Extending the wireless range of a BT Home Hub 2

Update: While the device I discuss below initially seemed to work promisingly as a repeater, we’ve had lots of problems with it – it seems to work fine for a few hours, but then will stop working for no clear reason. At some point I’m going to try reflashing it as suggested in the link below, but I haven’t been in the same house as the router for any appreciable amount of time in the last 6 months. The post below is as I originally wrote it, but please be aware that it hasn’t worked nearly as well as I thought at the time of writing. Update 2:  having revisited the house recently, it seemed to be better having changed the default address of the TP Link device to be different from the BT Home Hub (duh) and outside the latter’s DHCP range, so I’d recommend checking that.

I’m posting this because we found it surprisingly hard to find convincing instructions for setting up a device to extend the range of a wireless router, and I suspect many other people might be in the same position.  In the end, the device we got was very cheap, easy to set up, and it’s a great improvement.

Please bear in mind that I’m just reporting what worked for us – I can’t guarantee the same will work in your situation or provide any technical support.  (I’m pretty ignorant about WiFi, it turns out.)  I imagine that this will work fine with other wireless routers and the BT Home Hub 3, but of course I can’t promise that.

The Problem

We found that one end of my parents’ house had very poor wireless LAN coverage, since for various reasons the BT Home Hub 2 has to be placed at the opposite end of the house and there are plenty of walls and other obstructions.  (For those outside the UK, the BT Home Hub is just an ADSL modem and wireless access point which BT give you when you order their broadband service – it’s quite a basic model and I assume the method described here would work with any wireless access point.)

We first tried a couple of commonly suggested solutions which didn’t involve buying new hardware:

  • Checking that  802.11n was turned on: this seems to be the default on this router, however, which had b, g and n turned on when I checked.
  • Changing the wireless channel to one with less traffic: the home hub actually has an option to pick a new channel automatically, presumably based on the other access points it can detect.  This did produce a slight improvement in range, in fact, but still not enough to cover the complete house.

The Solution

Some searching turned up this suggestion from Keith Beddoe from the BT community forums.  His second suggested option is to set up a particular TP Link wireless access point as a “Universal Repeater”, but suggests reflashing the access point with some files he supplies.  I’m always slightly wary of reflashing devices unless it’s absolutely necessary, and it’s not clear why it is in this case – the manual for the TL-WA701ND says that it can act both as a Repeater and a Universal Repeater.  (The distinction between those two for this device seems to be that the existing router must support WDS in order to use the Repeater option – since the BT Home Hub 2 doesn’t, we want the Universal Repeater option.)

The only steps I needed to take to set up the access point as a range extender were as follows:

  • Find a spot in the house that can still get a good signal from the original access point, but is near to the end of the house that had poor coverage.
  • Plug in the TP Link TL-WA701ND there.
  • Find an ethernet cable, and use that to plug a laptop into the TP Link device.
  • Configure the laptop to have a static IP address of 198.168.1.100
  • Visit http://192.168.1.254 and log in with the default username and password given in the “Quick Installation” guide.
  • Updated: the default IP address of the BT Home Hub we have is also 192.168.1.254, so it’s a good idea to change the IP address of the TP Link device to, say, 192.168.1.1 – that’s outside the address range that will be allocated via DHCP by the BT Home Hub with its default settings, and helpfully this will also enable you to log into the TP Link device in normal usage.
  • Under the “Wireless” settings, select an operation mode of “Universal Repeater”.
  • Click “Connect” by the existing BT Home Hub.
  • Save those settings – it may want to reboot itself then, so let it do that if so.
  • Now go to “Wireless Security”.
  • Select WPA and enter the key for your existing BT Home Hub.  (If you have an earlier BT Home Hub, you might need to use WEP instead – it should say on the back of the hub where the key is shown.)
  • Save those settings, and I think it will want to reboot again.
  • Just to check that everything is working, now go to “Wireless Statistics”, and you should see that there’s at least one connection – that to the existing access point.
  • The bit that everyone apparently forgets (including me): change my laptop back to using DHCP instead of static IP.

