Why can't I get wireless Internet access in some parts of my house?

Coordinating the location of your wireless access point and the wired connection for your broadband Internet connection is challenging enough without having to factor in the wireless dead zones invariably occurring throughout the house. A number of antenna solutions exist, but complying with FCC regulations and justifying the price of an antenna, just so the Internet will work in the backyard is potentially difficult. On top of which manufacturer to order from, there's confusion about which type of antenna to buy. Do I want directional or omni-directional? Do I want indoor or outdoor?

Unless you need to send the wireless signal between two remote buildings on a fairly large property, getting an outdoor antenna is likely unnecessary. Along with broadcasting a signal for the neighbors to hijack, putting an antenna outdoors increases the chances for lightning strikes and quite possibly violates terms of service from your Internet provider. Indoor antennas generally improve wireless network reach house-wide very effectively, with enough signal bleed to carryover for backyard broadcasting.

Directional antennas focus their broadcast in a very focused pattern, providing a signal boost within a narrowly defined radius. Omni-directional antennas help improve signal in a full 360-degree pattern. For most home installations, using an omni-directional antenna is ideal, because it improves signal above and below the antenna, as well as in a circular pattern around the antenna.

Early efforts in antenna hardware from consumer hardware manufacturers like D-Link and Linksys improved signal in some cases, but failed just as often because the antenna add-ons mounted right to the back of the device, just like the factory bundled antennas included in the access point box. If the router happened to be shoved under a desk, the antenna enjoyed the same lack of open air. Third-party antenna makers suffered from the opposite problem-too much range thanks to outdoor mounting requirements. Choices were limited to expensive consumer antennas that didn't help much or even more expensive commercial antennas with too much power.

Fortunately Linksys and D-Link are wising up. Both companies recently announced wall mounted antennas in directional and omni-directional flavors. In-home wireless signal boosting is now available for under $40, which makes extending your home network an affordable impulse purchase for a Saturday afternoon project, rather than something requiring an executive purchase order. The D-Link directional model looks distinctly like a Hawking device I tried at the Shareware Industry Conference last week. Setting up the drivers for the Hawking model required numerous swear words before everything worked, but the end result was greatly improved wireless signal.

The Linksys and D-Link stuff is almost certainly FCC compliant. With a zillion retailers selling their products, prices should be fiercely competitive, ensuring some great bargains (and probably manufacturer rebates). Because each antenna is wall-mountable, it's easy to get the antenna out from under the desk and closer to the area of the house where reception is poor. If you are experiencing wireless dead zones in your house, I highly recommend picking up an antenna from either of these manufacturers.

D-Link Antenna Page
Linksys Antenna Page