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Wireless Networking Hardware

Parent-Friendly Wireless Bridge To Span 500 Meters? 558

GonnaBRichYeahYeah! writes "My dad lives down a dirt road 500 meters off the main road. The cable company will not put cable down his lane for any less than the ridiculous sum of $10,000. And he cannot get phone line DSL since he is so far away from the central terminal, so he relied on painful 22k/sec dial-up for access to the Internet. He got sick of it and relies on Hughes satellite Internet, at $60/month, but he still has to be connected to a phone line to upload to the Internet. It's not a good solution, but better than dial-up. His friend lives on the corner of the main drag with his lane and has cable, thus hi-speed Internet. I suggested that he get a wireless access point, and put it at his friend's house and then get a wireless card for access. The problem is that no wireless routers go that far (max range of -N is 200 feet) and WiMax is too complex for a 70-year old man. Any suggestions from Slashdot crowd would be helpful." Plenty of people make wireless links over longer distances, but often they're not suited for people who want simplicity and reliability. What's the best out there right now?
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Parent-Friendly Wireless Bridge To Span 500 Meters?

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  • by avronius ( 689343 ) * on Thursday May 22, 2008 @01:11PM (#23507650) Homepage Journal
    Hoe (one per helper)
    500 meters of heavy duty conduit
    500 meters of cable (recommend that you lay fiber at the same time)

    Solution 1:
    1a: Dig a long trench from the cable termination point down the dirt road to your father's house
    1b: Dig a long trench from "the closest neighbour with cable internet" down the dirt road to your father's hose
          Ensure that the trench is at least 18 inches deep, roughly 8 inches wide

    2. Lay 500 meters of heavy duty conduit. Ensure that you are threading your cable through the conduit all the way along. Attempting to thread the cable AFTER the counduit has been completed may prove to be problematic.

    3a: Call the cable company to connect the cable to the cable termination point. Begin paying monthly subscription to cable internet provider.
    3b: If you've chosen to run the connection to your neighbhour's home, ensure that you don't piss him/her off. They are now your cable internet provider.

    4. Profit $$$
  • Proper Antenna (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 22, 2008 @01:14PM (#23507716)
    Just get a proper directional antenna to replace the one on the router. Do the same for your neighbor and link'em together I got one when I was living back Prague and connected with a 200kb/s link to an access point about 300 meters away (that was the speed of the connection - not the actual link). Actually, it's quite common for people to construct neighborhood networks that way (well at least in CZ)

    • Re:Proper Antenna (Score:5, Informative)

      by ciscoguy01 ( 635963 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @01:34PM (#23508078)
      We've done 5 mile links with a pair of *old* wallmount AT&T Wavelan bridges and proper antennas on 915 Mhz. Those units were 400mw.
      Ticking along for years. 2 MBPS, faster than T1 speed. And proprietary FHSS, no freeloaders. Heh.

      You have to get the antenna up above the fresnel effect and any obstructions at the frequency in use, about 60' for 915 Mhz, more like 30' for 2.4 Ghz. Which is why 2.4 Ghz is easier. I would have no problem running that link at either frequency. It'll work fine.
      You can do it. No problems at all.
      Give good attention to the antennas, that's what you need to get it to work.
      • Re:Proper Antenna (Score:4, Informative)

        by Sique ( 173459 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @02:45PM (#23509252) Homepage
        The Zillertal Valley in Austria has a 54 MBit/sec WLAN network, that just uses WLAN-antennas on all the mountain tops. The antennas bridge up to 15 mls (25 km), even though they use classic WLAN, just focussed to a beam to the next mountain top. The antennas are mostly from Alvarion [] (ex BreezeCOM).
      • by Ungrounded Lightning ( 62228 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @03:21PM (#23509762) Journal
        We've done 5 mile links with a pair of *old* wallmount AT&T Wavelan bridges and proper antennas on 915 Mhz. Those units were 400mw.

        Such antennas are cheap and small, too. Under $100 in singles at a number of companies with online ordering facilities.

