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Getting internet from a mile away on a remote ranch.

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Triode

Active Member
I'm not sure if there is a good way to do this, but it coulden't hurt to ask. My parents live on a ranch in new mexico. The phone lines are too weak and staticy for dial up. Dsl and cable internet are availible along the highway, but that is about 1 mile from the house. My dad is a retired engineer and still works as a consultant at times, so internet is important. Right now the only viable option is very expensive satelite internet that is not very reliable. It costs as much as the rent on a small apartment. I don't know a lot about singnal transmission. Would a directional antenna be able to get a good signal from the barn (by the highway) to the house a mile away? We could run some cables, but I don't know what type and what transmission method would work. I know that cat-5 cable is only rated to carry a signal a few hundred feet. Anyway, anyone have any good ideas on this?

edit: details, its a straight clear shot from the house to the barn with no trees in the way, its a slight, even, uphill rise from the barn to the house. The grade is maybe 60 feet per mile. The air is clear and dry almost all of the year. This is why I thought of a directional antenna, but I'm not sure that even with these favorable conditions that a mile would be possible.

From what I've found it seems like a parabolic dish with a very powerfull wifi transmitter could possibly do it, but the cost and difficulty may be prohibitive. On the other hand, it would be one expendature instead of them paying hundreds of dollars monthly for the satelite internet.

edit: interestingly I was able to find a thread elsewhere (link incase anyone cares) where someone is trying to do almost exactly the same thing. I guess I could get rid of this one. But I don't have an account there anyway. Either way, if anyone has any helpfull suggestions they would be appriciated.
 
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Triode

Active Member
huh, my dad would love an antenna built out of a can, haha. I wonder if this one from that site would work at such a range: How to build a tin can waveguide antenna

Seems like I would need something a bit more sophisticated, but I never know. This setup doesn't have to be dirt cheap, infact considering the cost of the satelite internet it would be replacing it could justifiably cost $800 if necessary.
 

Triode

Active Member
haha, I think he has a couple spares of those dishes laying around at this point actually.
 

Triode

Active Member
Yeah. I know the concepts, but this seems like it could be one of those things where when you actually go out and try to do it you realize theres a lot more to it. But the tutorials are pretty good about telling you spacing and such. I think with some more research wireless is probably the best way to go.

One thing I'm curious about is how you test it as you align it. When you line up a laser or a sound source you know immediatly when you get near or cross the right spot, so you can move it around till you get it. It seems like with this I would need to move it, test if the internet worked, move it again, and all the while I woulden't be sure if it wasn't something to do with the settings, cause we all know computer networks don't work all the time as it is. I could use another audible radio source, but that would be a different frequency, and I'm not sure, but woulden't the antenna work differently with a different frequency? I guess I need to look into wifi signal testing, I know theres stuff for just that purpos.
 
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RadioRon

Well-Known Member
There are some free utility programs around that can show you your WiFi throughput or signal quality. You need to get your hands on one of those to do the alignment.

I strongly recommend that you consider using routers and stuff from this supplier:

Ubiquiti Networks, Inc.

We have recently started using their stuff in some experiments and are impressed with the quality of the gear and with the better flexibility they have in setting up a link. It appears that they cater to long range use of WiFi with software and a users forum. Very good.

A mile is very do-able but remember that in this business, the antenna height above the ground is the key. The higher the better, and it must be a line-of-sight radio path that shoots through nothing but air; no hills, no buildings and no trees please.
 

crutschow

Well-Known Member
Most Helpful Member
Don't most WiFi receivers have a signal level monitor that shows up when connected to a computer? You could use that to align the antennas. It would be easiest if you had a laptop near the receive antenna with the receiver connected.

Edit: Here's an antenna that claims it's been used over three miles http://www.ccrane.com/antennas/wifi-antennas/point-to-point-wifi-antenna.aspx.
 
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Triode

Active Member
nice, a pair of those would cost less than a month of that satelite internet. Even if you include the cost of cable internet and its setup it would be close.
 

tcmtech

Banned
Most Helpful Member
I have a wireless link that can easily cover the distances you are talking about. Just use a wireless router on each end as the transmitters and then set up a pair of dish antennae for directional signal transfer.
I have seen a dish setup that used the little antennae off of a wireless router mounted in the sweet spot on an old satellite dish. As I understood it a pair of dishes can still have a few mile range when set up that way.

I have mentioned this several times in other posts as well. If your good with basic dish antennae set up all you will need is a pair of wireless routers and a stripped down basic old computer as your land to air connection server.
Since all that computer is doing is handling the DSL card to wireless router processing the software can be gutted to absolute minimum and a few hundred MHz processor will still be at idle all day lone even at peak transfer rates.

I would say that with a some basic scrounging and a pair of wireless routers from an on-line auction it can be done for under $300. Maybe even free if you have an old computer and a pair of wireless routers laying around and be built over a weekend.

Mine was all done with leftovers and surplus gear my brother got from where he works so my cost was basically time only. Or about one good long day.
I can run at 85 meg transfer between my place and my brothers now with a half mile separation and one wind mill tower mounted repeater to go around a hill since we dont have a true line of site between us.
 
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BrownOut

Banned
Man that's cool. I've been trying to figure out a was to connect my business to my home. It's about a 5 miles throw, but unfortunately, not a line of sight. I've looked at some radios, but thay are really expensive, about $1k for the whole system.
 

tcmtech

Banned
Most Helpful Member
My brother is the head networking guy for a local computer tech center.
He said there are systems in remote areas using the wireless routers and high gain antennae systems with multiple remotely located repeaters that are solar or small windmill powered that have good reliable connection speeds at near 50 miles!:)

I dont know where but I can see it being possible in some remote locations.

