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Unusual Wireless setup

Posted on 2009-04-16
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I need to set up a Wireless connection from the library/office of a very old house, through a window, to reach the guest cottage on the back of the property (about 75 feet).
The exterior walls of the house are over a foot thick and 'lead-lined'.
The existing Modem, and Smart Switch sit near a clear pane window that has line of sight to the cottage. I need to beam the connection through that window to the laptops that are in the cottage.

I have set up several wireless networks before, but only basic 'plug wireless router into modem' and configure the security.

All of the computers in the library (all XP) plug into a smart switch and I would like to just plug the Access Point into the same switch and beam the signal through that window.

Please correct any assumptions/terminology I am using and give me specific equipment recommendations for the best way to do this.

I have searched EE for a solution that fits, but haven't found what I need.

Thank you.
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Question by:younghv
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by:Thickman
ID: 24163421
I have a similar setup in my office; all computers are running off a 16-port gigabit switch, which the access point also plugs into.  After setting up the security on the access point and any systems connecting wirelessly, you should be set.  However, I do not have lead lined walls.  What type of access point are you using?  I'm assuming you already have the access point connected and are unable to get a wireless connection from your guest cottage.
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by:younghv
ID: 24163519
Thickman - thank you for posting.
The ISP installed a wireless modem that won't even go through the INterior walls of this house - much less the EXterior.

I was hoping for specific hardware recommendations:
First priority: Target the remote cottage and reach it through the window (avoiding the lead-lined exterior walls).
Second priority: strong enough to push the signal through the interior walls.

Right now, they can get a wireless signal in the rooms adjacent to the library, but not any other rooms in the house.
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garycase earned 1000 total points
ID: 24164299
A couple of general thoughts ...

Getting access through a house with those walls is going to be a big challenge.   Is there any opportunity to run cable to the other rooms?   ... or at least to get wired connectively to a couple of other distant spots so you could install multiple access points?

Note that the 5GHz band has much better penetration capability and better signal dispersion, so it will likely work much better than 2.4GHz WiFi in this environment.   For starters, I'd get a good 802.11n access point (or router) with 5GHz capability; and some 5GHz adapters.   For the link to the cottage, you'll probably want to mount an antenna in a position that has line-of-sight to the cottage through the window => get one with a reasonably focused beam if possible.   Be sure it's a 5GHz antenna (or dual band) => most of the accessory antennas sold are for the 2.4GHz band.   I'll see later this evening if I can find a few others, but here's a page of 5GHz antennas:  http://www.wirelessnetworkproducts.com/index.asp?PageAction=VIEWCATS&Category=771&gclid=CLno-M3e9pkCFQKJxgodtGGIwg   An omnidirectional unit may help throughout the house; but a unidirectional unit pointed at the cottage would be best for that.
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by:willcomp
willcomp earned 1000 total points
ID: 24164360
I think Gary has you on the right track. One thing to consider is adding an exterior directional antenna.

There are two potential problems with antennas: Cable lengths are fairly short to minimize signal loss and most current wireless routers and access points do not have removable antennas that allow one to connect a different antenna.

I have installed external 802.11g "cantennas" that work very well at over 100 yards. Router is inside and receiving "cantenna" is outside.
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by:garycase
ID: 24165244
If you get a dual-band router with provisions for external antennas on both bands, you may want to use a directional 2.4GHz band antenna for the cottage; and an omnidirectional 5GHz antenna to help with the interior of the house.   Definitely sounds like an interesting environment to try and get reliable wireless working well.

I have a friend with a very nice spread in Oregon with a guest cottage about the same distance away.   I had him use a NetGear RangeMax router and it works perfectly -- both the router and the adapter in the cottage are positioned where they "see" each other through windows ... no lead-lined walls to contend with :-)   That was a couple years ago, so it was a 2.4GHz 802.11G setup.
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by:younghv
ID: 24166257
Gary and Dalton - thanks for checking in. I'm heading out on an early morning job but will eyeball your links and post back later.