The effect of this is that there are now two access points with the same SSID as the BT Home Hub listed in the output of “iwlist scan”.  The network manager on my laptop only lists it once, though, as does my smartphone.  If I walk with my laptop from one end of the house to the other, it seems to reconnect seamlessly when moving into an area that is only covered by the range extender, and our phones behave similarly.  So, that seems to be ideal and we get a good signal all over the house now.

The price of the TP Link TL-WA701ND is only £23, and this seems like a reasonable price to pay to get wireless LAN in the garden :)

12 thoughts on “Extending the wireless range of a BT Home Hub 2”

  1. I’m not very good with internet and all that so how would i o about doing the last step?
    ‘The bit that everyone apparently forgets (including me): change my laptop back to using DHCP instead of static IP.’

    1. Right click your wireless network icon (down in the taskbar by the clock).
      click status
      under the general tab click properties
      click to highlight ‘Internet Protocol (TCP/IP)’ in the list, and click properties
      click the checkbox/radio button to ‘obtain IP address automatically’
      click OK – job done

  2. Thanks for this summary, saves reading through the 16 page epic on the BT website. My setup is working fine with BT HH 2.0 and a Planet WNAP-1110 Access point/extender

  3. Hi thanks for your help. But i still cannot get it to work when i make a static ip address then go to 192.168.1.254 it just brings up bt home hub manager.

  4. Hi,

    I’ve read around a lot of the links you’ve suggested having originally used the jarviser notes to set up an extended network.
    I have a HH3 and a HH2 configured as slave – originally got some connectivity but since then nothing despite resetting.

    I have ethernet cable between the 2 routers to provide a wired link. Still want devices to access these wirelessly.

    Have seen Keith Beddoe’s post also.

    My question is : If I spend £23 on the above device will it do the job (i.e. replace the HH2 in the above setup)

    I’ve also got a Sitecom Wireless Range Extender which I’ve tried to use but to no avail.

    I’m reasonably techy but this is on the verge of defeating me – Any Help Appreciated!!!

    Thanks
    Mike

  5. Great great thanks! I bought mine in early May. Started to make it an access point but never got it to work, even with using a few mobile devices to get various Internet sources and cross-check connections. So so frustrated. The instructions in the booklet are way too simple. Finally get this done, hurray! Many many thx for sharing!

    Jeannie

  6. I habe a similar problem my HH2 will not give a signal 30ft away but will pick up others parties on line 100 yards away.I was thinking of putting the TP Link TL-WA701ND as suggested in to get a signal, should I hard wire it to improve the signal or do it wireless.

  7. June 2013: The new TP-Link 701ND is a 30-second breeze to set up. No messing about with DHCP etc.
    But now we have the BT Home Hub 3, and it seems to create more problems than it fixes.
    Suggestions are to change the BT HH3 wireless security to WPA only.

  8. I just bought a TP LINK universal wifi range extender. I have a BT HH2. The instructions say to plug it in, then press the “wps button” on the router. My router sadly doesn’t have this button :-( any help would be appreciated! Thanks!

  9. Two observations.

    First, the BT Home Hub is notorious for NOT working with wireless repeaters, and the aerial inside the BT HH is tiny – seriously limiting your wireless coverage.

    Second, the latest version of the TP-Link TL-WA701ND is a lot easier to set up, and works perfectly with every router I’ve tried EXCEPT the BT HH.

    My recommendation would be to replace the BT Home Hub with a TP-Link TD-W8961ND modem/router (you’ll need your BT broadband username and password to set it up), and then use a TP-Link TL-WA801ND as a wireless repeater.

    Get the TP-Link items from Amazon (of course!) for a great price, and they have a 3-year warranty.

  10. Hey Chris,This helped with the cfoousinn, thanks. I’m on the look to buy a repeater, but i do find a few products displaying the terms repeater and universal repeater , any difference on those? If i get one of those access points with the (universal)repeater feature, would it only allow me to repeat a secure connection that has a security key or does it just repeat any connection that it picks up even if its an open connection?

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