Networking Gurus: Help me set up a big wireless network

Here is the situation. I live in a condo building. Instead of each unit owner paying for their own internet access, we have decided to experiment with bringing one big fat pipe into the building and having wireless access throughout. Assume everything about this is above board, legal, and not against any terms of service (that part of this project is outside my area of responsibility).

Also…I’m not a tech guy. I’m not in IT, I don’t have an engineering background, and I have just enough knowledge to get myself in trouble. So try to make this easy.

As far as spreading the signal throughout the building, I’m guessing we need “wireless extenders”, which I see on newegg. There also seems to be something called a “wireless bridge”, and I’ll be damned if I can figure out what the difference is. So, do I need to do anything except set up a wireless router connected to the modem and then use extenders and/or bridges to get signal strength throughout the building?

Also, for my own individual purposes…currently, I have a cable modem with a wireless router connected to it and a whole slew of devices plugged into the internet either wired directly into the router or through the wireless signal. Included in this are things that I need to be able to speak to each other, such as my computer and my Apple TV (I stream media wirelessly from the computer to the ATV).

What will I, individually, need to do to keep everything running smoothly? Should I tell my router to connect to the new building-wide network? If I do, my understanding is that the things that are connected through ethernet will continue to be able to connect, and those that are connected wireless will just also change to connecting to the building network.

Would it be better for me to obtain a second router that would receive the building-wide network, then plug my existing wireless router into that one, essentially replacing my cable modem with a second router, and then using my router to create a second, private wireless network within my unit only?

Any advice is much appreciated. I know what I want in the end, but I’m not sure how to get there. I realize this can be sort of a hybrid GQ/IMHO, so mods, please send it where you want.

Thanks to all in advance.

How big a building?

Have a look at companies that specialize in setting up wireless systems for hotels and “MDU” (Multiple Dwelling Unit) buildings. I just did a little googling, and these people seem representative of what’s out there. You can set up the access to be free and always-on, or you can set up hourly/daily/monthly billing.

These people also do MDU setups - one thing that jumped out at me on their page is that they can do quality of service and “traffic shaping” - something to think about… what happens if someone sets up a torrent site on your network and creates so much traffic that none of the other residents can get through?

We’re not that big. About 10 units at maybe 1500 square feet per on average. Divided over two floors.

We’re trying to do this as a DIY. We’re cheap. If that’s stupid, please feel free to tell me.

We haven’t really talked about traffic shaping. I think, given that we’re a pretty small and close community, that we’ll address it if it ever becomes a problem rather than dealing with it up front.

DIY networking is not stupid, but it’s a bit of a romantic notion. Who will be your in-house network admin and what happens when something breaks down and they’re not at home, or if they move away?

The units are just about big enough to deserve dedicated WAPs for each one. I’ve got a 1400-foot house, and even with the WAP in the center of the building, coverage is just barely enough to reach the patio. How hard would it be to run ethernet cable to each unit and give everyone one or two LAN ports to use as they desire?

I hear what you’re saying. We’re in the fortunate position of having extremely low turnover in our building. It still may be an issue in the long run, but I’d rather focus this thread on the technical aspects of getting up and running rather than administering.

So what’s the difference between a WAP and an extender and a bridge?

Let’s assume we wanted to do this as simply as possible. Can we just throw up one wireless router where the modem is located and then just add a bunch of WAPs or whatever until we’ve got full coverage, or is it more complicated than that? (discounting issues of administration of usage and such).

Keep in mind that this will be for our recreational internet usage, not mission-critical business stuff. No one is in a position where if the internet goes down, they lose money. They just won’t be able to check their email until they go to the office the next morning.