Traveling in Europe (need good WiFi extension for Windows)

Discussion in 'Wireless Internet' started by Werner Obermeier, May 14, 2015.

  1. What is a good wifi extender solution for Windows laptops in Europe?

    My college-age daughter is traveling in the summer to visit old-school
    relatives in Europe who are still on dialup, but they live next door to
    my sister in law who owns the apartment next door with basic WiFi but it
    has a very weak signal at the grandparents location.

    My inlaws (her grandparents) are fine with dialup access, but she (my
    daughter) will be bored to death if she has no laptop wifi access without
    visiting my sister-in-law in law next door (which is effort, especially
    since she is working while the grandparents are pensioners).

    My daughter's phone is T-Mobile, which has 2G wifi access in Europe,
    which is dog slow, and which is not complete and it's not a laptop

    So, I'm trying to work out a good solution for the Windows laptop.
    Maybe a router for the apartment?
    Maybe a wifi extender for the computer?

    Is there something I can plug into her laptop which will give her much
    better access to the weak signal from my brother's router in the next
    apartment over?

    Or, is there something I can leave with the grandparents, like a router
    which will pick up and amplify and repeat the signal from next door?

    The SSID and password aren't the problem.
    The problem is getting a better signal strength.
    The distance is about 20 meters through thick concrete walls.

    I won't be there to set it up, but I'm looking for a good device to have
    my daughter pack on the trip to Europe to extend the wifi range of the
    laptop any way we can.Traveling in Europe (need good WiFi extension for
    Werner Obermeier, May 14, 2015
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  2. Werner Obermeier

    John McGaw Guest

    Just google for wifi repeater or wifi range extender and take your pick.

    BTW, when using T-Mobile overseas it is possible to buy a short-term data
    package which gets you a quantity of high-speed data over and above their
    normal slow roaming data. I used this when I was in Ireland last spring and
    it worked out very nicely and the coverage was superb over most of the
    country. I don't know if this could be used to tether a phone to a laptop
    but it seems likely that it might work.
    John McGaw, May 14, 2015
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  3. I think bot of those devices work by extending the range of the wifi
    in the apartment building.... there's also the option of using an
    antenna with her laptop to boost the signal only at her end.
    Charlie Hoffpauir, May 15, 2015
  4. Werner Obermeier

    Paul Guest

    There are regional differences. USA is Channel 1-11, with 1,6,11 giving
    nice non-overlapping coverage. Europe allows usage of Channel 12 and 13.
    A visitor from USA to Europe, if the European router is set to
    Channel 12 or Channel 13, then a USA Wifi adapter may not be
    able to connect (immediately). So don't let a failed result
    cause you to conclude it cannot work.

    A user here has a solution. While there is the notion of a Region setting,
    according to a person here, an amendment allows the Wifi system to use
    country information to select channel range. And remain compliant with
    the RF emitter rules of the country you are in.

    What I found weird, is I could find lots of instances of "1-6-11" information,
    for the rational North American choices, but I couldn't find examples of
    how the Europeans choose their default channels when they have two more channels
    total available.


    The grandparents could experiment with a laptop or mobile
    device, in the apartment in question. If the sister-in-law
    has a Wifi router, then the sister-in-law has some Wifi
    device she uses. Take that device and use it for a site
    survey, in the apartment in question. If a "normal" device
    works fine (i.e. the device is already primed and set up
    to work with the router anyway), then there is no reason
    to panic and look for ways to augment the USA laptop
    (except for the details of region setting or enabling 802.11d).

    If no signal is available through the concrete wall,
    since it's an apartment, you would be looking at balconies
    as a way to pick up a signal.

    The higher the frequency, the poorer the penetration
    capability. For example, at 5GHz, you definitely won't
    go through multiple concrete walls. At 900Mhz (a frequency
    used by the fire department for radio equipment), they
    stand a better chance of going through concrete (but
    not, say, a web of steel beams). In the office building
    I used to work in, absolutely no signals used to go through
    the windows with the aluminum frames, and the steel framework
    of the building. Only the multitude of 100MHz base clocks
    for computers could be detected (in other words, the
    RF leakage from computers inside the building, presented
    a powerful carrier at 100MHz of the FM band).


    If you want a wacky solution, if you're in an apartment
    building, the Wifi may still work if there is an adjacent
    building across the street, and you can "bounce" the signal
    off that building. After all, if multipath can affect
    Wifi negatively, it could also work positively to
    connect two devices.


