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WiFi Application
 
 
Externalize the Internal WiFi of Wireless Router, Laptop and RC controller
with Practical Examples

Highlights:
1. Externalize the RF port of an ADSL Home Hub
2. Externalize the RF port of a Wireless Router
3. Externalize the RF port of WRT54GC (need soldering)
4. +9.5dBi Omni Antenna for direct router's rubber duck replacement

One of our buyers has just moved in a new house, he used to live in a smaller 2 bed room terrace and the broadband Internet was provided by TalkTalk with a fairly adequate WiFi coverage. In the new 3 bed room detached house, he switched to another Internet service provider with a sexy tariff plan. As soon as he installed the new ISP's Home Hub in the living room, he found that the WiFi coverage wobbled in some areas of the house and in the garden. He is a not a very technical person but he knows good enough that perhaps a Linksys wireless router could get him a stronger signal. Indeed it did but the catch was that it failed to inter-connect with the ISP's Home Hub. So things went back to square one. Not withstanding to drill deeper into the technical details which are usually restricted to the skillful technicans, he came to a different approach which simply replaced the factory antenna with a high performance Omni.

1. Externalize the RF port of an ADSL Home Hub

 

Here is how he did it. First he powered off the new ISP's Home Hub and removed all cables connected to it. There were three screws consealed underneath labels. Two are the bottom leg pads and one at the back of the hub. Having removed the screws, he opened the cover unveiling the PCB inside. There were two thin anttenna cables leading to two little antenae attach to the case. The proper term for this cable is called U.FL, which has a tiny U.FL connector plugged into the socket on the PCB. He removed one of them and replaced it with a 6 inches U.FL to RP-SMA-female RF cable. He managed to fit in the RP-SMA-female at the hole from which the factory antenna was removed. Applied a litte bit of glue (nail) to fix it there.

He ordered the 012XTS 802.11b/g RF amplifier pen booster together with a +9.5dBi Omni high performance RP-SMA antenana and they were ready to fit in the new antenna port of the Hub.

The result was stunning. He got five bars on his laptop with excellent signal quality. The little experiment is definitely worth the effort. It is advisable to retain the stuff removed from the Hub as you might have to put them back by the time your service contract expires.

A bit of disclaimer though, this experiment is intended to illustrate the way in which a stronger signal could be achieved with the use of the U.FL techniuqe. No parts of this illustration should be carried out without the consent of the owner of the Hub.

In the next example, we've got a wireless router sittng in the lab for quite some time. It was given to us as a sample from one of our suppliers. The wireless router has limited wireless range with its fixed rubber duck factory antenna and we seldom use it. Although there are some wireless routers in the market that supports removable antennae, this one doesn't. What we are going to show you here is to replace the two fixed factory antennae by two RP-SMA-female Bulk Head RF connectors which allows you to fit in a high performance antenna and/or a RF amplifier to boost its performance.

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2. Externalize the RF port of a Wireless Router

The first thing is to disconnect the power supply and open the router's case. Kept the screws in a safe place as you'll need them later on. You could then find that the PCB (printed circuit board) has two RF connector terminals, labelled as MAIN and AUX connected to the two factory antennae with the thin U.FL cables.

You should have two U.FL RF cables with RP-SMA-female Bulk Head ready for the replacement. Order the U.FL cable length in accordance to your own wireless router measurements. As a rule of thumb, keep the cable as short as possible as the signal attenuation increases with length. Typically a 6 inches U.FL cable is fine, and there is not much harm if you need it to be 10 inches long.

Now, use a small Philip screw driver to snap open the MAIN U.FL connector carefully and followed by the AUX. Remove the fixed factory antennae using a pair of pilar, and check the diameter of the empty holes left behind. Typically the hole is between 6mm to 7mm and it should be ok to fit in the Bulk Head connector, otherwise you have to drill a hole for it. Some people just prefer to leave U.FL cable hanging freely to save the hassle of drilling.

Snap the new U.FL cables back on the MAIN and AUX terminals and you are ready to boost the horse power of your wireless router with the high performance antenna.

The picture shown below is fitted with a +9.5dBi Omni RP-SMA antenna, leaving the other ready to fit in another +9.5dBi Omni antenna driven by a +27dBm (500mW) 802.11b/g RF amplifier pen booster. Together they deliver a massive horse power that turn this standard router into a professional WiFi hotspot.

The overall conversion process took merely 10 minutes, and the great result really worthed the effort, especially the accomplishment you enjoy over a relax Sunday afternoon.

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3. Externalize the RF port of WRT54GC (need soldering)

The next example is slightly more challenging. We are going to show you how to externalize the RF connector of the Linksys WRT54GC wireless router that requires a bit of drilling and soldering.

The WRT54GC is a small wireless router with a measurement of 10cm (L) x 10cm (W) x 2cm (H). It has a fixed rubber duck antenna soldered to the PCB without any RF connector. Again, having unplugged the power adapter and unscrewed the base lid, we opened up the PCB unveiling the factory antenna base, running the thin RF cable to the PCB. The solder point has a ANT (antenna) and a GND (ground). As the PCB circuits are pretty delicate, it is recommeded to use a 30W or 40W solder iron to carry out the task. Once the thin coaxial cable is removed, you could use a pair of pliers to squeeze the base of the factory antenna for releasing it out of the case.

Next, we need a 4 inches U.FL to RP-SMA-female RF cable. Becasue this wireless router does not use a U.FL connection, it is required to cut off the U.FL connector from the cable, open up the cable skin and ground shielding a bit to make it ready for solding on the PCB. First solder the ANT followed the GND. Release the solder iron as soon as the touch is finished, otherwise the telfon of the cable could melt causing a short-circuit. Once the soldering is finished, it is a good practice to check for continuity to avoid short-circuit using a multi-meter.

Finally, drill a hole of 6mm to 7mm diameter at the side panel next to the original position of the factory antenna. You could find another opening sport as you wish as long as the clearance is deep enough of not touching the PCB.

The whole process would probably take about 20 to 30 minutes for a novice. A measurement was taken to compare the signal strength of a standard wireless router and the WRT54GC with a +9.5dBi Omni RP-SMA antenna. Both wireless routers were located next to each other operating in different channels. b3g was the SSID of WRT54GC with a signal strength of 94%, which is double to that of a standard Buffalo (SSID: b1g) at 48%.

Now, the WRT54GC is transforrmed into a high performance wireless router. You could set it up as a hotspot for access by your family members or neighbours. You may also increase the horse power by having the +9.5dBi Omni RP-SMA antenna driven by a +27dBm (5000mW) RF amplifier pen booster shown as follows.

Good luck. Please give us a buzz at cs@danets.com if you have any question.

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