Vic
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by:younghv
ID: 24176633
Sorry for the delay on responding - based on what you guys posted (and really cheap price on eBay) I bought one of these and will be testing it.
NETGEAR wireless-n 5ghz hd access point/bridge WNHDE111

Thanks for the quick responses and one of these days I'm going to play with that 'Cantennae' thing.

Vic
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by:younghv
ID: 31571242
Good stuff guys - I'll keep you posted on the lead walls in this castle.
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by:willcomp
ID: 24176669
Thanks Vic. Those "cantenna things" are 802.11g only -- at least the ones I've seen. Wireless n may have enough range that a directional antenna is not needed.
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by:garycase
ID: 24176720
Technically the cantenna's aren't "802.11g only" -- but they are 2.4GHz only, so they don't work with the 5GHz band [Remember, Wireless-N supports 2 bands].   Another interesting detail:  the 2.4GHz band actually has better range (if there are no obstructions); but the 5GHz band has much better penetration, so will give much better range when the signal has to penetrate walls, ceilings, floors, etc.

Bottom line:  It can take some real "playing" to get it right.   In the house you've described, I suspect the 5GHz access point will work well in the house -- but if it doesn't have sufficient range for the link to the cottage, try using a directional 2.4GHz antenna on the router's signal (if it supports an external antenna).   The one downside of the access point you bought is it doesn't have any provisions for an external antenna -- which MAY be needed even in the house given the thickness of the walls.

Good luck with this setup -- it definitely sounds interesting !!
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by:younghv
ID: 24176878
This Old Dog is still learning a few New Tricks.
While reading about that Netgear AP, it seemed as though I could just place it in the window that looks out over the cottage - then run a CAT 5 cable back to the Smart Switch that is hanging off the Cable Modem.
My thinking was that 75' line-of-sight would be fine for that connection (primary goal) and that the "10X" coverage would improve the connectivity inside the house.

If either of you has further advice, jump back in here and tell me what you think. I can use the Netgear right here (better than what I have) and buy additional stuff if you give me the specifics.

Thanks,
Vic
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by:willcomp
ID: 24176925
Wireless coverage is not a precise science. The only way to find out is to try. There's a reasonable chance it'll work without additional antennas or devices. With a MIMO setup (multiple antennas merging and separating signals), I don't know what effect replacing one of the antennas would have. Maybe our electronics expert can tell us :-)
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by:garycase
ID: 24177683
The MIMO setup should still benefit from even one of the signals being amplified with a high gain antenna -- and could benefit even more if all of the antennas were replaced.   But I doubt that's necessary.  As Dalton noted, this is not a precise science ... you just need to try various combinations.

Two things are for sure:   a 5GHz device will have much better penetration (so the 5GHz access point should work much better in the house);  and unobstucted line-of-sight is always best for maximum range ... so a window placement is best for whichever device is used to get the cottage covered.   As I noted before, you MAY need both the 5GHz access point (for internal coverage in the house) and a 2.4GHz device positioned by the window.   The 2.4GHz RangeMax devices have excellent line-of-sight coverage (both -G and -N).

I think your idea of simply positioning the 5GHz access point by the window is very likely to do the trick.   Try that before anything else.   If no joy at the cottage, then I'd switch to 2.4GHz for that link -- but would keep the 5GHz access point for in-house coverage.   As you've already noted, you can position these devices anyplace you can string a Cat-5 cable to.
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by:garycase
ID: 24287738
Was thinking about this setup -- did you get it working okay?
Another alternative (if the cottage is on the same primary electrical circuit) would be a powerline network ... or a powerline wireless extender.
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by:younghv
ID: 24289648
Hey Gary,
The customer bailed on me, so I never got to follow through on this one.
I did buy the Netgear AP shown above, but haven't managed to configure it properly in my own network.

Might just have to get you and Dalton up here for some beer and BBQ and re-do this whole lash-up.

Vic
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