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How do I Choose the Best WLAN Antenna?

William M. Carter
William M. Carter

Choosing the best WLAN antenna, or wireless local area network antenna, is important to any Internet user who wishes to increase the range of their wireless network. Installing an outdoor WLAN antenna is usually the best approach to obtain optimum range, though this may not be practical for the average home user. When choosing the best WLAN option, important considerations include where wireless access is required and what range is desired. Antennas commonly are purchased for use in homes, offices, cars and RVs.

Wireless networks consist of at least two parts, a wireless router and a computer that is used in only one location. This is the most basic of all the wireless setups, and is called a point-to-point setup. It is recommended that a directional WLAN antenna be used for point-to-point setups to ensure the strongest signal possible between the home router and computer. Yagis and dish antennas are types of directional antennas. Note that dish antennas offer very high gain, but can be difficult to aim and therefore difficult to connect to.

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Man holding a globe

Wireless network setups that involve several computers, wireless printers, and mobile devices may benefit best from an omni directional antenna. This is an antenna that radiates its signal in all directions. This type of antenna is ideally suited for businesses, office suites and homes that have computers and wireless peripherals scattered in different locations. The backfire antenna is an example of an omni directional vertical antenna. With this type of installation it is best to set up the router in a central location so the signal can radiate equally to all areas. This type of antenna also can easily be picked up by a neighbor, so setting up a secure, password-protected wireless network may be a good idea.

Mobile wireless computing also has become very popular. Many RV parks, coffee shops and hotels offer free WiFi — some cities even offer city-wide WiFi. College campus WiFi also is becoming more common. A simple vertical magnetic based antenna can be placed on the roof of a car. If in range of an unsecured wireless network, an instant Internet connection will be available in the vehicle.

In most cases, it is recommended to use a WLAN antenna from the same manufacturer as the router. This can help ensure maximum compatibility and signal transfer. Interference causing devices should also be considered when installing a WLAN antenna. For example, avoid installing the antenna near computers, lights or microwave ovens.

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