The down side is when a router goes goofy and needs to be unplugged in order to be reset. A 100 mile drive just to do a few unplug and reset operations could get to be a bit anoying. :p

Personaly I would just use a simple timer that drops the power at each router/repeater station for about 20 seconds once or twice a day in order to get a fully automatic and regular reset cycle needed or not.
 

Triode

Active Member
Well thats very encouraging, it makes going a mile through unobstructed dry air with a budget for new equipment seem almost trivial.
 

TXFlatLander

New Member
I too am searching for a way to connect get wifi for our get-away cabin in New Mexico from an AP at the telco about 1 mile away. I thought I might chime in with some things I have learned and would do in your situation.

Seeing that you have pretty much line of sight and great conditions, I would go wireless with two 2.4 GHz grid parabolic dishes. The higher the dBi on the dish antenna the narrower the transmit/receive area will be. In your case, you know exactly where you are shooting so I would go with the highest affordable dish, 24 dBi. I have found them reasonably priced at Streakwave.com and l-com.com. The shipping is what gets you on most sites I have found, but those two are reasonable (Have streakwave.com orders shipped to a business or work address -- it is considerably cheaper than residential, some dishes weights are not entered correctly either so it will show $90 to $100 shipping. It should be $15 to $20 for two based on a model I got a shipping estimate on to my house). One dish will mount at the barn facing your house and one will mount at the house facing the barn. Another website you can find wifi stuff at is Fleeman, Anderson & Bird, Corp..

Most of the dishes I have found will mount on a 1 or 2 inch pole. A old DirectTV or Dish Network J mount that their dishes mount to appear to be 2 inches and that is what I will use to mount our parabolic dish on. In your situation, you will need two. You can probably pick a couple up off eBay for $20 or talk to someone who isn't using their dishes anymore. The key is little to no movement however you mount them.

You could use the old satellite dishes, but you have to nearly point them to the ground and measure out exactly where to mount the can on the feed horn. Given my tight tolerances and distance, I have chosen to go with a application-specific 2.4GHz premade dish. Also, the grid helps with less movement from the winds moving the dish versus a solid dish.

Like blueroomelectronics said, I would think you could use a gun scope on the end of the feed horn to get them reasonably aligned with each other.

You can then buy two Linksys WRT54GL. I usually buy them off Amazon.com. Right now they are $70 but they drop down to $50 often. Flash both routers with DD-WRT. It is very easy, don't be intimidated if you haven't ever done it. They have a guide that explains how to flash the router. You will probably get version 1.1 router. It tells you to just flash the standard on v1.1 routers, but the last one I received I had to flash the mini version and then the standard version to get it to work.

Depending on the version of the antenna you purchase, you will need a N-Type Male OR N-Type Female (Dish antenna side) to RP-TNC (WRT54GL antenna side connection) pigtail to connect the dish to the routers. I would suggest that you use LMR-400 coax for the pigtail and 50 ohm rated connectors. You can purchase them premade off eBay, l-com.com, fab-corp.com, etc. Be sure they are LMR-400 or higher and not RG6 or RG59. The cable and connectors needs to be rated 50 ohms, not 70 ohms. The antennas are rated at 50 ohms if you look at the specs. Wikipedia has a good primer over coaxial cable and the attenuation lose in dB per meter of the cable. Given your setup, I would think the barns needs to very short - meter or two and the house maybe 7 to 10 meters. Your internet connection will plug into the internet (WAN) port on the router in the barn. The WAN port on the router in the house will go unused. Don't plug a computer into it, it won't work.

DD-WRT will allow you to setup a Wireless Distribution Service in which you can link the two routers together. No need for a computer running at the barn and the house for the internet connection to work using up lots of electricity. Just these two low powered devices. You may put the router inside the barn in an enclosure, preferrably waterproof, weatherproof and out of the sun. I have read where some people have mounted a fan in the router or in the enclosure to keep it cool. Youtube has some videos. You would think you could even splice off the power adapter to the router to power a fan inside the enclosure? Maybe use a used drysheet as a fan dust collector? Here is a guide on how to setup the WDS on both routers. Basically this will be your receive and transmit equipment from the barn to the house.

tcmtech talked about equipment locking up and having to drive to reset it. DD-WRT has built-in keep alive functions that power cycle the router on sensed lost connection with the hosts/internet and at pre-determined intervals, i.e. every night at 2am.

Make sure you setup wireless security. Don't leave them open. At a minimum use WPA and never use WEP or open.

The routers feature a transmit power increase feature over stock power (28 mW) from anywhere between 1 mW to 251 mW. I would use this sparingly since increasing the transmit increases the heat on the internals and could prematurely shorten the life of the router. You can purchase one or two external amplifiers, such as this 1W 802.11g Signal Amplifier/Booster (Model: AR-1105) which I found on eBay. I would try the setup without it before you purchase something you don't need. I might note that it has different end connections than the WRT54GL (RP-TNC). It appears to need RP-SMA, but I would double check. Each connection or adapter you use in the line of connections from the router to the antenna will cause some dB lose.

Once both routers are up and communicating, you can use a program called iperf to test the actual throughput from router to router for dish tweeking.

You can connect to the router in the house via wireless or wired LAN in jacks in the back of the router.

As far as costs, you are looking at ~$100 for the two routers, ~$120-$130 shipped for the two dishes, and the cost of the pigtails. Still less than one months service. You may pick up one or two spare WRT54GLs if it works out. I don't know how much longer Linksys will continue to make the WRT54G(L) series of routers.

I haven't tested this particular setup but I don't see any reason why it wouldn't work.

Someone can correct me what I have wrong as I am researching this as well.

PM me or post back on this thread if you have any questions. I will try to remember to check back since I don't haunt this website. :)
 
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