        A 24db skeleton-parabola can get you miles of range even without a high-gain antenna on the other end, and is about the size of a UHF TV antenna. (I know one guy who war-scans the business district of San Francisco with one - from his apartment deck in Berkeley. B-) ) With antennas on both ends you should be able to go with the little lozenge types.

        To give you an idea of range: My Nevada house is about 5 miles from the cell tower where the local WiSP has its POP, with a directional antenna pointed generally my way. His customers normally use a lozenge antenna with built in AP mounted on an outside wall, and I'll probably do that when I sign up (because my computer room is on the far side of the house). But my picture window faces the tower and my laptop catches the ID beacon just fine sitting in my lap using the builtin antenna.

        So for a half-mile putting an AP in each attic and even a low-gain external antenna on the roof or outside wall should do the job just fine.

        Want a cheap do-it-yourself high-gain directional antenna? Get a big wok strainer (woks and their strainers are pretty good parabolas), put a USB-stick WiFI adapter on a USB extension cord, and mount it with its backside at the focus of the strainer. B-)
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by houstonbofh ( 602064 )
      I have done well over 500 yards many times. In one case obstrusted with masts, and over water. I used the wrt54gl with Thybor firmware, and Hawking a Antenna [] (no problem outside) and amplifier [] with no issues at all. Well under $400 and 1 hour of time.
  • by pigiron ( 104729 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @01:15PM (#23507720) Homepage
    "WiMax is too complex for a 70-year old man." At what age does WiMax dementia set in?
    • Re:From Engadget... (Score:5, Informative)

      by madsenj37 ( 612413 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @02:02PM (#23508530)
      Its the HD26200 from HD Communications Corp. I went to Engadget to find this myself. Its the $318, 5 mile solution that only requires a line of sight. The HD26200 is made up of two high performance Ubiquiti network radios with integrated 17dbi dual polarity antennas that are configured in wireless bridge mode. The HD26200 bridge is also powered over ethernet, so no RF cables are required, only an outdoor CAT5 cable to bring both data and power to the radios. HD Corp also has non-line of sight outdoor products.
  • Doable with 802.11g (Score:5, Informative)

    by rs6krox ( 630570 ) * on Thursday May 22, 2008 @01:16PM (#23507754) Homepage
    500 meters is about 1,640 feet. I do that to my parents place now. I just got two Linksys routers running dd-wrt and two good outdoor antennas. With dd-wrt I cranked up the radio output a bit and have no problem getting full throughput over about that same distance.
  • Legislation? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dotancohen ( 1015143 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @01:17PM (#23507784) Homepage
    Check local legislation. Where I live, the government must provide electricity, water, and telephone service to any legal building built, no matter how far into the boondocks it is built. I don't know if the law specifically applies to high-speed internet access, but I'm fairly confident that a good lawyer could make it seem that way.
    • Re:Legislation? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by iroll ( 717924 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @01:52PM (#23508378) Homepage
      Reeally? If you build a cabin in the woods, the gov't has to come dig you a well? Something tells me you haven't looked into this local legislation as deeply as you think you have.

      Where I live, if you don't live in town, you pay the electric company to plant poles to deliver the power. You pay the well digger to dig you a well. And you pay the telephone company to string some line along those electric co. poles. If you don't like the above, you sit in the dark and use an outhouse.
  • You can use wireless (Score:5, Informative)

    by Exstatica ( 769958 ) * on Thursday May 22, 2008 @01:18PM (#23507790) Homepage
    I live near lax, but my building has really old wiring and i can't get dsl at this location, but i'm a mile from the office and once on the roof i found i had line of sight. I bought two wireless access points from ascendance, I bought the heavy ones cause i wanted to use the high performance radios so i can get 100mbit. (i work for an isp and i was able to just bring it right into my colo. But if you get [] that should work two, you need two of them. Configuration isn't difficult, you set one as an AP and the other as a client, set your encryption and static /30 ip. and aim them at eachother. All done. On average with the standard radio you can get 20mbits up and down, and its solid enough to put voip calls over. The max range is just under 5 miles, that should cover you. Hope that helps.
  • Linksys (I don't know about others) come with a standard antenna port. With a directional, high-gain antenna pointed at your dad's house from the neighbor's, you could probably make the connection. Worst case, you might need to get some custom firmware and turn up the transmission strength a tad. (I suggest Tomato.)

