Tuesday, December 02, 2014

The Solution for Wifi Coverage Issue in the New Homes Layout

I thought it will be good for me to share more about planning for internet connection in a new home, especially for friends who are going to be new homeowners. 

When we were doing our new home renovation last year, it hadn't never occurred to us that we will have WIFI coverage issues. Since the first time I ever have internet and WIFI at my parents place, we have never ever encounter WIFI coverage issues. And I also helped my in law's to install the wireless router few years back, their place was huge at 1700 square feet and using the same usual router, there had never been any WIFI coverage issue before. So when we were doing renovation for our own small four room flat, we didn't put internet connection into serious consideration. It is supposed to be easy no brainer thing right? If there are issues, it would have been in the news or I should have heard from my friends right? But hell no. :( 

This is the typical layout for four rooms HDB flat (Image from HDB website)

I had originally placed the wireless modem router in the living room at the TV console facing the centre of the house, then i have also move it into the first bedroom (nearest to the living room), but either ways, the master bedroom and kitchen have practically no wireless coverage. 

Questions you should ask yourself when you are applying for Internet for your new home:
  1. Which type of connection to use, cable, fibre or thru telephone? 
  2. Where to put the modem and routers (It depends on the type of connections you are using, if you are using Fibre then you have to pay for installing another fibre point deeper into the house. If you are using cable or telephone connection, then you will be glad that all the rooms comes with telephone and cable points installed)
  3. How long it takes to activate and to install? Are u willing to wait long long (for fibre)? And are you willing to pay more for pulling a fibre point deeper into the house (the fibre terminates at the main door area for every new home)
  4. Consider about WIFI coverage issues because of the new home layout plans. In this case, the size of the house doesn't matter, or whether you are using Fibre or Cable doesn't make much difference to your WIFI coverage. It's the layout, where you are going to place the Wireless Router and the number of walls in your home that will affect the WIFI coverage.  
  5. Know what are the devices that can help you to boast wireless coverage across the concrete walls and different storeys, some devices are plug and play and do not require any structural changes or installation. 

For our home, we chose to have cable connection over fibre as
  • I wasn't willing to wait at all because I cannot survive a day without internet. 
  • All new HDB flats already have cable points nicely installed in every single rooms, so we have more flexibilities about where to place the modem router. 
  • I am able to do the installation myself, so upon setting up I can have internet immediately.  

As with all the houses I lived in, the internet modem routers were all installed in the living room, however for our home, when i first installed the wireless modem router in the living room, the kitchen and other two bedrooms had very weak connections and slow internet access, the master bedroom almost didn't have any coverage at all! 

I moved the modem router into the first bedroom (the one closest to the living room) and it improved but is still not really acceptable. Only after I placed it high on top of the piano and with the wires pulled to maximum till the modem is in the middle of the room, on top of the piano facing the door, then we were able to surf the net from living room and the two bedrooms. Even so, WIFI signal is very weak in the master bedroom and in the kitchen, connections will keep dropping and the devices sometimes can't find the router at all. Imagine when I am cooking in the kitchen, I have to rely on mobile data to surf the recipes on my mobile phone! 

So I called the service provider to check and i was told I can change some settings on the router to change the channels of its signals. There was absolutely no improvements, so they arranged for one of their staffs to come onsite to do site survey. Sigh, the technician cannot do anything, he said it's due to the new home layout and too many concrete walls. I was told I can try to buy an additional WIFI router to do bridging with the modem router, but he cannot guarantee that it will work. And he told me secretly that I am not the only one. The ones using Fibre were even more frustrated as the modem can only be stationed in the living room. 

That should be the reason why sometime later, i saw the service provider introducing a dual broadband plan with two broadband connections, adapted from their website, they said "with 1 fibre broadband and 1 cable broadband providing WiFi coverage throughout the house, you will be basking in WiFi signals everywhere." Honestly, I feel it's a joke! I am not doing big businesses that requires two internet connections, I also feel that having two modem routers in a small home is not economical and can pose a potential health hazard - get cancer faster?? 

