Yesterday, we got together with a few of our neighbors in our apartment complex and agreed to set up a shared network connection for everyone to use. Doing so made Internet extremely affordable for everyone in the complex (about $2 per person/month).
With a little know-how and help from our friends, we were able to get full coverage throughout the complex via a series of wireless router turned repeaters. Here's a short guide in case you're looking to undertake a similar project in your local community or apartment complex.
Since this is a tutorial to get your repeaters up and running, we're going to assume you already have your primary router set up and ready to go with internet access already streaming through your wireless.
Getting the hardware together
- First, you need to make sure your primary router supports WDS, or wireless distribution system, in order to coordinate two or more WDS-capable routers. You'll need to either go into your product manual to find this information, or if you're lucky enough to own a router supported DD-WRT, you can simply update the firmware and have the feature added to your router.
- You'll also need a few more routers made just to use as repeaters. We recommend getting a Linksys router, since we've had great experiences with their products in the past. Normally, you can get about 6-10 apartments relatively covered with a pair of repeaters. Otherwise, up the ante depending on how large of an area you're looking to cover.
Flashing the routers (repeaters) with DD-WRT
- If you've found your router listed in the DD-WRT supported hardware database, download the firmware and get ready to flash your routers intended to use for repeating. The full list of instructions (too long to post here) are listed on the DD-WRT site.
Setting up WDS
- Once you have your repeater up and running with the DD-WRT firmware, you'll be ready to follow this guide provided by Wi-Fi Planet in order to get your access points up and running. If you follow the guide closely, you'll be able to get everything up and running in about 30 minutes (given you don't run into a few problems, as we did).
- First, stay focused. This is hardcore stuff. If you start skipping steps by skimming will only lead to you starting back from the beginning, where you'll just have to undo everything again.
- When trying to make the router and the repeater talk to each other, make sure you turn off all password protection for the time being. This removes an extra variable when troubleshooting.
- Make sure you're broadcasting on a single channel and using the same security settings for both the router and repeater. Having different passpords/no passwords often causes conflicts in hardware. So if you're on WPA, use WPA for your repeater.