If you’ve read this blog in the past you might know that I’ve been a fan of the Fon social wifi project for a while. To be honest, I didn’t think much of the first gen hacked Linksys routers, but their more recent customised hardware, La Fonera, with it’s dual SSID is a much better device. La Fonera is good, but still suffers the limited range of other 802.11b/g devices. It’s fine around the house, but doesn’t extend far beyond so it’s use as a ‘social’ hotspot is limited.
The guys at Fon are clearly very aware of this, so they’ve developed La Fontenna, a wifi antenna you plug into your Fonera to increase it’s effective range. The Fon guys say it will multiply your signal by 5x, and I wanted to see if that was true.
My Fonera unit sits in a cupboard with my other networking gear, roughly in the middle of my house. To reach the garden the signal has to go through two internal brick walls and one external wall, also brick. For this test I was using my Acer laptop’s built-in 802.11g.
Before the upgrade the effective range of my laptop was just over 13 metres (42ft) from the hotspot. After this distance the signal seemed to drop off sharply — literally taking two steps backward stopped me loading a web page in its tracks.
Installation of La Fontenna was a one minute job. Simply unscrew the existing antenna and replace it with La Fontenna. Back out in the garden I started walking….
Signal strength & quality were excellent at the point where the signal had died before. At twice the distance the connection was still great. It was finally at 31 metres (101ft) that connection quality finally dropped. As with the standard antenna, once you step outside of range you lose your connection pretty quickly.
Admitedly this test wasn’t at all scientific, but hopefully provides some useful ‘real world’ information for anyone considering upgrading to La Fontenna, or even just getting involved in the Fon social wifi project in the first place.