    You can use powerline adapters, but it depends on how
    electrical distribution is done in the buildings, as
    to whether the signals imposed on the power wires, will
    "reach" the other apartment. For example, in North America,
    when this first came out, some people were screwing around
    with bridging the two phases on 230V AC with a small capacitor,
    so that a powerline adapter on one phase in the house, could
    communicate with a second powerline adapter elsewhere in the house.
    (The capacitor is selected so as to not conduct significantly
    at 60Hz.) Apparently, European power distribution is done
    differently than here, and it changes the best practices
    for using these.

    Ham radio operators hate those things, and really, given
    their crude design, I don't blame them. That's why I picked
    an article which discusses the issue.


    There will always be at least one person in the crowd
    to recommend one of these.

    Unlicensed operation of Wifi devices, works in terms
    of this measure.

    When you slap a parabolic antenna on the Wifi device,
    it squirts the power out into a "beam". The power is
    more concentrated in the center of the beam. The Wifi
    regulations use the power in the center of the beam,
    to set the limit. The Wifi normally comes with a low
    gain (omnidirectional) antenna, so it doesn't beam
    very much. The transmitter can use more power at its
    level, because the antenna has no large gain to speak of.

    When you use the parabolic antenna, now the signal
    is a hundred times stronger in the center of the beam.
    Without too much effort, you can exceed the unlicensed
    limits. Now, end users never worry about this, and in the
    real world, it takes a "complaint" to a radio regulating
    body, to have someone kick down your door. No radio
    amateur would expect to pass a signal at the same frequency
    as Wifi, so the only person who might care about your
    excessive power, would be another Wifi user who cannot
    use their gear. So for the most part, "you're safe".

    If the router had a dish like that, and the laptop had
    one, you might get some signal through the wall. But
    a better prospect, would be pointing both antennas
    at the building across the street, and using it as
    a reflector.

    The higher the gain of an antenna like that, the
    narrower the beamwidth. I built my own antenna
    for OTA digital TV reception, and it had a beamwidth
    of 15 degrees or so. And it was a bit hard to "aim"
    at the TV transmitter and get the signal level
    maximized. If you use two antennas, and try to aim
    them at one another, it can be tricky to complete
    the alignment process. You really want a signal strength
    meter that works in real time, and gives good feedback
    as you wave the things around.


    Personally, for a person traveling, I would only consider
    a tech solution that fits in the laptop bag, as a candidate.
    And I don't really see any solution that is *guaranteed*
    to work when you get there. If the people living there
    can do the site survey and setup of a technology solution,
    then that would work for a traveler. But expecting to
    bring half of Radio Shack in your suitcase, and try and
    cobble a solution together when you get there, you know
    that's not going to work.

    You could look at what it would cost to set up a wired
    service in the apartment in question. Like, could a broadband
    modem be rented and service set up with a local provider
    for two months ? If so, that may be a more practical
    solution than playing "radio engineer".

    Paul, May 15, 2015
  5. Travel agents probably get asked that question all the time. My suggestion is ask them.
    Lord Bergamot, May 15, 2015
  6. Werner Obermeier

    Char Jackson Guest

    If it's truly next door, I'd be tempted to take along an Ethernet cable and
    an access point, after checking with the S-I-L to make sure there's an
    Ethernet port available in her apartment.

    Connect one end of the Ethernet cable to your S-I-L's network, then run the
    cable out the patio door or window, across to the next apartment, and
    inside. There, connect the Ethernet cable to the access point and you're
    done. Pay attention to the type of power plug on the access point, as well
    as the power itself, if bringing networking hardware from another country.

    It won't win any beauty prizes, but it's temporary and it avoids trying to
    cram a usable signal through all that concrete.
    Char Jackson, May 15, 2015
  7. Werner Obermeier

    Steve Hayes Guest

    I had a similar problem with my laptop (Toshiba Satellite), which has
    a very weak built-in WiFi transmitter/receiver.

    I've used a bear extentnder, which plugs into the USB port and seems
    to have solved the problem.
    Steve Hayes, May 15, 2015
  8. Werner Obermeier

    Char Jackson Guest

    I'd be quite hesitant to seek technical advice from a travel agent, but
    perhaps the bigger question is, are there still travel agents? ;-)
    Char Jackson, May 15, 2015
  9. Thank you Steve for that suggestion, as it's a nice 802.11n device that
    seems to plug into the USB port of a Windows laptop to provide a better
    radio and antenna.

