September 08, 2012

How to optimize your Alfa R36 router

If you own an Alfa R36 router, you probably appreciate the fact that you can receive a long range WiFi signal and share it as a new hotspot around your home, boat, or any other place you may use it.

You can also optimize your R36 for best results. At its heart, the Alfa R36 is a repeater- but with a major advantage. You can use it with a compatible Alfa AWUS036H (or AWUS036NH or AWUS036NHR if you have the R36 NH/NHR version) to pull in a distant WiFi signal and repeat it so that other devices like iPads and laptops can use the new signal. Like regular repeaters, the R36 contains an access point to broadcast the new hotspot, and this can be configured.

We are going to cover three areas of configuration in this article, numbered on the photo below.  To change these settings, log in to your R36 using an Ethernet cable, and click the Advanced tab. Under Wireless Settings, select 'Basic'.


1. Network Mode

The default network mode is 11/b/g/n mixed mode. This allows any standard WiFi device to connect to your hotspot, whether it’s 802.11b, 802.1g, or 802.11n. This maximizes compatibility but limits the performance of your network if only newer standard WiFi devices will be connecting to the hotspot. For example, if you have only 802.11n standard WiFi devices (most modern laptops come equipped with built-in 802.11n WiFi adapters, however early generation iPhones have 802.11g WiFi receivers), you can change this to 11n only. This optimizes the performance of your new hotspot for 802.11n devices, but blocks backward compatibility with 802.11b/g devices. If you change to 11n only, we recommend writing a note and taping it to the top of the R36 for future reference. If you forget you have made this change and have a visitor come over one day with just an 802.11g equipped laptop, they will not be able to connect. Once you have changed the network mode, click Apply at the bottom to save changes.

2. Channel

Routers in North America have 11 channels. Every WiFi access point/router sends out its signal on one of these channels. If you have more than one WiFi signal nearby being broadcast on the same channel, this is known as channel crowding. This reduces performance on the network. Because most router manufacturers use default channels of 1, 6, and 11, chances are that there will be several signals around you on the same channel (if you are in a city area where you can see 20+ networks, channel crowding can be a major problem). To prevent channel crowding, click the channel menu and change the channel to as different one not likely to be a router default. Be sure to click Apply at the bottom when finished.

3. Channel Bandwidth

At the bottom of the 'Basic' settings screen, there are two options for channel bandwidth- 20 and 20/40. The default is 20. If you are experiencing slower speeds, switch it to 20/40 to see if this improves your speed. Click Apply at the bottom to save changes.

4. Placement of equipment

When using the R36 in conjunction with an Alfa USB adapter, try to put the USB adapter as far away from the R36 as the USB cable allows, and, if possible, several feet higher. Having the Alfa USB receiving antenna on a different horizontal level than the R36 transmitting antenna helps reduce immediate radio interference between the two devices. Having your Alfa USB adapter higher in the air will often allow it to receive signal more clearly and over a greater distance.

All of these things may be useful in optimizing or troubleshooting your R36 router.

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