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WIFI repeater / bridge

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soldar:
In my second home I connect to my neighbor's WIFI (with his permission, obviously). His house is four up the street from mine, on the same side of the street. Up until now it has been more or less working. If they are using the WIFI a lot themselves then my signal is not strong enough and they get all the bandwidth. So it works well for everybody. He never has the problem of me slowing them down.

But my connection has been getting worse over the months and now there are times of day when I can hardly connect at all. Even at hours when there should be little or no traffic my connection is not reliable any more. I guess it might be from a couple new WIFIs that have popped up.

He has placed his AP near the front of the house and I have also placed my client near the front but I suspect the signal is bouncing off from across the street because to go direct it would have to go through three masonry houses.

I have given some thought to how to improve the connection. Any kind of cables are out for several reasons, the main one being his wife would not allow it.

So I have thought of a WIFI repeater (bridge, whatever) across the street where it has a good view of both houses.

Now, I have done this kind of thing in the past. I would take a WIFI client (e.g. WET54G) connect it via Ethernet to a WIFI access point (any old router would do) and I had a repeater.

BUT the only way I can put this repeater across the street is to park my car there and put it in the car. I guess I could try the "client + AP" approach but I would prefer to find a simpler one single device solution. Part of that is that it will run off the car battery and I want to make it as simple as possible. Ideally just one device that I can unplug when I'm driving. (I would have to think about consumption because I sometimes do not move the car in over a week.)

So, I have started looking into WIFI repeater/bridges or whatever they call them. Ideally I would like to use hardware that I have if at all possible. Also, my experience with WIFI antennas is that internal antennas are not worth a crap and only external antennas half work.

I have read some types of receivers halve the WIFI bandwidth because of the half duplex nature of WIFI. This is fine as I do not think it would be a problem.

The problem is that I start looking into WDS, MESH, repeater, etc and I get confused and lost.

It seems they all work differently. Some will just repeat packets to and fro so you are really connecting through the repeater to the "original" AP. Dunno. I guess I could do that but it is not what I am used to doing so I think I would like to avoid this.  I think I would like to have the same configuration as I am familiar with two separate devices: as a client log into the base AP and separately open a different WIFI AP with different SSID and password. It can be on the same subnet as the primary AP or it can be on a different subnet.

I would log into the AP side and from there configure the client side to connect into the "primary" AP. That's the idea. Now comes the question of how to best implement it.

I have a 3Com Office connect WL-542 ADSL router that I use as switch and WIFI AP. It has a configuration page that says it can be configured as WDS and allows scanning for networks but I have no idea how this works. The more I read the more confused I am. It does not look like it does what I want but I am not clear what it does do so I wonder if maybe it would do it.

The Wikipedia page on WDS is confusing to me. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wireless_distribution_system

I have a TP-Link WR841N(TPD) Ver 9.0 router on which I installed Open-WRT and it seems Open-WRT has this capability but I would have to install some additional firmware and it seems the hardware was already limited so probably no more storage.

Reading this page https://openwrt.org/docs/guide-user/network/wifi/relay_configuration it seems it is a packet repeater so I would be on the same LAN which I could do but would prefer to avoid if possible.

Another Open-WRT page: https://openwrt.org/docs/guide-user/network/wifi/mesh/start

I have some devices with internal antennas which I seem to remember can be configured as repeater or bridge. I guess I could give them a try but, as I say, my experience with internal antennas is not good.

Another aspect is power supply. Ideally one single device at 12 Volts to be plugged into the lighter. Right now I have at hand a WEP54G and a router/AP both at 5 Volts. I could mount them both on a board and find a step-down adapter. Not greatly difficult to get started but before I do anything I'd like to hear ideas and understand the issue better.

Whales:
Yes wifi can be 'repeated' in a lot of different ways.  Some of them are actually really proprietary too.


--- Quote ---I think I would like to have the same configuration as I am familiar with two separate devices: as a client log into the base AP and separately open a different WIFI AP with different SSID and password. It can be on the same subnet as the primary AP or it can be on a different subnet.
--- End quote ---

You would want them on different subnets, to make the NAT simpler.  You will have to use a NAT unless both ends support one of the proprietary wireless bridging protocols; or if you go for one of the more complex setups ("4-something"?  I think the off-the-shelf-all-in-one repeaters might do this).

I didn't go into a great amount of detail about in my long-range wifi article, but this was my setup:


Device 1 (running openwrt):

* Connected to a distant wireless access point, normal client-style connection.
* Mounted up a stick on the side of the house (with a directional antenna too)
* Setup to NAT between wifi (WAN) and ethernet (LAN)
* Running a dhcp server on the LAN side (dnsmasq)
Device 1 and 2 were connected by a long ethernet cable.

Device 2 (crappy off-the-shelf wifi router that I found in a bin and doesn't support openwrt):

* Mounted inside the house
* Acting as a wifi AP for us to use
* DHCP server disabled (only some let you do this, I telnetted in and manually killed the process)

Whales:
Oh and everything with the word "mesh" in the wireless world: assume it's heavily experimental.  Pretty much only "client" and "station" modes of operation are reliable across most (not all!) devices.

The most standardised mesh-ish thing is "ad-hoc" mode.  Everything other than ad-hoc is not part of the standards as far as I am aware.

soldar:

--- Quote from: Whales on October 06, 2019, 11:51:12 pm ---I didn't go into a great amount of detail about in my long-range wifi article, but this was my setup:
--- End quote ---

Thanks. That setup is pretty much what I have now and what I have done quite a few times in the past. The only difference is that I use a normal USB or Ethernet WIFI client rather than a home-made antenna. I might experiment with helical antennas but in an urban setting the problem is not weak signals but a lot of interference from other WIFI.

I have done some tests and reception from across the street is great. I can use my iPad without problem and the iPad, with its internal antenna, does need a good quality signal. I have no doubt that a relay/repeater would work perfectly. The question is the physical build. I guess I could start with assembling on a board a client, AP, power supplies, etc. It would be bulky and inconvenient but would give me a good start.  The main hurdle right now is that the devices I would be using none are 12 V so I would have to provide step-down regulators.

I could use a larger board and separate client and AP so they interfere as little as possible with each other. Maybe provide some shields or reflectors as shown in the drawing.

Then later maybe try to use a single device.

OwO:
Use a SBC with two usb wifi cards. Set up hostapd on one of them and client on the other. Then use iptables to do NAT.

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