    Look up "coffee can wifi antennas" on google. This will make it cheap and "easy."

    • by johneee ( 626549 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @02:09PM (#23508652)
      Linksys (I don't know about others) come with a standard antenna port

      Careful. Not ALL Linksys have antenna ports. Some do, some don't. I just bought one that doesn't. Not a concern for me, but don't buy one online without looking closely expecting them to have ports.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Gordonjcp ( 186804 )
      Look up "coffee can wifi antennas" on google

      Just as an aside, the famous Rob Flickenger "Pringles Tube" antenna with all the washers up the inside sucks elephants through very fine gauze.

      The stopped waveguide "coffee can" antennas work much better, but finding a suitable 85mm diameter can might be tricky. There are a lot of simple patch antenna designs out there, too. Helicals are too much hassle, really.

      You might get good results with a couple of USB wifi sticks mounted in place of the LNB of some old s
  • Cantenna? (Score:5, Informative)

    by smellsofbikes ( 890263 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @01:18PM (#23507804) Journal
    You can buy [] or build [] a cantenna. They're illegal. But with a bit of work and patience, they function well. I dunno if a simple can-based setup can handle half a kilometer (and if it can, it's going to need a good solid connection to the house to keep it aligned) but I do know that a cantenna operated at the focal point of a used satellite dish will work fine up into the several kilometer range.
    They're really cheap to build. You generally need to find reverse-polarity RF connectors to hook to the card in the computer.,, and all sell reverse-polarity rf connectors. Traditionally people put n-type rf connectors on the antenna but that's a pain: I built mine using a bnc bulkhead connector on the can, and a rp-sma-to-bnc converter connector on my wireless adapter card, and just ran bnc cable from one to the other.

    Mine only runs 40 meters through a couple of walls. Hopefully other people will correct this if it's the wrong solution for 500 meters.
  • by drachenstern ( 160456 ) <> on Thursday May 22, 2008 @01:18PM (#23507810) Journal
    Have you seen these? I think they would require LoS for maximum efficiency, but it's worth a peak. You could use two directional high gain antennas and point them at each other if LoS is nearly there... But bear in mind that nothing about their doc requires LoS, just that we all know it works better if there is. []
  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @01:20PM (#23507850) Homepage
    I suggest learning about antennas.

    Wireless access point at each end, directional antennas, wifi goodness ensues.

    I've done 1000 meters with simple patch antennas and wrt54g routers running dd-wrt to create a wireless ethernet extension. Only heavy rain will drop the connection.

    Otherwise look up the laser types. there are hundreds of websites on how to do this simple and common task.
  • by mnslinky ( 1105103 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @01:20PM (#23507854) Homepage
    See if this works for you:

    There is an article at engadget [] about this sort of thing. It requires line-of-site, but I'm sure you could manage that.

    If you've tried every antenna and extender on the market today with subpar results, HD Communications is apt to become your new best friend. The outfit has just revealed its HD26200, a "complete outdoor wireless network bridge in the 802.11b/g unlicensed 2.4GHz band that sells for only $318." Said device bridges wireless internet between two locales up to 5 miles apart without requiring a single RF cable, being that both Ubiquiti network radios are powered over Ethernet. If you're looking for the catch, the bridge does require a direct line of sight between the two locations, but the firm is reportedly looking to expand its non-line of sight family by the summer's end.

    Link to the Article []

    Hope this helps.

  • by transporter_ii ( 986545 ) * on Thursday May 22, 2008 @01:21PM (#23507864) Homepage
    I'm just about to the point where I hate wireless, but for a non-commercial shot like this, mikrotik should work well. You could get into it for 300.00 - 600.00 for a couple of units configured as a wireless bridge.

