freemansgarage.com

Long Range WiFi (long range internet)

by on Feb.01, 2010, under Projects

Long range Wi-Fi is another one of my hobbies. I have successfully installed over 20 projects that range from 600ft to 5 miles. I thought I would post a little bit about how I do this. The 5+ mile links are by far the most fun and they are really quite amazing when they work correctly. I do this for fun and do not really have a business or anything (so far). The main purpose of this is to share a single internet connection between multiple houses however it is a full network that supports file & printer sharing or anything else you would like to do.

Here is a typical 12 dB omni directional antenna on one of my installations. The white box houses the access point. I will use these for the base station if multiple clients are used. This particular antenna links 9 houses that range from 2000ft to 1 mile in range. The antenna is mounted on a roof.

The diagram above shows how the system works. Its just like setting up a wireless router in your house except all the antennas go outside. One house will have the router and internet connection and the “other” houses will connect as clients just like a laptop connects to your home wireless router.Farm

Line of sight is very important. I live out in the country and can see for miles in every direction. A few trees will not interfere much but a forest or huge buildings will severely cripple the signal. The farm in the distance is 1 mile away and has WiFi. I have a perfect signal from where I am standing. Roof top height is more than ample for this technology as long as you have line of sight.

Houses that are clients get a panel antenna. It’s about 12dBi gain and is directional. I just aim it at the base station antenna and it works perfect. The AP mounts inside this particular panel antenna.

Inside the panel antenna is the Access Point (AP). Signal loss is huge in the antenna wire so you want to keep your antenna wire as short as possible. Mounting the AP inside the antenna is a great way to minimize signal loss. All I do now is run cheap Cat5e cable from the inside computer to the antenna on the roof. This antenna is a “Rootenna” and cost about $30. I have bought about 15 of these and they are excellent.

Here is another panel type antenna on a house. This one does not have an inside spot for the AP so I had to mount the AP in a separate box under the antenna. It still works perfect.

POE

Getting power to the AP is easy. What you need to buy is a Power Over Ethernet (POE) injector. The one on the right is $5 and works excellent. What this does is injects 12 volts from a power adaptor and sends it over the unused CAT5e pairs. The Access Point is “smart” and can be powered right from the CAT5e cable. This injector will sit under your desk by the PC and plug into a wall outlet.

AP

The access point is made by En Genius and is the most expensive part of the setup. They are roughly $130 but there are other options available today that are cheaper. I have bought about 20 of these and will gladly vouch for their quality. I have some that have been in service for 4 years outside without a single reset.

There is more to this than just the hardware setup. The networking, TCP/IP setup, and DHCP control is another subject on its own which will not get explained here. You will have to do some reading on that subject on your own.

UPDATE:

I no longer buy the $130 access points.  I have bought 3 of the Bullet2 Access points made by Ubiquiti for about $38 each.  They are 200mw power which is plenty for 5 mile links.   These are excellent and are small.  I simply connect them direct to the back of a panel antenna (shown above).  No need for the rootenna or external box.

Bullet2 Access point

I’ll post some pictures of the actual Bullet2 in a few days.  They really are great and cheap.

Homemade stuff:

There was a time when I had no money but still liked to play with wireless stuff. You can make your own equipment fairly easy if you want to. I made many antennas and they all worked well.

omni

Here is a very simple 1/4 wave omni antenna called a “spider” and is made from a female N type connector. It has one vertical radial and 4 ground radials. This antenna works very well for what it is and is very small. It works very well for war driving.

This antenna has no gain.

Biquad

This is my favorite homemade antenna. It is called a bi quad and is directional. I use this exclusively for war driving to identify where the signal is coming from. You can also use these to feed an old dish network dish for increased range.

I have connected up to a mile with this antenna and the PCMCIA card below.

It has 11dBi gain and can have 24dB if used to feed a old dish network or direct TV dish.

pcmciaHere is my old laptop PCMCIA card and homemade pigtail. I use this for war driving and site surveys for new clients. It’s a 200mW card and I have connected miles away with this card.

