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Extend your wireless signal with an old router

dennismphil profile image Dennis Mathew Philip ・4 min read

A cost-effective alternative to Mesh routers for signal expansion where internet speeds are less than 300Mbps

Introduction

Do you have wifi dead spots in your home? Can you get hold of an old wireless router? Let's fix it by wirelessly linking both routers and then extend your wifi range to reach all the corners.

Typically the Internet Service Provider(ISP)'s cable enters your home at a corner. This forces you to place your router at one corner of your home which is not the ideal placement for optimal coverage.

No wifi

📖 Background

The technique I am going to explain is called Wireless Distribution System (WDS) which enables us to wirelessly link two routers and thereby extending the reach of the wireless signal.

Cost comparison

I purchased a preowned TPLink Archer C50 for $15 for testing purpose. The general theory should work across manufacturers/models that support WDS.

TPLink Archer C50

TPLink Archer C50 supports up to 300Mbps over the 2.4Ghz band and 867Mbps over the 5Ghz band. Also, comes with WDS support. My internet speed is well below the 300Mbps limit which made this a cost-effective pick to extend the wifi range of my 2.4Ghz band.

⚙️ Configuration

WDS wifi extension architecture

This requires configuration on the base router as well as the extended router. The base router need not support WDS.

The key to successfully configuring this lies behind the idea we need to bring all the devices on a common LAN address range 192.168.1.x

Base router configuration

The base router is the primary or root router which is the entry point from the ISP to your home. We are going to extend the wifi signal from this router.

  1. Assign an IP 192.168.1.1 to this router and limit the range of IP addresses issued from this router to be between

    192.168.1.3 - 192.168.1.99

    Base Router config

  2. Set the channel of the wifi signal to be static (eg: 11) instead of auto

    This will make sure whenever the router reboots the WDS link does not break. For WDS to work, both routers need to be on the same channel.

    Extended Router Static IP

Extended router configuration

Extended router is the new router(in my case TPLink Archer C50) which can be positioned optimally for the best wireless reception extending the base router signal.

Assign an IP 192.168.1.2 to this router and limit the range of IP addresses issued from this router between

192.168.1.100 - 192.168.1.199

  1. Assign Static IP

    Extended Router Static IP

  2. Configure DHCP

    (In some other places, you may see instructions to turn DHCP completely off for the extended router. However, this did not work for my case. I had to keep the DHCP on for the extended router)

    Extended Router DHCP

  3. Configure WDS

    Enable the WDS bridging mode. TP-link router had a survey button that conveniently found the mac address of the base router. If your router does not have this, you can find this from the label on the router or issuing a command on the CLI

    arp -a

    Provide the same SSID and password for this network. Devices will automatically connect to the strongest wireless signal in areas of overlap.

    Extended Router WDS

🎖 Results

In areas of overlap, you will see the signal from both routers. In this case, since the signal from the extended router is the strongest, the devices will automatically latch onto the stronger network.

Signal strength

The internet connection speed where I tested this was 20Mbps. I am getting the full 20Mbps on the wired, wireless signal from primary router as well as from the wireless signal from the extended router.

Conclusion

WDS is great for expanding the internet signal range with minimum investment and serves as a great alternative before investing in an expensive mesh router system. This setting is often buried deep inside the router configuration and has not gotten much attention.

Once we link either the 2.4Ghz or 5Ghz band from the base router, the extended router can transmit both bands. This technique works well typically where the internet speeds are less than 300Mbps.

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Discussion (1)

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nauman73 profile image
nauman73 • Edited

Nicely explained. I have been using this method using an older Tp Link router. One thing that I have in my Tp Link router is WDS Mode. By default it is set to Automatic. But I have seen it cause problems with some base routers when using automatic option. For such cases I set the mode to WDS 1 or WDS 2 for a stable link between two routers.

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