EVDOinfo Tip of the Week #18: Maximize Your Cradlepoint Router's WiFi Range

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Friday, 04 September 2009

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Maximize Your Cradlepoint Router's WiFi Range


cradlepoint mbr1000, phs300, ctr500, ctr350
Bottom: MBR1000 . Top (from left): PHS300 , CTR350 , CTR50

Cradlepoint routers are the perfect solution for sharing your mobile broadband internet connection with multiple computers and devices via either WiFi or ethernet, but some users find that the WiFi range is not quite broad enough for their needs. If you are having trouble with your Cradlepoint router's WiFi range and feel that the signal isn't travelling quite as far as it should, there are steps you can take to improve the signal!

First, keep in mind what type of range your router is CAPABLE of providing. The CTR350, PHS300, and CTR500 all use wireless "G" for their WiFi radio, and most users see a typical range of 60-100 feet, depending on walls and interference. The and MBR1000 and MBR1200, and MBR900 have the more powerful wireless "N" radio and can provide several hundred feet of wireless range, depending on walls and interference. While these are just rough averages - using the CTR350 in an open field with zero interference may provide more than 60-100 feet, while folks using an MBR1000 in a building with thick walls around tons of interfering electronics may not see their signal travel very far - it is important to recognize what to reasonably expect from your router. The tips below should help you get the most out of your router's WiFi signal, but there ARE limitations with any router.

Tips to maximize your wireless range:

1) Move your router: Sounds obvious, but this is the easiest and often most effective way to extend your range! Invest a bit of time by trying a few different locations for your router, and see which spot provides the best performance. The antennas that broadcast the signal (both the internal ones on the CTR350/PHS300/CTR500/MBR1200 and the built-in external antennas on the MBR1000/MBR900) are omni-directional, meaning they radiate the signal best when centered - try putting the router in a centralized location. Make sure the router is not on the floor - placing it higher up on a table or shelf generally gets better results.

If you need your router in a specific part of the house because the cellular signal is better in one location (by a window, for example), try moving the router around 15°, 45°, 90° (or if you're using the MBR1000 or MBR900, move the antennas) - minor changes can have drastic effects!

2) Add a WiFi antenna to your CTR500: The CTR500 features an MC connector where you can attach a WiFi booster to extend your range. 3Gstore sells a 5db WiFi antenna for $29.99 that can extend your wireless range up to 50%, or if you want to experience similar WiFi ranges as the MBR1000 you can purchase the WiFi Booster Antenna for Cradlepoint CTR500 for $47.95. For the maximum WiFi range, 3Gstore now has a 15dBi WiFi antenna for $84.97. (please note that these antennas will NOT work with any of the other Cradlepoint routers).

ctr500 wifi booster antenna
The WiFi Booster Antenna for Cradlepoint CTR500 allows you to get a wireless range similar to that of the MBR1000 from your CTR500!

3) Add a PAIR of WiFi antennas to your MBR1200: The MBR1200 features two ports for adding external WiFi antennas, and there are several options available: the Cradlepoint MBR1200 WiFi Antennas for $39.99 (includes 2), a pair of WiFI Booster Antennas for $95.90, or two super high-gain 15dBi WiFi antennas for $169.94 (for maximum WiFi range). Please note these antennas will not work with other routers and that you must use WiFi antennas in PAIRS with the MBR1200 - using just one antenna will NOT work. For more info on how these antennas affect the MBR1200's WiFi range, check out this article with our test results

MBR1200 with Cradlepoint Omni and Hawking WiFi antennas
MBR1200 router with Cradlepoint's omni and Hawking directional wifi antennas

4) Minimize Obstructions/Interferance: Besides obvious obstructions like walls, there are a LOT of other things that can interfere with WiFi signal. Electronics, particularly other routers and devices that operate on the 2.4Ghz frequency like cordles phones, baby monitors, garage door openers, and wireless cameras, can impede signal, but so can microwaves, computer cables, stainless steel refrigerators, mirrors, and even flourescent lights (really!). Any of these can reduce your WiFi signal or cause pauses or dropouts in the transmission. Try to put your router in a spot where interference is limited (or, if the router can't be moved, move the offending interferer [the cordless phone, baby monitor, etc]). If you're using a USB modem and you have a usb extension cable, use it - this can help minimize the interference that is caused by having the WiFi and cellular radios so close together.

If you're not sure if electronics are causing interference with your router, you can test by turning off EVERYTHING electronic in the home/office where you're testing, except for the router and the computer you're testing with. If the performance is better with everything else off, you will know that something in the home/office is indeed interfering with the signal and you can then work to figure out what it is.

5) Upgrade your computer's WiFi card to "N" if you're using an "N" router: The MBR1000, MBR900, and MBR1200 utilize wireless "N" for the WiFi radio, which offers a wider range than the "G" radio used by other routers. Those routers are backwards compatible with wireless "G" and "B", but to take full advantage of the more powerful "N" signal, the receiving computer should also be wireless "N". Luckily, it's super easy to upgrade your computer - you can just attach an "N" adapter like this one to a USB port on your computer and you will be able to take  better advantage of the MBR1000/MBR1100's range!

6) Change the Channel: Try changing the channel on which your WiFi is broadcasting through your router's configuration page. How to change the channel:

  • Log into the routers administration page at 2 (your default password is the last 6 digits of the MAC serial, which can be found on the bottom of the router)
  • Click on the Basic tab, then on the left hand side click the Wireless/Wifi section.
  • In the Wireless (Wi-Fi) Network Settings Area, disable Enable Auto Channel Scan and set the Transmission Rate to "54"
  • From the "Wireless Channel" drop-down menu, select a new channel. This is a trial-and-error process - the channel that works best for you may be different than the one that works best for your friend. The most popular channels are 1, 6, and 9, but you may need to try several before finding the best one!
  • Go to the top and “Save Settings”
  • Click on “Reboot Now” and power cycle the router.
  • If the range did not improve, repeat the steps to choose a different channel until you find your optimum channel.
cradlepoint - change channels

7) Add a Pepwave Surf Mini: The Pepwave Surf Mini is a versatile WiFi Bridge/Repeater that can help extend your router's WiFi range. Once set up to communicate with your router, the Surf Mini will constantly "scan" for the router's WiFi signal, lock into it, and then rebroadcast it to a wider area; the Surf Mini can be placed toward the edge of your Cradlepoint's wireless range area and rebroadcast the wireless signal to additional parts of the home/office/etc that the router alone could not reach. To read more about how the Surf Mini works and all the other useful things it can do, read this article: Pepwave Surf Mini Solves Many WiFi-Related Challenges.

Still need more range? If you've tried all the above steps but still need more wireless range, you may want to consider WDS, which allows you to use a second router as a WiFi repeater. WDS is beyond the scope of ths article, but check out Tip of the Week #32 for more information.

Something must be wrong with my router! If you have tried all of the above tips and the wireless signal you're getting from your router is FAR less than what users typically see (60-80 feet for wireless "G" routers; a couple hundred feet for wireless "N" routers), you may want to call technical support (note: 3Gstore is only able to provide technical support to users who purchased their router from us; if you ordered your router elsewhere you should call the store you bought from or Cradlepoint directly) to rule out a problem with the router itself.

Related links:

Last Updated ( Friday, 26 November 2010 )
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