More to come……page under construction.


33 Comments for this entry

  • rob

    how is latency at 5 mile range?

  • Mike Freeman

    It’s pretty good. less than 5ms or so ping. 5 miles does not seem to make any difference.

  • matthew

    what wattage is your access point for the different distances you set up???? i wana do this! i just need a good starting point!

  • Mike Freeman

    200mW on most of them. I have bought some 400mW units but have not really tested them out much yet.

  • matthew

    so 200 mW got you 1 mile thats crazy

  • Mike Freeman

    My 5 mile link is only 200mw. 1 mile is pretty easy even with 50mw. It all about the antenna used and line of sight.

  • matthew

    how far do you think you could get in a city environemnt without line of sight???

  • Chris

    Hey what do you think the distance is on those long range “USB” adapters? I’m planning on getting an alpha 2000mw one that plugs right into my laptop. Also, what is the best kind of antenna to use to receive the farthest wi-fi signals? Thanks for all the info and awesome website!

  • naynay

    How use 15dbi omni directional ant… How connect wifi internet .

  • Jason

    I’ve got a 25.1 mile shot I use to provide Internet connectivity between my house and a mountaintop repeater site. It’s used for DSTAR and hopefully soon Echolink. I have 24dBi directional antenna/dish. Radios are putting out 13dBm which converts to just about 20mW. I have 20dB overhead on the signal. This thing is rock solid! I hope to get another one going soon that will be 40 miles. My goal is to remain in the Part 15 legal limits, but set it up so I can move to part 97 if I have to. I’m using the Ubiquiti Bullet 2HPs. They work great! My best advice? Be legal, and don’t get greedy. By greedy, I mean, the higher the bandwidth you want the less forgiving the path can be allowed to be. Long shots seem to work better on 802.11b. 802.11g works, but in my case, there was no point. WooHoo!!!

  • James Brown

    How long have you been using Rootenna? This maybe what I’m looking for but I just bought like 20ft of lmr 400 in order to have the access point inside. What about heat build up or condensation? I’ve been reading alot of negative things about putting an access point outdoors. I also read that it would be quite costly to truly protect it from all of the elements such as extreme heat, cold humidity and such.

  • Mike Freeman

    I have been using Rootennas for about 6 yrs. They work great and are still working fine. I don’t use them anymore since I moved to the Bullet access points.

  • Gary Bajus

    In your installation that links 9 houses, does that one antenna/AP feed all the houses? I am trying to link 5 houses together. I can hop from a house with cable internet to one up on a hill. From that vantage point I can see 3 other houses that all need internet. The advice I have gotten so far is to use a separate pair of “bridges” between each location, so I would end up with 4 antennas on the house on the hill. Thanks for the great info!

  • Doug Black

    email dablack26@gmail.com phone number 956-221-1987 I have about 15 farm fields I need to watch from my computer or my iPhone one field is 22 miles away rest are with 7 miles need wireless and battlies powered with a way to keep them powered I have had a lot of stolen crops this year can you help me I will pay for your time and products

  • Vincent

    I like the idea, This article has helped me quiet a bit. I also Have a question. Do you need a computer on the main line internet end or can you connect the cat 5 cable directly to the access point.
    Thanks

  • Mike Freeman

    No computer needed. You can connect direct to an access point.

  • Conraad van den Berg

    I want to create a network in my town capable of around 5km in every direction capable of handling at least 20 clients. What approach should I take?

  • Robert

    Hi:
    I would like to get more information on how to make and install the router.

    Are there any assembly instructions or illustrations as well as to where the parts are available.

    Thanks.

  • Frank

    Do you have problems with lightening hitting your APs?

  • david

    Hi Mike,
    I enjoyed reading your post. I wanted to ask whether devices such as iphones and laptops can connect to your setup and if so, have you tested at what ranges you can connect?