    I recommend using Ubiquity sR2 or SR5 mini-pci cards...and ground everything especially well.

    Mikrotik boards run Linux and are extremely roboust and feature rich. But you can follow this wiki and have a transparent bridge running in no time flat: []

    We use mikrotik a lot in a wireless WISP situation. If someone thinks they are going to throw a bunch of this stuff hundreds of feet in the air and make a lot of money doing wireless Internet, they are in for a wild ride...that ends somewhere between hairloss and a straight jacket...but I do something almost exactly like what you are wanting to do with your father using Mikrotik, and it has worked very well and wasn't super expensive.

    Again, ground everything as best you can, and use directional, not omni antennas (cheap omni antennas often have grounding issues than can pop the radio card really easy).

    See also:

  • SMC 2891W (Score:3, Informative)

    by JumboMessiah ( 316083 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @01:22PM (#23507880)
    I know these look pricey, but they're worth it (aka: save yourself the trouble of cheap indoor access points in a box). They have everything you need, all in a rugged outdoor enclosure. And yes, they run Linux.

    SMC2891W-AG Wireless Outdoor Bridge

    Data Sheet []

    Manual []

  • by VoxBoston ( 670308 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @01:24PM (#23507910) [] - used by police, fire, etc. Good penetration through trees and foliage, unlike WiFi. Mesh networking capable if you need it (although your setup sounds like point-to-point).

    A rock record: []

  • It would be nice.. (Score:3, Informative)

    by FamineMonk ( 877465 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @01:27PM (#23507978)
    If you gave a little more info. If you have line of sight then its no problem at all just buy 2 routers that can be flashed to DD-WRT. (I suggest the Asus WL-500G Premium or the Linksys WRT54GL I own both and they both work like a charm just make sure you buy the right connector Asus: rp-SMC/linksys: rp-TNC)

    After you figure that out go to [] or where ever you want to get an Antenna.

    my guess is your going to want to grab the 24db one seeing as how the 30 jumps quite a bit in price. after that mount them both with line of sight connect everything up and you should be good to go. If you don't have line of sight then its going to depend on whats in the way if its possible at all.
  • by tknd ( 979052 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @01:33PM (#23508066)
    Research satellite dish antennas [] or cantennas []. Both are cheap directional antennas (buy someone's used satellite dish) and of course you will want direct line of sight between the two antennas.
  • Wireless (Score:4, Interesting)

    by retro128 ( 318602 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @01:37PM (#23508138)
    When I first moved to my city, DSL and cable were not available. 6 years ago I started a job located about 4 miles away from my home, and they had a T1. Turns out my condo had radio line of sight to work. What I did was set up two Linux boxes on peer to peer wireless using Orinico cards since they had the jack for an external antenna. To those I hooked up the appropriate pigtails and LMR-400 microwave cable to the parabolic grid antennas on the roof of each location. After configuring Linux to handle the routing, bam I was the first guy in my city with broadband. Actually, I'm still running on it though cable and DSL is now available.

    Now granted this was the old school way of doing it. The other problem was that I was using 75 feet of LMR-400 cable on each end to bring the signal from the antenna to my card. That's generally not a good idea since long runs of cable attenuate the signal, so it's always best to have your network equipment as close to the antenna as possible. But back then that type of stuff was hella expensive - Just between the grid antennas, the cards, the dongles, and the cables it came out to about $600. You don't even want to know what the network equipment would have cost, which is why I ran it on the cheap using Linux.

    But now this stuff practically grows on trees. There are kits around that let you do long distance point-to-point hookups, but I don't know where to get them off the top of my head since I haven't researched it in awhile. You might want to start with Radio Labs [] to get an idea of the type of equipment that's out there. Bottom line is that if I can get a decent wifi signal from four miles away with a non-optimal configuration, you should be able to do 500m as long as you have line of sight. I think you should be able to get away with it for around $500 or less.

