Why do Wi-Fi repeaters slow down speed at close range?
If you have purchased a new Wi-Fi repeater system, whether one from your local store or a more complex kit like the Alfa WiFi Camp Pro 2, you may have decided to give it a test run at home in the same room as your router.
You may have been surprised to see that at 100% signal and not much distance between your computer, router and your repeater, your speed through the repeater was slower than when directly connecting your PC to your home router's Wi-Fi signal. Isn't your booster system supposed to make everything faster or at least be the same?
Repeaters are designed to take a fair/weak Wi-Fi signal and rebroadcast it (repeat it) as a new Wi-Fi signal that will cover additional area where signal could not previously be received well. When you setup a repeater at close range to a router, you are detouring data packets through an unnecessary route. The best way to describe it comes from this post we saw on CNET forums:
PC to router = 1 request and 1 reply.
What exactly does this mean? Wi-Fi is a half duplex technology. This simply means data is sent then received (with an Ethernet cable connection, data is sent and received at the same time). When you use a repeater to extend coverage, you are creating a second half duplex signal that data must travel through, which slows down packet rates. When you set up your repeater where coverage is fair or weak, it will extend signal further to areas where you could not get signal, and you will go from having weak signal to having a stronger signal and faster data speeds. However at close range, the repeater cannot serve its purpose of extending coverage because coverage is already good, and actually will cause your speed to be slower.
Additionally, the FCC has power limits for WiFi products. Modern computers and cell phones use multiple antenna streams to communicate with your home router, and they split power among these streams, so they cannot pick up from very far away. But at close range, they are pretty fast. Our Alfa WiFi Camp Pro system uses one single band 2.4 Ghz antenna stream and we put all of the allowed FCC power on this antenna, to give you the further distance. So if you are at close distance, your PC's internal card will be faster because it has more streams. But the Camp Pro can connect better and stronger in areas where your internal card gets weak signal and is unable to maintain a connection. This is the goal of our product.
Bottom line- definitely test your repeaters like the Alfa Camp Pro 2 inside your home before going on the road to familiarize yourself with the setup process and ensure all hardware is working. But don't rely on close range speed tests to determine if the equipment is doing its job.
New product: Alfa APA-M25 dual band 2.4/5 GHz directional panel antenna (802.11ac compatible)
New this week on Rokland.com is Alfa APA-M25, a 10 dbi dual band 2.4/5 GHz directional Wi-Fi antenna with RP-SMA connector.
This is compatible with many of our Alfa Wi-Fi USB adapters, including the new 802.11ac standard AWUS036AC model from Alfa.
We have the antenna for sale by itself, and also bundled with a magnetic mount antenna docking base + 3ft extension cable.
Alfa AWUS036NHR v2 (version 2) now in stock!
Alfa AWUS036NHR v2, the newest long range WiFi USB adapter from Alfa Network Inc. is now in stock.
AWUS036NHR v2 features a redesigned interior that enhances quality and functionality. Use it to get much better Wi-Fi range on your desktop or laptop PC. No built-in Wi-Fi card is required, this is a standalone Wi-Fi receiver. Featuring a high end Realtek RTL8188RU chipset, Alfa AWUS036NHR has markedly improved receive sensitivity compared to its predecessor, model AWUS036NH. If you have been holding out on upgrading your 802.11g standard Wi-Fi adapter or your store-bought basic power 802.11n adapter isn't getting it done, now is the time to end the holdout. Alfa's AWUS036NHR combines the fast speed of 802.11n with long range reception for both 802.11g and 802.11n WiFi standards.
Now includes Windows 8 install software on CD
AWUS036NHR will work with any computer that has an available USB port and Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7, or Windows 8. It ships with a Linux driver, but this driver comes with no warranty or support. Linux is a user supported operating system and at this time we do no have install guides for specific Linux installs. We recommend searching online using the chipset name RTL8188RU to find out if this is compatible with your Linux distro.
This works on Microsoft Surface Pro tablets running Windows 8 (requires driver download) but does NOT work with Windows Surface RT tablets or other tablets/laptops running Microsoft Surface RT, which looks like Windows 8 but is actually a locked down version of Windows that does not support 3rd party drivers.
Installing Alfa AWUS036H on a Windows 8 Pro laptop
(Update July 6, 2015: it appears Microsoft's online database now includes the latest INF file for this device which is from Realtek from 12/2009. So you may not need to go through the manual process outlined in the video. Try the following process first, then try the video if no luck: You must be connected to Internet first through internal Wi-Fi or Ethernet for this to work. Go to Device Manager, go to Other section, and right click "RT81787" device, and select Update Driver. Then select "Search Automatically for Updated Driver Software". Allow wizard to finish. Note this process will not work if you do not have Internet access through your internal Wi-Fi card or built-in Ethernet when doing it.)
We have tested the Alfa AWUS036H 1000mW long range WiFi USB adapter on Windows 8. There is also a range comparison to the on-board WiFi card at the end.
On our Toshiba notebook, it was plug and play, no driver needed. In this video we also show how to install the driver manually in case it is not plug and play for you (for this part, expand the video window or put in full screen mode to see on-screen text clearly). There is no official Windows 8 driver for this product yet, so this video details how to install using the Windows 7 driver. The Alfa Client Utility program is not currently compatible, but you can use the Windows 8 Connection Manager to scan for and connect to networks. Let us know in the comments section below if installation was also plug and play for you.
Update 11/15/2013: No video? No problem. Click here to see an online Windows 8 driver install guide for AWUS036H from Alfa Network, Inc. Note that this guide pertains to any Realtek RTL8187L based device from Alfa including AWUS036EW, UBDo-gt8, and Tube-U(G).
Update 7/13/2014: Several buyers have referenced they had an easier time doing the install by taking these steps:
1. Computer must already be connected to Internet using internal WiFi, then plug in AWUS036H adapter
2. Press Windows key + X key on Windows 8 desktop screen and select "Device Manager" from the popup menu
3. Under Network Adapters, click this device once to highlight, then right-click and select Update Driver Software
4. Cick "Search Automatically for updated driver software
This may not work for everyone.
Update 3/19/2016: Our staff and some customers have found that the above process also works for many Windows 10 PCs. Some customers have not had success so this should be seen as a possible solution and not a guarantee of Windows 10 compatibility.