So you're not getting the 11Mbps speed that you thought your
card's manufacturer promised? If you read your card or
Access Point's spec carefully, you'll probably see that data
rates are specified as a function of distance. Data rate
drops off very quickly with distance for 802.11b products,
and the change is somewhat abrupt or "stepped".
HomeRF products are slower to start with (1.6Mbps), but their
speed degrades more slowly with distance.
This chart from Compaq's
WL series reviewer's guide gives you some idea of what
to expect for 802.11b products, but like all manufacturer specs,
is optimistic in terms of the actual effective data rate
As a rule of thumb, take whatever distance numbers
you see and cut them in half to get an estimate of what real-world
performance may be like.
page on Antenna Selection and placement also has some
Now that your expectations are properly calibrated,
here are some tips to help you get the best performance:
NOTE: Although many of the tips refer
to an Access Point or "AP", they all apply equally
to a Wireless Router or Gateway!
The best place to put your A.P. is as
close to the center of the area that you want to cover.
The worst place to be (weakest signal)
is directly under an Access Point (assuming that the
AP's antenna is vertically oriented and omni-directional).
You'll probably do best if you orient your Access
Point or Wireless Router's antenna(s) vertically.
Keep antennas away from large metal objects
like filing cabinets and away from operating microwave ovens
or 2.4GHz cordless phones. Also watch out for large containers
of water... fishtanks or water heaters for example!
Most PC cards use an integrated antenna that
is fairly directional. The horizontal orientation
of these PC card antennas is not the best... it would
work better if it were vertically oriented. Unfortunately
no one has a PC card with a moveable antenna and it's not
very practical to work with your laptop laid on its side!
If you're having trouble with getting a strong
signal with your laptop, try moving so that the PC card's
antenna is pointing toward the Access Point.
Also make sure your body isn't between the antenna and the
Avoid antenna placement close to an outside
wall (unless outside is where you want to be!). Also,
if you want to connect while you're outside, place
the AP near a window.
Look for products that have external antennas
that you can move or cabled antennas that connect via cable.
Both will help you "tweak" performance. Buffalo
have PC card client adapters that will accept an external
Use a "booster" or "extended
range" antenna. Buffalo
Technology's Airstation product line has an affordable
one (about $80 on-line) and it can even be attached to their
PC Card client (or the ORiNOCO PC card)! ORiNOCO's
Range Extender antenna can also be used (PDF installation
instruction file is here).
This page describes one user's adventures in attaching
the ORiNOCO Range Extender antenna to their Apple Airport
base station, but it's also good reading if you're thinking
of trying to attach an external antenna to other products.
It also has some other info on using other antennas.
[Thanks to Jim Spitaels for the above links!]
that not all products can connect to such an antenna and that
if they can, their connectors may be different from product
Here are some sources for wireless networking antennas,
connectors, and more!
Factor - They have both antennas and connectors for
Systems - The Web site isn't pretty to look at, but
we're told they're great to deal with! [Thnx Josh Golden!]
Technologies - Broad line of wireless networking products,
including connectors, antennas, cables. [Thnx Eric McIntyre!]
- Another broad line wireless networking supplier. [Thnx Eric
ORiNOCO's client cards, RG-1000 Residential Gateway, and Range
Extender Antenna use a special proprietary connector. You
can get a "pigtail" (short cable assembly) that adapts
the connector to a standard "N" type connector from
sources, including HyperLink
Let us know
if you have other suggestions!