To solve my WIFI issues, I had to do trial and error to troubleshoot it. Previously, I had purchased the cheapest wall plugged WIFI repeater I found at S$65+, that is supposed to pick up existing wifi signals and bounce it off to other areas that experience unstable wireless coverage. Though it did manage to connect to my router, and i get full bars for WIFI connection on the mobile phone, but internet was very very slow whenever I am connected to this repeater. I have tried plugging it in different areas in the house but internet connection in the master bedroom was unstable, we still couldn't stream YouTube on the Television smoothly or sometimes, I couldn't browse Facebook on my mobile in the master bedroom at all, especially if we closed the bedroom door. 

Thus, when i received the opportunity to try and review the Linksys N600 PRO Wi-Fi Range Extender (RE4000W), I was both skeptical and yet hopeful if it can solve our wireless coverage problem. And I am pleased to share that it didn't failed me! Finally, after one year of staying in our new home, we found the solution to our WIFI coverage issue, we have the house fully WIFI covered and it is not costly with a MSRP of S$109 only!

The front and side of the box of Linksys N600 PRO Wi-Fi Range extender

The Linksys N600 PRO Wi-Fi Range Extender is super easy to install, all I did was to plug it into a power socket and switched on the power, then I downloaded the setup application from the Linksys website on my laptop. The app scanned for the extender and asked me to choose the access point to connect to as well as prompt me to enter the password of my router. Thereafter the settings is completed! I can switched off the power and move the extender to anywhere else desired! What's more impressive is that internet connection remains stable, even after I closed all the bedroom doors. 

Just plug into the wall and power on

I always prefer buying an extender over an additional router because 
  • it is truly plug and play
  • occupies a small or negligible space (just plug into the wall power socket)
  • i can turn it on only when required to save electricity 

From left to right: we can change the power plug connector to suit your needs, bottom of the extender comes with two network points which you can connect to your laptop/television for faster internet surfing

Just to share a golden tip that I have learnt the hard way: Do not attempt to save and purchase a cheaper WIFI repeater that may end up not being able to solve the issue. It's worth paying just a few tens more for a trusted reliable brand and product! 

Items included in the box: (top) two different power socket connectors, (bottom) a network cable

MORE INFORMATION

Linksys N600 PRO Wi-Fi Range Extender – RE4000W
The Linksys N600 PRO Wi-Fi Range Extender (RE4000W) helps eliminate Wi-Fi dead spots throughout the home by increasing the wireless signal of an existing router. RE4000W extends the wireless coverage and features Cross-Band technology allowing the Wi-Fi signal to receive information on one band and transmit on another. The result is a stronger, more consistent signal throughout your home. Two Fast Ethernet ports provide hardwire connectivity for digital devices allowing users to experience faster streaming and gaming. The RE4000W Wi-Fi Range Extender can be plugged directly into a wall outlet and setup is simple and fast.

The chart below helps provide an at-glance look at how the new Linksys Range Extenders stack up and which one would be ideal for a user’s home experience. A Range Extender white paper can be downloaded here.

Features
RE3000W
RE4000W
RE6500HG
Wireless Speed
N300
N600
AC1200
Wireless Band
Single Band (2.4 Ghz)
Simultaneous Dual Band
2.4 Ghz + 5Ghz
Simultaneous Dual Band
2.4 Ghz + 5Ghz
CrossBand
-
Yes
Yes
Plug-in or Desktop
Plug-In
Plug-In
Desktop
Wireless Audio
-
-
Yes
Wired Ports
1 Ethernet
2 Ethernet
4 Gigabit
Bridge
Yes
Yes
Yes
High Gain Antenna
No
No
Yes
MSRP Price
S$79
S$109
S$179

Pricing and Availability
The RE4000W and RE3000W are immediately available at Challenger for an MSRP of S$109 and S$79 respectively. All range extenders units will be available starting September 12, 2014 at Harvey Norman, Challenger and BEST Denki.  The RE6500HG will be available for S$179.

About Linksys
The Linksys brand has pioneered wireless connectivity since its inception in 1988 with its leading innovation and engineering strategies, and best-in-class technology, design, and customer service.  Linksys enables a connected lifestyle for people at home, at work and on the move, and with its award-winning products, simplifies home control, entertainment, security and Internet access through innovative features and a growing application and partner ecosystem. For more information, visit linksys.com, like them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter or watch them on YouTube.

Disclaimer: We received an unit of Linksys N600 PRO Wifi Extender for review purposes. No other form of compensation is involved and all opinions and images are my own, unless otherwise stated. No part is to be copied or reproduced without permission. 

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