Wireless Potential – Overcoming Challenges in Setting up Repeaters and Configuring Routers. Wi-Fi Connectivity – Exploring the Trials and Triumphs of Extending Wireless Networks, Unraveling the Secrets of Router Configuration, and Navigating the Maze of Connectivity Issues in the Online Era.
Wi-Fi networks are becoming increasingly congested, particularly in the 2.4 GHz band, which penetrates walls well but is also heavily used by many other wireless devices, not just routers.
The legislation in Europe is flawed because American wireless routers (FCC standard) can transmit at up to 1 W (30 dBm) power on both frequencies (2.4 GHz and 5 GHz), while in Romania (CE standard), the maximum power on 2.4 GHz is ten times lower, at 100 mW (20 dBm), and on 5 GHz it is almost 200 mW (23 dBm). You pay the same for a router but receive less.
Wireless router manufacturers are also to blame because they reduce the actual power of the routers well below what is legal and what the router is capable of, forcing you to buy repeaters. Signal repeater devices are not a solution as they further congest networks and also result in “half the bandwidth.” Additionally, they have already begun prohibiting custom firmware like DD-WRT or OpenWrt, preventing you from using the router to its full capacity, not realizing they are shooting themselves in the foot.
Even home users are not eager to learn, for example, by crowding the first channel on the 2.4 GHz band, which is limited to 18 dBm by default, if I recall correctly. Many of the so-called “experts” who post on online forums have no idea what they’re talking about.
Never rely on online store reviews when purchasing a router, as you risk ending up with a weak device.
Instead, you can ask me or visit a specialized forum like RST in Romania, where there are many knowledgeable individuals well-versed in networking and Linux. Alternatively, you can go directly to the DD-WRT forum, as they also have specialists who develop software for routers out of passion, without receiving any compensation for their hard work, which ultimately benefits wireless equipment manufacturers.
But let’s start from the beginning, according to the “wise” words of some individuals.
How to properly position and set up a wireless router
In theory, your wireless router should be placed in the center of your home, preferably high up, as radio waves are known to propagate downwards.
It’s not always possible to do so due to various real-life situations that may prevent you from achieving this ideal placement.
After positioning it as best as you can, you need to determine which channel is less congested to avoid further wireless network congestion and ensure optimal Wi-Fi performance. If there are too many routers operating on the same channel and frequency, it results in interference, leading to subpar Wi-Fi speeds at the very least. Additionally, as mentioned earlier, channel 1 in the 2.4 GHz band has limited power. Many people are unaware of this, and I myself didn’t know until the specialists on the DD-WRT forum informed me, so now you know too if you’ve read this far.
Two free programs that can scan Wi-Fi networks and help you identify the least congested channel are: for Android – WiFiAnalyzer, and for Windows – WiFi Inspector.
You can use another useful Android application called Wifi Analyzer to assess the signal strength throughout your house, allowing you to determine the best placement for your wireless router.
I have personally used both Android applications below to explain the situation with my Wi-Fi network.
Two years ago, the best channel for my router, where it performed the fastest in the 2.4 GHz band, was channel 8. However, this year I noticed that my Wi-Fi was extremely slow, only reaching 2-3 Mbps through two walls, instead of the usual tens of Mbps.
I started investigating and found that now every Wi-Fi channel, out of the 13 available in Romania (11 in the US), was occupied by nearly dozens of wireless devices. I took a screenshot to show you the current situation.
Realizing there was little I could do, I switched to the last channel, channel 13, and things improved to some extent: up to 40 Mbps download and 30 Mbps upload at night, when there’s less interference, and around 30 Mbps download and 20 Mbps upload during the day, when interference is high. These speeds were achieved using a TP-LINK 841N router with DD-WRT firmware and increased power to 20 dBm (100 mW), which is the legal limit in Romania for the 2.4 GHz band and the maximum capability of the router.
The hardware, specifically the EPROM, is limited by the manufacturer, although it is sold with less than 30 dBm in the United States.
These speeds were measured through two walls and three rows of furniture, reaching my room. The router is not ideally placed as it is located in a corner on a desk due to limitations in my setup. I will explain why at the end of the article.
The legislation in Europe regarding Wi-Fi routers is flawed. You pay the same as in the US for a router but receive ten times less power in the 2.4 GHz band.
In the United States, following the FCC standard, the transmission power of a router can reach up to 1 W (30 dBm) in the 2.4 GHz band, which is the frequency that penetrates walls best. However, it is also heavily used by other wireless devices, such as IP cameras. In the 5 GHz frequency, the maximum TX power has recently been set to 1 W as well.
There was a legal process related to this matter when Asus, a company that produces wireless equipment for home users, was sued by another company because certain routers had a transmission power close to 1 W in the 5 GHz band before it became legally allowed.
Now the transmission power of routers in the US can be a maximum of 1 W in both frequencies.
Besides the transmission power of a wireless router, we also discuss antenna gain. If I recall correctly, in the US, a home Wi-Fi router should not exceed 37 dBm (TX power plus antenna gain).