  • Go Optical ? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Quietlife2k ( 612005 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @01:39PM (#23508164) Journal
    If you have :-

    1) Clear line of sight.
    2) A soldering iron (and know how to use it *properly*)
    3) Basic metalwork skills.
    4) Spare time **LOTS** []

    "Ronja is a free technology project for reliable optical data links with a current range of 1.4km and a communication speed of 10Mbps full duplex."

    10 Megabit free space optical complete with designs & pcb layouts.

    Can't get more DIY than this :-)
  • this may work... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Wornstrom ( 920197 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @01:41PM (#23508210)
    maybe a verizon broadband access card []? they sell it in usb format too... 5GB monthly cap is kinda small though so it might not suit your needs.
  • by Fallen Kell ( 165468 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @01:44PM (#23508252)
    Get 2 Linksys WRT54GL rounters, one for each site, and replace an antenna on each with a Hawking [HAO14SDP] directional antenna, and align them to point at each other. Might be best to roof mount the antenna, but aligning them will be the hardest part. You might only need to buy one of the directionals and get an omni for the other antenna at the other site, and rely on the directional to make the connection. I own one of the directionals and it is in my "travel kit", i.e., whenever I go on the road, I have a laptop, a WRT54GL, and the 14dBi directional and do a quick scan around where-ever I am so I can get on the web for a quick fix if the hotel/friend/etc., doesn't have a network connection.
  • Maybe a 300 year old cottage? Just asking...
  • RONJA (Score:3, Interesting)

    by wikinerd ( 809585 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @06:05PM (#23512008) Journal
    What you need is RONJA [], a free space optics link, with the technology being under your control (open source).
  • by jurgen ( 14843 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @06:42PM (#23512310)
    Wireless links with plain old 802.11 have been done over FAR longer distances (over 10km is common and I've seen links over 40km) with simple directional antennas. What's much more important than distance is line-of-sight. Basically if you can see the other antenna without a telescope, you can connect to it. However, there must NOT be any trees in between, even if you can see the other antenna in the gaps of the foliage. Trees are very good radio-wave shields. (Actually, water is the shield, but like all living things, trees are full of water.)

    If you do not have line of sight from the ground, try the roof. If you still don't your next option would be to build a mast. You can make a mast up to 10 or 12m cheaply by telescoping several pieces of steel pipe and bracing the whole thing with 3 steel cables. I have a 9m mast like this that I built for about $100.

    Make sure to get a router with antennas that you can disconnect and replace (not all have those, but many do). Then connect a directional antenna... for 500m you don't need anything fancy, the cheapest directional antenna you can buy or a home-made "cantenna" will do just fine.

    Same for the other end of the connection... if you don't want to put a router on both ends, make sure your wifi card has an antenna connector. Or you can use a USB wifi adapter with a "stub" antenna, and stick that little stub directly into a "cantenna" type can (you'll need to calculate the position of the hole for the antenna... there are calculators for this on the net, google "cantenna calculator"). That will turn a little $25 USB dongle into a directional Wifi powerhouse, using nothing but a can with hole drilled in the right place! I've gotten a strong connection over 1km between two of those and I'm sure it could have gone much further but we didn't try because 1km was enough.

    For your short distance of 500m, given line of sight, you may even be able to get away with a directional antenna only on one end, and the regular omni antenna on the other. I.e. if you have window-to-window sight, you may be able to put an unmodified router on the windowsill of one house and a usb-dongle-cantenna on a windowsill of the other and have your link.

    Good luck! :j

  • Use DSL (Score:3, Informative)

    by CohibaVancouver ( 864662 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @07:17PM (#23512590)
    I had a similar problem at a ski resort - The distance was too 'far' for CAT5, and Wireless / Fiber was too difficult due to weather and cost. I wound up using a couple of "Tut Systems" DSL ethernet bridge boxes, hooked together with about 750 meters of cat 5. Worked like a charm.

    Here's the kind of boxes I'm talking about: []

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