  • Mike Freeman

    iphones connect just fine as do laptops. I have not had lightning hit any AP’s for the past 5 or 6 years I have had this up. No failures yet.

  • Eri

    thank you very much for your post/article am amazed that with just 200mw power you can cover 5 miles and yet i see wireless Ap ( long range ) rated 900 mw.
    i have a question. i can connect to a pubic wifi hotspot with my wireless adapter card on my laptop well. how can i be able to still connect to the wifi hotspot even if my laptop is switched off ? what do i need to do ?

  • David McCrary

    Hi Mike

    How would I setup a system line of sight and relay to another line of sight, 1st distance 2 miles 2nd distnace .5 mile?

    I live on an off-shore island in NZ, in my location I’m out of DSL range, dialup only.

    Any help suggestions much appreciated.

  • Mike Freeman

    David,

    Whoever has the DSL needs to have a simple wireless router. It can be bought at any electronics store. Next, this person needs to buy a 200mw Bullet Access point with a 15-19dB panel antenna and aim it at your house 2 miles away. Everything will plug into the wireless router which will be the DHCP server. On your house, you need to also buy a 200mw Bullet Access point and panel antenna. Aim it at the DSL house and it will work perfect for up to 11Mb Max. Relay setups are very poor and will drop your bandwidth by half since its not full duplex. Your friend will have half the internet speed you do if he connects to your house. Your friend needs to also aim his antenna at the DSL house to get full speed.

  • Frank

    Just the info I was looking for, searched everywhere, very helpful, I only need to cover 350 yards, I got 2 ap’s 2 directional ants, just need to find out how I connect the AP to the client side, THANK YOU very helpful

  • Larry Grabowski

    Hi Mike,
    I am trying to get internet access to my daughters house approx. 1/2 mile away. I have a Rosewill wireless N router RNX-N300RT which is connected to my IP then from it I ran 80 feet of ethernet cable to my Ubiquiti Bullet 2 AP which is attached directly to my Engenius 8 db omni out door antenna. I have a 15 volt POE connected in line about 3′ from the router. On her end I have a High Power Signal King 20 dbi outdoor Usb wireless adapter antenna, approx 30′ of usb cable and the same router as I have on the transmit end. So far we cannot pick-up anything outside of my house
    Where am I going wrong?

  • Michael Fellabaum

    Hello Mike, I really enjoy reading about your different projects and have felt inspired to do some of my own based off of yours. I wanted to know if you think it would be possible to share a wifi connection over 40+ miles with no line of sight or not, thanks for your time, you can send me a message at my e-mail Michael_fellabaum@yahoo.com if you want.

  • Mike Freeman

    Not sure. Can you see the signal from your house with a laptop when you are in your own yard? How far can you get with a laptop from your house before you lose the signal?

  • Larry Grabowski

    I can go about 200′ from the house before I have no signal. I didn’t mention the antenna is approx 30′ above my 2 story roof. I can see it from my daughters roof. All ports work on my router when I plug into them should I open router and wire one of the antennas in to one of them?

  • Brent

    Hi Mike this looks awesome. We live on a farm in a rural area w nothing but dial up available. Do you have the networking and other technical details on how to set this up? I would really appreciate any help w this as we are really limited w internet options but I have a friend who has cable internet about 8/10 mile.

  • Barry Horne

    Hi Mike ,

    What a wonderful site .I’m a bit of a dinosaur and it’s just what I was looking for .
    I have a 100 acre property that’s my play pen , just rocks , dirt and trees , I don’t live there . I need to put some ip cameras to keep an eye on my junk . I just got a dsl line put in and I’m running it on solar power . BUT I need to have the wifi cover the 100 acres and as I said there are lots of trees , mostly cedars 20-30 ft. there’s also an elevation change from the van the dsl is in to the back of the property ~30′-40′ .
    Any guidance would be greatly appreciated .

    Cheers ,
    Barry Horne

  • bill

    Nicely done. Just what I was looking for. Now I need another person with broadband on the other end. :)

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