In Romania, following the CE standard, the maximum transmission power of a wireless router is 100 mW (20 dBm) in the 2.4 GHz band and up to 200 mW (23 dBm) in the 5 GHz band. That is ten times less than in the US for the 2.4 GHz band, although routers cost at least the same as they do there. You pay the same but receive less due to flawed legislation.
Don’t worry about the health effects of that wattage because there are many other devices nearby, such as mobile network transmitters, which are much more powerful. If that wattage doesn’t affect Americans, who are strict about such matters, it won’t affect us either.
Wi-Fi router manufacturers limit their devices well below their capabilities and the legal limits in our country.
They probably use the excuse of reducing noise, interference, and other potentially embarrassing explanations. In reality, they want you to buy more routers and repeaters, but a repeater only means “half the bandwidth,” so it’s not an ideal solution. They want to ban custom programs like DD-WRT because it affects their profits.
Let me give you clear examples that I use to avoid empty discussions.
My router, TP-LINK 841N V10, purchased in Romania, is hardware-limited to the maximum legal limit of 100 mW (20 dBm) in the 2.4 GHz band.
That’s fine, except it doesn’t utilize its full power potential. It is also limited in software for Romania to a maximum of 39 mW (16 dBm). With this power, which is two and a half times lower, it can’t penetrate through two walls. So I had to install DD-WRT on it and push it to the maximum legal limit in Romania.
I’m discussing TP-LINK (but other companies do the same) because they are a reputable networking equipment company, but they need to work on the things they don’t do well and that we should criticize.
A router without DD-WRT, only with the factory firmware, is like a bicycle compared to a high-speed motorcycle. It’s like a mountain bike versus a Suzuki GSX-R 1000R. It’s not just about transmission power, but about overall performance, stability, the absence of frequent restarts, and having a lot of options available. You can even send commands from the Linux console to reboot without having to connect to the browser interface or clear (flush) the DNS cache in DD-WRT.
Unfortunately, the major problem with DD-WRT is the lack of funding. The people working on it do it out of passion. They spend their own money to buy new routers or receive them as donations to keep updating the program they put on them. Not all versions of DD-WRT are stable. You have to try many versions until you find a stable one, and this can potentially brick your router. In the case of certain Wi-Fi routers like mine, you can use TFTPD32 to unbrick it by restoring a working firmware.
With other routers, you may need to open them up and use a special cable. In some cases, neither of these options works, and the router becomes permanently unusable, requiring you to send it back to the manufacturer who may provide a replacement if you’re lucky.
Bricking the router due to custom firmware installation voids the warranty.
That’s why you need to be very careful when installing DD-WRT or any other custom firmware on your wireless router and watch my tutorials on YouTube before proceeding.
You see, those guys at DD-WRT who do an excellent job not only lack financial support from wireless hardware manufacturers but also face obstacles along the way.
Because we’re discussing TP-LINK, I know of several new router models, including the one I have, that no longer allow direct installation of custom firmware. If you want to use DD-WRT, you have to resort to various tricks until they completely prohibit it.
Don’t they realize that they’re shooting themselves in the foot by trying to ban these special programs that actually benefit them a lot, considering their own software is woefully inadequate? Don’t they realize that if I, at least, can no longer install custom firmware on my next wireless router, I will turn to companies that allow me to do so?
Do you know why I believe these router manufacturers behave this way?
Because they want you to buy more of their other products: wireless routers that you can use as repeaters or repeaters directly.
And this is not right. If it’s possible in a location, you should use only one wireless router, as a repeater will only provide half the bandwidth of the first router. It’s normal and logical when you think about it because the repeater needs to communicate with the first device to repeat the signal, not interfere with it.
Furthermore, wireless router manufacturers have “wised up” and now they no longer allow you to change the country setting to benefit from the maximum legal power in your country. Moreover, now there are different firmware and hardware versions for Europe and the United States. So, if you consider putting the US firmware on a device intended for Europe, you’ll brick it. That means you render it useless like a brick and can’t use it until you unbrick it, if you can.
For example, one of the coolest and most powerful routers currently available, which makes me drool excessively, is the TP-LINK Archer C1900 (AC1900 High Power Wireless Dual Band Gigabit Router).
Do you know why it’s called “High Power”?
Because it has three fantastic 900 mW amplifiers!!!
It’s like the ultimate powerhouse among Wi-Fi routers for home users.
Now, imagine having a router with a single 900 mW amplifier and only being able to use a maximum of 100 mW, in the 2.4 GHz band, because that’s the regulation here. It’s like having a car with an engine capable of reaching at least 90 km/h, but you drive it like a feeble, snail-like creature at 10 km/h.
I know the exact transmission power of many wireless routers because I’m passionate about the field. Jokingly, if I could, I would plaster my walls with routers, each on its own stand. For example, most cheaper routers from Asus have a maximum real TX power around 500 mW.
Do you understand why my next router, will be purchased from the United States and not Romania? Of course, I will use it within the legal power limits to abide by the law!
