Boosting my Wifi Network
February 15, 2014 7:08 AM   Subscribe

I just moved into my first multistory home. Time Warner Cable installed their wifi modem on our second floor, and we have a very weak wifi signal in our (finished) basement. I'd like to know how to boost our wireless signal with minimal sacrifice of bandwidth/speed, and without having to have TWC come in again and move our modem to the first floor. Details within.

The tech said, "Wifi travels down, not up. Ideally you should install the modem on the top floor." So we did. Netflix and streaming video aren't working on the desktop computer in our basement.

TWC's modem is a UBEE DVW3201B. This is the first wifi modem we've had with them. Previously, we were using a Netgear N300 Gigabit Router (WNR3500U / WNR3500L), which the TWC tech connected by ethernet wire to the modem. So now we can access wifi through both the router and the modem. No devices in the house connect to the network through a wire, so I'm pretty sure this is redundant.

* Is it possible to set up the Netgear router as a wireless access point to extend the wireless signal from the modem, without sacrificing speed and bandwidth?
* If so, how would I go about doing that?
* If I'm going to take a big hit on speed, should I buy something else to extend the network's range and if so, what would you suggest?

Logging into the router through allows me to set up the wireless repeater function. It's asking for a repeater IP address and the mac address of the base station.
* I can enter the mac address (printed on the modem) but what should I put in for the repeater address?
* What else should I do to set this up?

Any help (explained in terms that are hopefully not too difficult to understand!) would be hugely appreciated.
posted by zarq to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
One option would be to buy a set of these ethernet over power line adapters. I have a friend who uses a similar setup to stream video from his PC to his PS3 across the house and it works very well.

What you'd do is to plug one of these ethernet adapters into a wall socket upstairs, connect the ethernet cable that's currently plugged into your router into the adapter, then take the router downstairs, plug the other adapter into a wall socket down there, and plug another ethernet cable from the other adapter into the router. Basically using the house's wiring as a giant extension cord for your network.

Then you'd connect to your router when you're downstairs and to your modem's built in wifi when you're upstairs.
posted by JDHarper at 7:25 AM on February 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

Seconding the power line adapter + extra router(s) setup. We use dlinks and they are great.
posted by curious nu at 7:44 AM on February 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I had no idea those existed! Thank you! Will check them out.
posted by zarq at 7:59 AM on February 15, 2014

If your old wireless router still works, you can always disable wifi on the TWC router/modem and use your old router to run the house. And wifi goes where the antenna are pointed, which in many cases is omnidirectional. Our main router is in the basement, and our attic gets a decent signal...
posted by caution live frogs at 8:05 AM on February 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Both those routers are simply too weak to cover your home. I had that same WNR3500L as well as a Dlink DIR655. When installed in my basement furnace room where the cable modem lives, neither of them could cover our home from top to bottom and even when you had a good signal they were both just too under-powered (CPU-wise) to handle more than a couple of devices at high speed. If you have a lot of modern 802.11n devices, I would suggest just getting a better single router over extending your existing network with powerline adapters. They may solve the reception problem, but they add setup complexity and won't improve the throughput of your overall network.

I myself now use an Asus rt-n66u which not only covers my entire house, but also gives some reception *outside* and in my garage, and it too is installed in my basement furnace room beside the cable modem. Yes, it costs more, but right now we've got half a dozen devices all using 802.11n connected throughout our home and I can still watch HDTV on my laptop from my office, which is on the second floor. I paid about $160 for mine, but it looks like you can get them for a lot less now.
posted by Poldo at 8:15 AM on February 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

"Wifi travels down not up?" What? Is this a thing? I have never heard this before, it sounds like something made up to demonstrate his technical superiority. What do radio signals care about orientation to gravity?

I agree about the router, it sounds like they gave you a crappy one. I think Poldo has this one covered.
posted by JHarris at 9:57 AM on February 15, 2014

I'd use two MoCA adaptors, which do ethernet over cable TV wiring ( less than $100 for a pair of them), and your existing Wi-Fi box.
posted by w0mbat at 11:24 AM on February 15, 2014

I'd like to know how to boost our wireless signal with minimal sacrifice of bandwidth/speed, and without having to have TWC come in again and move our modem to the first floor

You don't need to get the cable guy back to move cable boxes to a different cable TV outlet, just do it yourself.
posted by w0mbat at 11:31 AM on February 15, 2014

I use power line network + second wireless access point, not a router. There are two different types of devices you can use depending on your needs. The downside of my configuration is that I have two SSIDs. The upside is I have explicit control over the connection I use.
posted by crazycanuck at 12:39 PM on February 15, 2014

They shouldn't need to move it to the first floor. The signal should be plenty strong in a two-story house for the whole house. Something is wrong with the set up. You need to call Time Warner and hope to get a different technician who is actually competent. If it's not on Time Warner's end and how strong the signal is coming into your home, then I would look at the wireless router you're using.
posted by AppleTurnover at 1:23 PM on February 15, 2014

It's worth reading this Wirecutter article on The Best Wi-Fi Extender -- as of this writing the Netgear WN2500RP, although they do not recommend extenders in general, and the article also covers MoCA and powerline ethernet and links to this article on The Best Way to Get Whole House Wireless Coverage.

Another option is to get a higher-end router -- Wirecutter mentions the Asus "Dark Knight" and a friend just extended her range significantly with the Netgear "Nighthawk" (when you pay $200 for a router it comes with a superhero name, so you've got that going for you) -- but Wirecutter also says that this year's crop of advanced routers will be better and worth waiting for if you can't get whole house coverage by other means.
posted by troyer at 1:29 PM on February 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

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