    It seems that the PC version is a $50 1.2 Watt transmit power usb device:

    It seems to come with both a 2 decibel omnidirectional and a 5 decibel
    directional antenna, and it comes with an antenna port, so, we can put a
    different one on if we need to.

    The sensitivity seems too good to believe, at -96.5 decibels, which is
    something like 3 or 4 decibels (more than double the sensitivity!) of
    what I would have expected.

    It's only 2.4 GHz, but, we can presume the European router is at least
    that, but, for penetration through concrete walls, who needs 5GHz anyway.

    It looks like it can also *share* it's connection, as its own portable
    hotspot using "Connectivity Lite" software.

    I wonder how it gets enough power?
    It doesn't say that it connects to the 220VAC mains.
    A photo on the web page shows 2 USB connections but other photos show
    only 1:

    Does it require 2 USB ports?
    Werner Obermeier, May 16, 2015
  10. I'm sure there are ports on the router, and, since they don't seem very
    high tech, I'll assume (for now) that there is an open Ethernet port.

    Funny that you mentioned it, but there *is* a balcony connecting the two
    flats (how did you know?) so, the cable would work, albeit, it's probably
    the worst case from an aesthetics standpoint.

    But, the idea has merit that, maybe, I shouldn't try to boost my
    daughter's laptop signal so much as boost the signal coming out of my
    sister in law's home broadband router.

    Maybe there is a device I can plug into the port of the home broadband
    router that will directionally boost the signal to the other apartment?

    I happen to have a spare Ubiquiti Bullet M2 which maybe I can use with a
    decently small antenna so as to be somewhat unobtrusive connected to the
    home broadband router. I can leave it with them, if it works.
    Werner Obermeier, May 16, 2015
  11. This is a great point that the European bands might be different, which
    has to be considered.

    I have set up, in the past, a router for WISP, and they always ask the
    first time what country you are in. I called up Ubiquiti once and asked
    why, and they said that is so that the laws are never broken.

    That is, you can *set* the power to anything you like, but, it won't
    *transmit* power any higher than the laws in that country allow.

    So, the trick, of course, if figuring out whether the laws allow for
    higher or lower transmit power in Europe than in the USA.

    Googling, this web site says the maximum power in the USA is 1Watt (30
    decibels) while in Europe, it's a puny 250mW (24 decibels).

    Given that the USA allows four times the power that Europe allows, it's
    probably best to set up a radio for the USA, but, we'll lose the two
    channels you're speaking of as a trade off against that power gain.
    Werner Obermeier, May 16, 2015
  12. It's a nice option to tether, so that leaves 3 suggested options in toto:
    1. WiFi extender on the laptop (about $50)
    2. Extend the range of the home broadband router (probably around $50)
    3. Tether the cellphone to the laptop (using the data plan)

    Here in the states, I can either USB tether or set up as a WiFi hotspot
    both the T-Mobile iPad and iPhone, but, T-Mobile told me that, in Europe,
    the hotspot and tethering features won't work.

    So, I think we're left with the first two options.

    I like #1 because it can be used when back in the states by my daughter
    (e.g., in her dorm room or while studying outside).

    I like #2 because it's a gift to the grandparents, which they can use
    forever, which is where I'm leaning because it has value to them.

    #2 is harder to set up though, from afar.
    Werner Obermeier, May 16, 2015
  13. Werner Obermeier

    Jason Guest

    Hams for years have been subverting Linksys routers to form ad-hoc mesh
    networks. The 2.4 GHz band where (some) WiFi happens is shared with the
    hams. They've built high-gain antennas and amplifiers to hook to the
    Linksys open source routers. All legal.
    Jason, May 16, 2015
  14. Here's a link you might find useful.
    Lord Bergamot, May 16, 2015
  15. Werner Obermeier

    Paul Guest

    Having balconies opens a world of possibilities.
    Now you're no longer dealing with an impenetrable
    concrete wall.

    A person could sit on one of the balconies and attempt to
    receive Wifi from the other apartment.

    You could use a 15 foot USB cable and a Wifi dongle, to
    extend reception from the balcony area, to inside the
    apartment. In my old apartment though, there would be no
    way to get the cable through the balcony sliding glass


    In Europe, they have one other way of extending a
    network from one place to another. FSO or Free Space Optical :)

    This isn't all that practical, but it's another way to
    get networking extended from one apartment
    building to another. Requires a line-of-sight setup.

