Wireless options for a 200' Internet connection?
July 28, 2015 3:18 PM   Subscribe

Is there a reliable and low latency wireless option for a point to point network connection?

My Internet access from my ISP terminates at an ethernet cable about 200' outside my house. I need to bring that network into my house. Plan A is to run ethernet in underground conduit and all will be well. But I'm temporarily using an old Linksys WRT54GL sitting outside and it works pretty well from inside the house. Which makes me wonder, is it reasonable to consider a wireless option?

What I want is a point to point wireless link. Some sort of wireless bridge / repeater at the ISP drop and another in my house that then connects to my router and wired network. The house is in a rural area and while a few neighbors' wifi networks are visible, there's no major contention. Network speed from the ISP maxes out at 25Mbits/s, so it's well within 802.11n parameters. I'm particularly concerned about reliability and low latency; for gaming, if nothing else.

My past experiences with consumer wireless ethernet bridges were pretty bad. I also don't need full wifi roaming, a single point to point link would be great. Is there consumer hardware suitable for my needs? (Ironically my ISP connection is exactly this kind of thing, it's a 5GHz fixed wireless install pointing at an antenna about a mile away. But that hardware is awfully expensive / heavyweight for something this simple.)
posted by Nelson to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
This should be easy to do with a pair of 5ghz bridges. Just make sure to use a different channel than your ISP uplink. Ubiquity nanobridge for example. Honestly for 200 ft with line of sight and only needing 25Mbit/s even their cheapest nanosation loco boxes would work.
posted by frontmn23 at 3:26 PM on July 28, 2015 [4 favorites]

I second the Ubiquiti stuff. I have a nanostation and it's great. Rock solid, fantastic bang for buck.
posted by primethyme at 3:45 PM on July 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

Thirding Ubiquity. I've used their beefier equipment to get connectivity for ecommerce websites over distances of 2+ miles.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 5:41 PM on July 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

+1 on Uniquity Nanostation. Make sure you have a clear line of sight.
The 2.4 Ghz model will carry you further.

I have installed quite a few of these. Great stuff (not always easy to configure dough)
posted by Mac-Expert at 6:09 PM on July 28, 2015

nthing Ubiquiti: rock solid hardware, built specifically for this kind of job. Their top-level resellers also tend to be fairly clued up about the appropriate mounting hardware for a particular location.
posted by holgate at 6:48 PM on July 28, 2015

I'm amazed at how unified of a front this is, but yea, nanostations.

I normally see them used for stuff like bouncing a home network out to a barn/guest house/other outbuilding or to share one line between multiple houses that are fairly separated... but that's a totally reasonable distance for them to cover.
posted by emptythought at 1:24 AM on July 29, 2015

So to summarize, you've got fixed wireless on what is likely to be a tall structure or tower that's 200' away from your house.

If you do opt to go with wired ethernet, please be aware that there are significant grounding considerations with running ethernet between structures, and a 200' run may result in a significant amount of differential. This is a really big thing with lightning strikes, etc., and the height of a tall structure makes it even more of a target.

If you do choose to go the wired route, please consider using fiber. It sounds scary but it actually isn't too terrible.

At the wireless demarc, install something like a Ubiquiti EdgeRouter-X-SFP, which will act as your gateway NAT device. You attach the service provider's ethernet handoff to the WAN port. You need a short range 1000Base-SX SFP to insert to connect your LAN, and then a nice long multimode LC-LC fiber patch cord, another SFP for the other end, and then some switch to hook up stuff in the house. Good quality switches like the Dell 5324 are available on eBay quite cheaply and are suitable to the task. Add on a wireless access point and you have a high performance, wired and wireless network. By using conduit you can avoid having to buy costly "outdoor direct burial" grade fiber that needs to be terminated.
posted by jgreco at 4:12 AM on July 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

Thanks for all the answers! It's rare to have consensus on a product like Ubiquiti, and I'm grateful since it's not something I'd heard of before. Exactly what I was looking for. If I may ask a few followups...

They have a large array of products. Is the Nanostation M the right choice?

