Antenna to extend wifi range?
January 3, 2017 12:11 PM   Subscribe

I want to buy or rent a small, powerful USB antenna (or other hardware) to extend a laptop's wifi range to 600+ feet (physically like this one, though I don't see an indication that one is powerful enough).

• Router & access point are in Building A.
• 600 feet away is Building B.

• A and B sorrrrta have line of sight: the space between them is about 90% open air + 10% thin patches of trees. However, A has stone walls. And I won't know til I get there the exact location of the access point inside it (and I can't move that AP, add hardware to it, or reconfigure it). I'll spend a few hours a week in A, but I'll otherwise be in B.

• B has six windows facing A and is at a slightly higher elevation, so I could try the antenna from each window to find the best position.

I don't need low latency or high speed – I'm just looking to get any usable data to my laptop in B, during a two-week stay there. (No other apparent options – there's no cell reception from any company for miles, due to dense mountains; there's no landline I could use for dialup, as I have in recent situations like this; and although B is completely exposed to the southern sky, I don't know any affordable two-week rental option for satellite internet hardware.)
posted by kalapierson to Technology (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
To get it out of the way, yhe go-to long term answer here is a set of Ubiquiti APs (even the previous gen stuff is great), but that's overkill for a temporary setup.

How much are you willing to spend on this? The next best answer (since you're too far for twisted pair and fiber would be too costly for a temporary setup) is going to be some sort of directional antenna, along with wifi equipment that will accept an external antenna.

Do you have time to test this all out before you leave? You can probably get away with not tweaking Building A's antenna, but it'd be unfortunate for you to find out that you aren't getting the range you need after you arrive.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 12:28 PM on January 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

You know what, on second thought, can you plug a cable in to the router at Building A? If so, just spend $100 and pick up two Ubiquiti NanoStation locoM2 units, rated for 5+ km. No messing around with aftermarket antennas, it'll Just Work.

(Just get a window on both ends, or otherwise avoid those stone walls)

If you can't plug in a Building A, you'll need a a router/access point placed at Building A, picking up the wifi so you have something to wire the M2 into
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 12:35 PM on January 3, 2017

I think you're going to have a hard time making this work without putting some kind of hardware in building A. I have tried using high power wireless adapters and antennas and never had great luck.

I ended up having to do a point to point wireless setup. I bought this a couple years ago and easily crossed 450ft with line of sight.

I haven't used the Ubiquiti hardware that Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug suggests, but everyone I talk to raves about Ubiquiti.
posted by gregr at 1:18 PM on January 3, 2017

Seconding ubiqiti nanostations. Have had a set running in a similar setup for over three years with zero issues.
posted by cosmicbandito at 1:20 PM on January 3, 2017

If this is happening in an acedemic setting, you could maybe donate the equipment when you leave and get a tax break to offset some of the cost.
posted by raisingsand at 6:55 AM on January 4, 2017

Thanks for all the input! I can't add any hardware in Building A, so in this case I'm going to keep looking for a self-contained antenna (still welcome any more suggestions there), but it's great to know about the other options for future reference.

I did read an encouraging blog post from someone who was working in a third building I'll call Building C. She reported getting a weak signal from Building A without any additional effort or hw. C is only slightly closer to A than B is (eyeballing it, looks like 500 to 550 ft away).
posted by kalapierson at 5:51 AM on January 26, 2017

Now posting from Building B :)

using this, which was $30 (gets just one bar at this distance, but that's all I need).

Thanks everybody!
posted by kalapierson at 9:32 PM on February 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

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