Setting up a 'high-powered' wireless network for a city block

Posted on 2013-01-23
Last Modified: 2013-11-19
Hi All - I am wanting to set up a wireless network/internet access for my residential block.  We have alot of low-income families that need internet service, but cannot afford the monthly service.  

I have seen on-line articles about community projects that do this, but all seem to be with antennas on top of buildings.  I was hoping to do it with simply a modem from my desktop.

Q:  Are all modems built alike (I don't think so)?  Are there any that are more powerful with longer ranges than others?

Other information:  my building, and probably the location of the modem is exactly in the middle of the block, and the block is .1 miles long (528 feet).

Thank you very much!

Thank you!
Question by:wendy823

Accepted Solution

meko72 earned 500 total points
ID: 38811051
This solution isnt going to be cheap but it is doable. You will need a wireless router that you can accept changable antannas. You will need a very hi gain antanna with enough wire to run it on top of your roof.

Here is a link with a company that I have used in the past for certain projects. They offer alot of what your looking for and what I have mentioned.

Author Comment

ID: 38811588
I appreciate it.  That is plan 'b'.   As i mentioned, I'm trying to avoid the whole antenna thing and trying to do it from my desktop.  Stay tuned....and thank you!

Author Comment

ID: 38811595
@meko752:  went to the website and I see what you are talking about.  I will check into it further.
thanks again!
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LVL 44

Expert Comment

ID: 38811737
The reason it takes an external antenna is to *receive* the client traffic. You can make the access point[s] blast out 100 megawatts (not legally; I'm just making a point), but that won't make the AP[s] receive the traffic from the clients, which are outputting only milliwatts.  That's why "more power" is the answer to wireless problems about as often as "panic" is the correct response to an emergency situation.

Author Comment

ID: 38812343
@Darr247:  You can tell I am NOT a network person.  So, what I hear you saying, is that the rooftop antenna is what I need to do?  I looked at and sent them an email also.

LVL 44

Expert Comment

ID: 38812541
Yes, and you shouldn't expect to go further than ~200 yards in any direction... again, you can crank up the power to make your signal go farther, but that doesn't mean the people receiving your signal will be able to talk back and connect, in which case you're just stepping on their ability to use 1/3rd of the 2.4GHz band locally (because it would essentially just create interference), which *could* draw the FCC's attention if those people know where to direct their complaints... and even if the clients cranked up their power, and/or put out external antennae, not much beyond 200 yards you'll start bumping into the problem of packets dropping due to Ack Delay timeout/expiry, which would result in one or the other sending the same packets over and over until they declare the connection lost and give up. It's usually on the order of 2 microseconds, which is enough time for the signal to travel about 300 yards and back, disregarding all circuit delays... to change the delay time would require everyone to use something like a Linksys router with DD-WRT and an external antenna, with the clients in AP Client mode, then distributing the signal from that to their internal networks (because most people quickly want more than a single device connected once they get broadband... they want the Tivo, XBox, iPod, et cetera, all connected, too).
LVL 25

Expert Comment

by:Fred Marshall
ID: 38812763
Much of this boild down to physics - in this case antennas and antenna patterns.

I recently fixed up a cottage/motel where someone had installed a "high gain" vertical antenna in place of a somewhat lower-gain vertical antenna.  They were both located on the ridge of the peaked roof of a small building.  One look and I could tell that the antenna was "looking over everyone's head" - the pattern would be very narrow and flat/horizontal and not much energy could come to or from the users, the links and that antenna.
I replaced it with the smaller antenna located *under* the eaves so the beam would be pointing at the windows closer to the ground.
Think of the antenna as a flashlight.  Line of sight works.  Barriers interfere.  If you point the flashlight in the wrong direction then it does no good.
So "higher" isn't "better" at these frequencies and distances.

"Higher" is better IF you need to "look over" things.
For example, a low antenna in an RV park is shadowed by the RV's themselves.
So, a higher antenna that *looks down* might be better to get signal to ALL the RVs.
Vertical antennas most often look perpendicular to the rod.  But you can buy them that look down.

If necessary to hit a location that is below a vertical antenna and if there are no locations of interest on the opposite side, you can tilt the antenna itself so it's right angles to the target.

Antenna aiming isn't so much an art than a science.  It may well be that if you situate a roof or a pole in the center of the space and use a vertical with a downward tilt built in then you might hit most of the targets (and vice versa).

You may wish to avoid coaxial cable from an indoor router to an external antenna IF the cable is going to be too long.  The Linksys/Cisco WRT54s and the like would be in this class.  I've installed quite a few of these but the coax was relatively short.  
If the distances are much more then you may want to consider devices like Engenius which run ethernet cable with power and all the radio frequency energy is generated in the outdoor unit - so very, very short coax.  The issue here is that you want to avoid losing radio frequency power in a cable.

You may well have to consider using repeaters or a WDS arrangement.
There is some bandwidth penalty but maybe not as much as often might be noticeable.
To keep bandwidth, ALWAYS run ethernet cable if you can and only use wireless links where it's impossible to wire.  This suggests a distributed set of radios on different channels perhaps.

There is *nothing* that's going to work that sits on your desk.  So forget it.

You need the following, more or less in order of importance:

- Line of sight between "radios" (user computers, relay station's antennas, etc.)

- Signals can go through windows better than walls.

- Signals can go through walls (and floors/ceilings) in the interior a bit or a lot better than through external walls.  External wall construction makes a big difference but even wood frame with foil-sided insulation can be a killer.

- Surveys are pretty easy to run if all you're looking for is signal strength.  You only need a radio and an antenna and no internet anything.  This can help you figure out what will likely work and what won't.

- Require a signal-to-noise ratio of 20dB everywhere.  Less than that is nothing but trouble.  More than that is a good idea.  This means that after you get "signal" then you have to perhaps be concerned about local noise (meaning other signals in the band you're using .. including other wireless access points.

- So, band selection can be important if you're in a city.  And, I've not had good luck with auto-selection channel setting.

Overkill, overkill, overkill .. but not that "higher is always better", eh?

Author Closing Comment

ID: 38868219
Talked with Hawking and am purchasing one of their routers for a start.   Thanks for the referral.  Their tech people were really helpful!

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