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I've just started testing wireless for our building, we plan to implement it across the board this fiscal year. Currently we have no wireless except in our IT area (DSL for outside testing). I've borrowed a Cisco LAP1142N AP from a friend that works in another sister organization, they have these and had an extra. I've plugged it in and it talks to their controller just fine, etc. The question i have is...what is the "average" radius i can expect from this device? I know it's not an easy thing to say specifically, based on the environment and obstructions, interference, etc. We are in a typical cubible environment for the most part with offices on the outer walls. I've set it up and have used WaveDeploy to survey both of the devices we have, the Cisco and the SOHO Linksys Wireless-G router. Both seem to put out the same radius of coverage. I get slightly better speeds with the Cisco device but expected it to also cover more area. I have a decent signal up to about 35-40 feet away, then drops off pretty quickly.

So really there are two questions here: is there a reason that this Cisco device isn't pushing out a stronger signal (i've asked the friend who manages the controller, he says they're not turned down or anything as far as he knows) than the Linksys, and secondly, why would i want to pay 10 times the cost per AP, as well as have to buy a $10k controller if the Linksys will pretty much deliver the same coverage? I'm assuming i'm missing something as far as the Cisco device goes but so far it's not obvious to me.

I'm just now reading about and learning the wireless world, so i'd appreciate any thoughts or input on this from some more experienced wireless gurus out there. Thanks!

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up vote 1 down vote accepted

Coverage is the first question. There's nothing magical about the antennas in the higher end APs. They still function similar to the consumer devices with two major exceptions. The first exception is that you can always attach external antennas to boost your signal. The second exception is that you can mess with the antenna power and crank it up and down as necessary. So hopefully that answers your first question.

As for your other question, there's a few reasons to buy the more expensive AP. The major reason is reliability. How often have you had to reboot or replace cheap Linksys APs? The cost difference often isn't worth the labor you throw at those things.

Another reason to spend the money is ease of management. How do you like changing things on each AP individually? Or reprogramming APs individually when you add them or replace them? It's not a great experience. That $10K controller takes that headache away from you. Also, those APs have some nice SNMP features for monitoring, reporting, and extra management with enterprise tools.

The final reason to spend the money on the enterprise APs is for features. Do you want to know if you have Rouge APs? Do you want clients to be able to roam across APs while staying on the same VLAN? How about having the APs automatically adjust their own gain to adapt to current usage and environment? These are the types of things that typically can only be done with enterprise grade wireless APs and controllers. The Linksys gear is never going to do this for you.

Now I don't know your business. I don't know the site. Only you can look at that and determine if it's worth it to invest in more expensive equipment.

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+1 Well covered. But of note, our 1142s (and our 3502Is) don't have connectors for external antennas. – jscott Jun 9 '11 at 16:30
Thanks for the info! Like jscott said, the 1142 doesn't have a connection for an external antenna, but i'm assuming (and will do some Googling) that i can find a similar model that has an antenna which will hopefully just increase the chance for a longer range with that AP. – Don Jun 9 '11 at 16:56
I also agree with the management part of our response, we do like being able to do reports on other devices and use SNMP in other areas. We have 9 floors, building is in the shape of a V so i'm hoping we can get away with 3 per floor, every other floor, based on the range i'm seeing currently from this one. That's my preliminary thought anyway. :) Thanks again! – Don Jun 9 '11 at 16:58

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