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Poor signal with wireless network and directional antenna

Last response: in Wireless Networking
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January 22, 2014 6:28:46 PM

Hello everyone,

I'm trying to establish a wireless network for my stepdads business. Here's the equipment I'm working with:

TP Link - TL-WR1043ND router
http://www.amazon.com/TP-LINK-TL-WR1043ND-Ultimate-Wire...

A directional, high gain antenna:
http://www.amazon.com/Alfa-Weatherproof-Performance-Ref...

There is 50 feet of SMA cable between the router and the antenna. The antenna is on top of the shop and aimed at an RV about 500ft away. There is clear line of sight to the trailer but just barely - by that I mean that standing on the ground in front of the trailer the antenna can barely be seen over the top of a large (plastic roofed) greenhouse. From the window and top of the trailer, the antenna is clearly visible and has no obstructions whatsoever.

Using a wifi-analyzer I am getting about -80dbm to -70dbm whereas inside the office, where the router resides, I'm getting about -50dbm signal strength. My analyzer range is from -40 to -90dbm, 90 being the bottom.

My phone is getting about 2 bars of signal strength from the antenna when I'm standing at the trailer. I tried to connect to it and got *CONNECTION SPEED TOO SLOW*, then adjusted the antenna a little bit and now get *AUTHENTICATION ERROR*.

I've got experience in networking but have never done a long range network like this before. I'm assuming my problem is related to the antenna not outputting enough gain. Does anyone have any advice for me? Do you think I need an inline amplifier before the antenna to increase the gain? The cabling from the router to the antenna is short enough that there shouldn't be any signal loss, but then again networking is full of -should- and -should not- situations. At this point I'm just out of ideas.

Please help

January 22, 2014 7:43:42 PM

With that much antenna gain at 500 feet, you should be in the -40s or -50s.

You say that you aren't worried about cable loss, but 50ft is starting to get long enough to matter - what kind of cable is it? (mfg and part number). If you don't have that, what is the diameter of the cable?

Assuming you are trying to use 802.11n, try shifting to 802.11g or bg, and disconnecting the other two rubber-duck antennas. Try the external antenna in all three ports and test the signal strength on each one (I'm not sure which is primary for b/g operation).
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January 22, 2014 10:59:22 PM

There are two cables being used.
http://www.amazon.com/TRENDnet-Reverse-Weatherproof-Con...
http://www.amazon.com/Signstek-Antenna-RP-SMA-Female-Ex...

I didn't disconnect the other antennas on the router. Supposedly the #3 antenna on TP-Link routers are typically set up as "receive only" (not verified) so the directional is hooked into the middle antenna port.

That being said, I was finally able to get connected to it on the receiving end of the directional antenna by using my laptop. My phone still will not connect. I was only connected to the network long enough to pull up one page (very, very slowly) before being kicked and losing connection to the network.

It feels like a classic case of wireless interference, but given that I can see the low strength of the broadcast I know that's not the case. Think it's the cabling from the router to the antenna?
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January 23, 2014 12:53:51 AM

You may be losing most the gain from the antenna you have with the antenna cable. In many cases you need direction antenna on both ends of the connection to make this work. This is especially true with the antenna you linked. The beam width is very narrow and you need to be in the middle.

Generally I no longer use equipment like that. You can get outdoor bridge units with the antenna and the electronics all in one so no more microwave cable. I use engenius stuff or ubiquiti airgrid. The airgrid units are very similar to your antenna but cost only $70 for a unit that has both the antenna and the bridge. Many of these units claim to be able to run in AP mode but I have only run them as bridge with directional on both ends.

You could put a ubiquiti "bullet" outdoor unit on your current antenna this would solve any strange issues with the cable or the router.
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January 23, 2014 11:24:37 AM

I agree whit the above solution. Use a Engenius or similar access point/bridge. The Engenius kit comes with a POE (power over Ethernet) adapter that will provide both data and power to the access point over several hundred feet of cat 5 cable. If your user devices do not have enough WiFi output power to get back to the access point, then set up a two point bridge network to get the data connection out to the remote location and have an access point there. It is the cleanest way to go for where Cat 5 data wires cannot be laid.
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January 23, 2014 6:36:51 PM

bill001g, I understand the beam width is only something like 25 degrees, but the antenna is pointed directly at the receiving point. I ensured that the signal strength was the best I could get, but what I'm getting isn't good enough.

Do you have any recommendations for equipment and how it should be set up? Again, I do some networking but I'm completely out of my element when it comes to AP setup and wireless bridging.
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Best solution

January 24, 2014 4:41:06 AM

I will link another thread on this. Realbeast normally is around and has a good picture he posts of the solution.

Your problem is likely that you are going to need direction antenna on both ends. It is likely the end device just do not have the right antennas to work well with direction antenna

http://www.tomshardware.com/answers/id-1991143/run-mile...
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February 5, 2014 8:21:29 PM

What about the possibility of putting something like a USB antenna on the receiving end? There is only going to be one laptop receiving the signal, maybe two at most. I could get a USB antenna to plug into the laptop and increase the receiving strength, but would that be sufficient?
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