Perhaps that’s why if you visit TP-LINK’s website from the US, you get redirected to the Romanian site to prevent you from seeing what’s available there. You need to go directly to the product page to avoid being redirected to our country. Anyway, I use a VPN to access their US website and check out the latest products that aren’t available in Europe but only in the US, like OnHub, a Wi-Fi router made by Google and TP-LINK, which is really cool, powerful, and has multiple internal antennas, although it lacks multiple LAN ports. But it was designed for Wi-Fi, so it’s fine.
Home users are not knowledgeable, and the “experts,” who are also just regular users on online store forums, don’t know either.
Don’t rely on these things when it comes to technical support or buying a new router. Go where the real experts are, who don’t aim to push weak equipment on you just to make a sale, and confidently ask your questions on the DD-WRT forum.
Home users are not knowledgeable because if they were, there wouldn’t be so many of them setting their routers to channel 1 in the 2.4 GHz frequency, which is limited in power by default. Not only would they avoid unnecessarily congesting networks, but they would also stop promoting weak devices like some latest-generation wireless routers.
For example, if you go to any major online store in our country, the TP-LINK 740N router is seen as a great product, and you’re considered inexperienced if you don’t buy it.
That router is decent and cheap, but as someone who also has it as a backup device, I can tell you that in the case of version 4, if I start using Sopcast on my phone and have multiple connections, my Wi-Fi stops working on my laptop. This is because of its low-powered processor at 400 MHz and other limitations, including issues with multiple connections, which result in a lack of hardware resources and lag.
Of course, the 740N, with its single antenna, penetrates multiple walls better than the 841N, but that’s the only aspect where it slightly surpasses it. In all other aspects, as mentioned above, it has significantly slower Wi-Fi speed, a weaker processor (the 841N V10 has a 650 MHz processor). This means that if you have to choose between a 740N and an 841N from TP-LINK, don’t even consider the 740N; go for the 841N. I tried to write a review about the 740N on an online store, a decent and informative review, but it wasn’t approved because it affected sales. On the other hand, my review for the 841N was approved because it was positive.
That’s how things work around here.
If users don’t know, they can learn, including from here. Not even the “experts” on online store forums in our country are knowledgeable, nor do they want to learn.
For example, I visited a forum to see what was being discussed there, and a guy had come to ask why his mobile phone wasn’t connecting to the TP-LINK router, which he had set up as a repeater, even though he had followed the TP-LINK tutorial and done everything correctly.
Instead of telling him, that guy, who was also a user on the forum but claimed to be an expert and responded everywhere, didn’t mention that the phone wasn’t connecting to the repeater because he had disabled DHCP. Instead, he started talking about SSID and suggested running cables between routers and other similar things.
Sure, compatible routers and other wonders are necessary to successfully repeat the signal, but why didn’t he tell him that the phone wasn’t connecting primarily because a repeater… is a repeater, meaning its function is to repeat the signal, and if DHCP is disabled, it no longer knows how to allocate network IP addresses. Instead, you have to manually configure these things on your smartphone, on Android, and sometimes on Windows. Otherwise, it remains stuck on “connecting.”
Do you know how he responded? Someone asked him what to do if their ear was itching, and he replied that they should go to the mountains, come back, and then scratch their nose because it would definitely solve the problem.
I got a little sad, but then I went about my business, meaning I didn’t write anything there. The whole topic only has three posts: “the guy,” “the specialist,” and “the guy” who left “enlightened.”
However, I couldn’t help but write an article here about: Why my smartphone doesn’t connect to the repeater (range extender) – Wireless router used as a repeater.
Those who want to can come here on my blog and read it. Those who don’t can go to the online store forums and consult the specialists.
Previously, on major forums like Softpedia, if someone asked why their computer wasn’t running well, there was always a “smart” person who would tell them to scan their computer because it surely had viruses. Always, in any topic.
I never understood why there’s a need to intervene all the time if you don’t know. When I don’t know, and there are countless things I don’t know, I prefer to abstain rather than waste other people’s time.
What is my wireless router doing in a candy box?
Let’s end with a smile, not just being upset about things that bother us, and let me introduce my budget-friendly but decent TP-LINK 841N V10 router, which is currently housed in a candy box.
Not because I consider it a sweet router, although it has been serving me well for years, but because the blinds are open, and the sun shines on it, causing it to overheat and start giving errors or even stop working.
I can’t close the vertical blinds because I’d leave my Florida turtle without sunlight, and Bubu is much more important than the Wi-Fi router.
I can’t move the router either because the cables, the main one and the one going into the PC, are too short. I don’t want to extend the main cable, nor do I want to buy a switch for that purpose, plus more cables, extensions, holes in walls, and other such things to place it where it would be better: up and in the middle of the house, somewhere in the hallway.
Until I decide to do those things, the router stays in the candy box. Of course, autumn is approaching quickly, not just in the calendar sense, and the box won’t be necessary anymore.
If my article is useful for any research or similar purposes, please leave a message in the comments section or, if you have a blog and want to write about such things, provide a link to my blog as a source of inspiration.
Thank you, and I hope my article, written from years of accumulated experience and countless hours, proves useful to you.
What challenges have you encountered when setting up a wireless repeater or configuring a router? Share your experiences and insights in the comments section below!