    IRDA is an older optical method, of connecting
    a peripheral like a printer, to a computer. With
    the FSO projects, this idea is extended to 1KM distance.

    Paul, May 16, 2015
  16. I haven't read what country where the two apartments are next to each
    other but if they are both being serviced from the same electrical
    transformer here is one more option for you to consider.

    Try a Google search for "ethernet over power line UK" minus the quotes
    and change the UK to what ever country the apartments are located in.

    Provided both apartments are being serviced by the same power company
    transformer there is a good chance one of these pairs of devices will
    work for you and no need for wireless at all between the two places.

    You need to make sure the power plugs on the devices match what is in
    the two apartments as not all European electrical wall plugs are the
    same from country to country and sometimes even with in a country.
    GlowingBlueMist, May 16, 2015
  17. Werner Obermeier

    Steve Hayes Guest

    I think there are different models.

    Mine uses one USB port, and it enables my laptop to use WiFi where it
    couldn't use it before.
    Steve Hayes, May 16, 2015
  18. "Very weak" suggests it is just about detectable (presumably using the
    laptop's built-in aerial), so we're not on a total loss trying to use
    Or, less bulky just a Yagi (seem to be about
    $10), or even less a minidish

    Note that any of these that terminate in just a screw-plug are just
    aerials, and you'll need something to connect them to; the wifi built
    into most laptops doesn't have an external aerial socket. You'll need a
    wifi dongle that has such a socket. The cheapest "From USA" one I could
    find is (you'd discard the aerial that comes with
    it). Or, some of the little dishes actually include the wifi adapter; I found the little Hawking one quite
    satisfactory (with an old [Windows 9x!] laptop that didn't have its own

    Note you'd need to figure out how to turn off the laptop's internal wifi
    (at least I think you would).

    Any of these would remain useful to the laptop owner.

    Having such a gain-improving device just at the laptop end will still
    help; also, putting one at both ends (even assuming SIL's router _has_
    an external aerial socket - many, I'd say most, don't) would make the
    signal in the rest of that household weaker, which wouldn't be wanted.

    You'd need to know how to move around to find the best signal.
    Unfortunately I haven't found anything _graphical_ to run under Windows
    that comes anywhere near what's available for Android 'phones (that
    might be useful in finding the best spot, using the 'phone); I've only
    found tabular things (that show you a table of what networks it can see,
    with their strengths and channels). (Often provided as part of the
    driver for the dongle/dish.) There's also a lag: you have to move the
    aerial, then wait a few seconds for the software to refresh. But for the
    application you're considering, this'd only need to be done once to find
    the best spot and orientation.

    I'd say, if a weak signal _is_ detectable, then some sort of gain aerial
    - probably one of the little dishes-with-dongle, since that avoids
    needing to buy two things - will work. Ethernet
    cable via the balcony will be the best solution in terms of performance,
    but both the grandparents and SIL may not be too keen on the idea, and
    it wouldn't be that useful afterwards.
    J. P. Gilliver (John), May 16, 2015
  19. In message <mj63i1$k6t$>, Werner Obermeier
    Just to be pedantic - that's dBmW, i. e. decibels relative to 1
    milliwatt; decibels express a _ratio_. (It could also be expressed as
    0 dBW and -6 dBW.)
    A factor of 4 (6 dB) surprisingly often isn't that significant with

    To the person who was wondering how we handle having the extra two
    channels when defaulting - from what I've seen, we seem not to; most
    routers here still seem to default to channels 1, 6, and 11.
    J. P. Gilliver. UMRA: 1960/<1985 MB++G()AL-IS-Ch++(p)[email protected]+H+Sh0!:`)DNAf

    What has happened since 1979, I suspect, is that the spotting of mistakes has
    become entirely associated with mean-spiritedness, snobbishness and
    judgementalism. But...can be...funny and interesting.
    Lynn Truss, RT 2015/2/21-27
    J. P. Gilliver (John), May 16, 2015
  20. Werner Obermeier

    Paul Guest

    In principle, I see


    as viable options. Which is why I asked.

    That much channel spacing is needed, according to this article.
    I wish they'd shown the skirt overlap with the final channel
    choices. If they'd jammed four assignments in there, the
    thruput would drop in the city (competition).

    Paul, May 16, 2015
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