Configure wireless APs for use with Tablet PCs using using 802.11b

Dr. Don, a reader needs your help clarifing his AP configuration and asks: I can't get a straight answer as to how to configure my wireless APs. My office is a 40' X 100' rectangle with all the examination rooms lined up on one of the long walls. There are four doctors who walk around with TabletPC's using 802.11b. We tried using one AP located at the geometric center (20' x 50' from any corner). With this location, the edges got lousy reception. We then decided on two APs located at 20' x 25' and 20' x 75'. We got great signal coverage everywhere! The dilemma is: are these two (Linksys 802.11b-only) APs supposed to be on the same channel or different channels or is one supposed to be bridged from the other? Mind you that the docs in the office can, during the day, walk all over the building and want to maintain connectivity at all times. None of my consultants can agree on the proper set up for one channel (e.g. channel 1), two channels (e.g. channel 1 and 11) or one AP bridging to the other. Thanks for taking a moment to straighten me out. Dr. Don. ***** Any and all responses are appreciated ***** The editorial staff

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In the course I teach at a local community college, I have my students conduct a lab to prove the fact that the two access points should be on the same channel. The reason is that 802.11 uses CSMA/CA (Carrier Sense Multiple Access with Collision Avoidance). Briefly, this means that one access point won’t transmit when the other access point is in use. Why is this better than operating on two different channels? Because, in the real world, two access points in the same close environment create some RF interference for each other – even if their frequencies are separated as much as possible (in the USA, the greatest possible separation would be to use channels 1 and 11).
Your description puts the two APs in the same, essentially open, area. If the two signal strengths are dramatically different – say, a signal from another business next door that is 30 dB below your signal level – then yes, the use of two separate channels is appropriate. But in one overlapping area with approximately equal signal levels, use of the same channel provides both maximum coverage and throughput. Please note that the throughput of two overlapping APs on the same channel won’t be as good as the throughput on a single, non-overlapped AP. But it will be better than the throughput of an AP that is experiencing harmful interference.
–Bob Young

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