Would this antenna thing actually work?
June 26, 2013 4:01 PM   Subscribe

I was perusing an online deals site, when I happened upon this. I live less than a mile from my office, and my home DSL is much faster than my office DSL. This got me wondering: Could I install something like this at home and use my home DSL at work?

I realize this may be a stupid question, but I am curious. Also, this question is made relevant by the fact that construction workers accidentally cut the office phone line today.
posted by 4ster to Computers & Internet (9 answers total)
Nope. 1500 meters is the maximum theoretical range, but once you get that far out, you're going to get a lot of dropped packets.
posted by empath at 4:05 PM on June 26, 2013

Do you have line-of-sight between your home and office ? WiFi isn't going to work over a hill or around a corner.

If and only if you have a direct line where you can see your house from your office, you could use a high-power directional antenna.

Like this: http://www.ubnt.com/airmax#nanobridgem

The antenna you linked to is omni-directional; great for widespread coverage in a circle around it, but not nearly as good when you're trying to pick up a WiFi signal over a very long range.

There's a whole hobbyist industry around long-range WiFi, to say nothing of the campus and metropolitan networks deployed by professionals.
posted by Kakkerlak at 4:07 PM on June 26, 2013

Boo. No line of site. Thanks, guys.
posted by 4ster at 4:08 PM on June 26, 2013

And here I was all set to post a link to the legendary Pringles Can Antenna!
posted by jquinby at 4:09 PM on June 26, 2013

In the middle of a field with no other computers or networks around, you could probably *maybe* get a mile out of it. (A mile being 1600 meters) In any noisier of an environment, no way.

Without line of sight and a super, duper directional antenna, all the other networks in the middle will interfere with your reception.
posted by gjc at 4:12 PM on June 26, 2013

If you can't get around it, you can get over it. Depending on some factors, you can put this on an antenna tower and solve your LOS problem.

Also, if you have an extra class HAM radio license, you can bump the output power far above ~100mW many wifi routers use. you can only use channels 1-6 though as the rest are outside the HAM frequencies.

Between the added elevation and increased power, it might work.

But, no, it is not a plug and play installation.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 4:24 PM on June 26, 2013

Bumping the transmit power won't help the other end transmit back. Also, I'm pretty sure you can't use a ham license for private communications, which your wifi network should be. There is also a commercial thing in the rules too. The internet also probably falls under those rules.
posted by gjc at 5:43 PM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Pogo_Fuzzybutt: Are you sure you can bump up the output power of a router by having a ham radio licence? I'm not up on the US licensing regulations, but I have such a licence in the UK and one of the conditions is that you don't encrypt your transmissions, and that you identify your station with your callsign (either in clear voice or CW) every so often. A high-power wi-fi signal would fail on both of those counts. Apologies if the rules are different in the States.
posted by winterhill at 2:39 AM on June 27, 2013

This isn't legal advice, and all that. This is to the best of my knowledge and understanding from the research I have done. If you know, or have links to different facts, I am happy to hear them.

Part 15 sets a hard limit of 1 watt on transmitter power within the 2400-2483.5 MHz and 5725-5850 MHz bands.

However, in the 2400 MHz band, HAMs have a small chunk for use with amateur television (2390-2450 MHz). This roughly corresponds to channels 1 thru 6 of the 802.11 spec. On these channels, amateur radio operators can exceed the 1 Watt limit on transmitter power. The other channels in the range are limited by the 1 Watt restriction. So, part of of the WIFI (802.11) spec is in the HAM bands where HAMs have privileges for high(er) power transmission.

Wifi is just a form of digital radio - I can't see any reason why it wouldn't be allowed over/above other digital modes. My research thus far seems to bear that out. As for the content that passes over such a connection... I'm not sure how the FCC would view that - in fact, nobody seems to be sure.

And with things like Mesh Networks and all that implies (TCP/IP over radio means encryption, too, probably, at some level of the stack) and so on becoming more popular, the time for them get the legislation upto the technology is approaching.

TL;DR - HAM wifi internet access is not on its face a violation of FCC rules, but the FCC hasn't made it clear that this is the case or that it will continue to be the case. Most likely, if you aren't pissing somebody off, the FCC is unlikely to notice and/or care.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 5:06 PM on June 27, 2013

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