Assuming clear line of site, is 5 GHz going to be strictly better than 2.4 GHz? I don't need the extra bandwidth, but I'd sure like lower latency and higher reliability. Also 5 GHz is generally better for channel contention both because there's fewer installs in the US right now and because it has better channel separation.

Ubiquiti calls their protocol as "airMAX", which I gather is something different from WiFi. Do the devices work like Ethernet bridges? Or are they IP devices? To put it another way, is there firmware doing anything at an IP level to the traffic I'm passing through it? (I imagine they have IP for a web configuration / management tool.)

Last question; does Ubiquiti have any competitors I should consider? I'm a fan of picking the consensus technology, just it's a new product area to me.
posted by Nelson at 7:14 AM on July 29, 2015

I can't advise as to the correct choice since I haven't used those airMAX products. I have a strong aversion to wireless except where absolutely necessary.

The 5 GHz is probably better than 2.4 given line of sight, yes, but make sure you put appropriate effort into the process as a poorly-installed system might be more susceptible to things like rain fade if not properly designed. The "lower latency" is minimal at best.

You can definitely set the devices up as an ethernet bridge, and that is probably simplest to manage for a home user.



are probably good starting points.
posted by jgreco at 2:29 PM on July 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

1-All the ubiquiti stuff can operate as router or bridge (layer 3 or layer 2) or both. That's one of the reasons they're so highly recommended, because the config on them is designed by engineers who understand networking and thus you can turn on/off the bits you need! This is the type of thing usually found in enterprise-level hardware -- ubiquity is awesome because you get that flexibility while still being REALLY inexpensive. Often I use a pair of them as a layer-2 bridge for wired-to-wireless-to-wired. The wireless interfaces can be set as AP, client, etc for making dedicated point to point links, or to grab onto an existing AP, etc. In that mode you assign a management IP (for web/ssl access) only. OR, you can enable router functionality with or without NAT, meaning you can emulate a small office/home office router type setup. When routing functionality is turned on they have a decent feature set for packet filtering, rate limiting, etc too.

2- "airmax" is their proprietary TDMA protocol for point-to-multipoint setups. This is only important if you have 10's of client radios connecting to a central tower or similar like ISPs do. You can disable it and the boxes work with normal wifi protocols.

3- I find 5ghz just easier to work with as you said, due to the larger number of channels. At 200' link distance either will work

4- the nanostation and nanobridge differ only in their antenna (patch antenna vs a small parabolic dish). There are some other variants (nanosation "loco", the various size dish antennas on the bridge, etc). Most of the variants are radio/antenna gain differences. All will support roughly the same software features. (routing/bridging/client/AP/etc) As you go up to the rocket product line you start getting multiple antennas/polarizations/GPS sync, etc, things that only matter if you're trying to engineer multi-mile or multi-hundred-mbps links.

5- competitors -- not really! You can do similar things with products from mikrotik but they're a lot hardware to configure. You can do similar things with consumer-grade hardware (netgear, tp-link) but you can get stuck with their software not handling your bridge/routing setup needs. You can go to higher-end radio link companies (trango, bridgewave, others) but your entry cost is going to be 10X and it doesn't make sense unless you need licensed or really super-industrial grade.
posted by frontmn23 at 2:01 PM on August 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

Just reporting back that I installed two Ubiquiti Nanostation M5s and all is working well. (Sadly the wired conduit didn't work out). I put a full size NSM5 at the tree and a smaller Loco M5 in my house and configured them as an ethernet bridge with this guide. With clear line of sight I get a steady 300Mbps over the link. Currently I have the antenna hiding in a closet; even through a wall I get about 30 dBM signal-to-noise and a 200+Mbps link. More importantly it seems reliable, little to no packet loss.

Using airOS feels like playing with good hacker router firmware like DD-WRT or Tomato. It's very flexible and powerful; I could be doing a lot more than a bridge with the devices. The radio implementation also seems quite solid. Overall, impressed with Ubiquiti's products. Thanks for the recommendation!
posted by Nelson at 1:08 PM on August 28, 2015

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