large home and your WiFi router isn’t broadcasting the signal far enough. To extend the WiFi range, you get a WAW device like the Pepwave Surf SOHO to pick up the WiFi signal from your primary router and rebroadcast it to the area of the house the router isn’t reaching. When you connect your PC to your primary WiFi router, you see download speeds of 20mbps and upload speeds of 5mbps. After configuring the Pepwave Surf SOHO, you connect your PC to the new WiFi network and see that you’re only getting download speeds of 10mbps and upload speeds of 2.5mbps. You lost 50% of the speed just by using WiFi as WAN. Interference and distance both affect your possibly speed loss, and every situation is different.
Again, connecting via WiFi as WAN is always going to be slower than connecting directly to the source. In most cases this isn’t a huge deal, and often there aren’t any real alternatives (for example, if your goal is to be able to use your iPhone’s hotspot as the internet source for an ethernet-only device like an IP phone, you’re going to have to use a WiFi as WAN router since there’s no way to connect an ethernet cable to the iPhone!). But of course you will want to minimize the speed loss as much as possible. Here are a few tips and tricks for maximizing your WAW connection:
*note: compatibility with all WiFi networks cannot be guaranteed for any model. Networks requiring authentication on a "splash page" (e.g. Starbucks WiFi, some campgrounds) in particular can be hit or miss.
|Last Updated ( Monday, 07 March 2016 )|
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