Monday, April 02, 2007

Customer premises equipment

For customers who are having a difficult time connecting to the Brownsburg Connected wireless network, or who can connect but experience unsatisfactory performance, additional WiFi hardware may be the answer.

First, let us review some of the potential problems.

First, WiFi (802.11b) operates in an *extremely* crowded spectrum. There are literally thousands of devices in Brownsburg (and everywhere else for that matter) cluttering up the 2.4ghz band, from cordless phones to bluetooth mobile devices to microwave ovens to the hundreds and hundreds of laptops and home wireless networks.

Most laptops already have a built-in wifi adapter. Low-cost PCI and USB adapters are available for desktop computers. These adapters are of varying quality and performance, but they are almost universally low-power devices. They can work great on local home and office wireless networks, but may not have the power to transmit through the noise to a municipal antenna on a tower several hundred feet away (or more, much more). In addition, laptops and desktops are placed where it makes sense to get your work done, not where it makes sense to transmit and receive radio signals. This often means down low, behind several walls, trees, etc. Things that are generally detrimental to radio signal propagation.

The solution? Purpose built hardware, placed in the optimal location. Several reasonably priced products exist that promise superior performance in a municipal wireless environment. Combine one of these products with an optimal location, such as an upstairs window, or mounted on the roof, and your signal strength and quality should be much improved.

Over the next several weeks I will be testing some of these products and posting the results on this blog. Let me know if you have any questions or if there is anything particular you'd like covered in these reviews.

All the usual disclaimers apply. Your mileage may vary. Radio performance, especially in the crowded 2.4ghz band is difficult to predict.