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Wireless Home Networking, Part IV - Placing Your Equipment

When setting up a WLAN at home for the first time, the room in which you place major equipment like a router or access point will be dictated by the location of your broadband connection.

Since a WLAN access point requires a physical connection to the wired LAN, you'll need to plug it into a switched LAN port built into your router or on a separate switch. Therefore, needless to say, if your broadband connection is located in the den, then the access point will need to go in the den as well (unless your house is wired for Ethernet, in which case you probably don't need a WLAN in the first place).

Although you may not always have the choice of what room to put an access point in, you do have some flexibility as to where in the room (and how) you want to place it. A good rule of thumb for locating an access point is to keep it at as high an elevation as possible. The higher the access point is, the more likely its signal is to be free of obstruction.

This doesn't mean though, that you need to mount an access point up high, close to the ceiling. This isn't practical or attractive, and it's almost never necessary. By the same token, you shouldn't keep it on or near the floor. It will usually be sufficient to keep it on a typical desk or table, at around waist-height. Also, keep it away from any source of RF noise, like a monitor or PC power supply.

Once you've picked a location, a bit of time spent testing the signal strength between the access point and a notebook (if you're using one) is well worth the effort. Sometimes, the positioning of the access point's antenna or antennas can be at least as important as that of the access point itself. Most WLAN access points have rotating antennas which you can adjust to optimize the strength of the signal. (Think rabbit ears on a TV.)

If you intend to be mobile with your wireless computer, you should check the signal strength in every room where you want access. Depending on the size, construction, and layout of your home, you might finds spots where the signal is weak or even absent--so called "dead spots."

If you encounter one, relocating or repositioning the access point may strengthen the signal. If not, there may be other ways in which you can extend your range.

Coming in Part V: Interference and Range Extension

802.11 Planet Conference Don't think placement is important? Join us at the 802.11 Planet Conference & Expo, Dec. 3-5 in Santa Clara, CA. One of our sessions will cover how important things like antennas can be in a session called Optimizing WLAN Coverage.