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Need to Extend WiFi Network 500' Outside of Home

Posted on 2014-10-12
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Last Modified: 2014-11-15
I have an Amped Wireless Sr300 and am thinking about using an Amped Wireless AD14EX outdoor antenna to extend my WiFi network outside the home.  I will be placing a DropCam about 350' - 500' ish from my current WiFi network.  I need to boost the signal enough to support my DropCam.  The WiFi signal will need to reach the inside of a structure with wooden non insulated walls.

I'd like to use the equipment I already have but am not opposed to a better solution.  Thanks in advance.
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Question by:1namyln
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Expert Comment

by:Fred Marshall
ID: 40376266
Start by thinking this way:

Indoor router as you have now.
Outdoor antenna connected to the router using shortest possible run of high-quality coaxial cable such as LMR-400.
Outdoor antenna connected to the camera using shortest possible run of high-quality coaxial cable such as LMR-400.

Using outdoor, high gain antennas at both ends resolves the issue of walls, etc. and will make the installation much more robust from a design point of view.

A good rule of thumb for such installations is to assure a bit of overkill.  This should do it.

Order the coaxial cables of the necessary length and with the necessary connectors at each end.  So, there may be one cable for the router end and one cable for the camera end.  The antennas use the very common N-type female connectors so both cables would match the antenna at one end; one would match the camera at the other end and one would match the router at the other end.  I'm assuming that the camera has it's own radio and coax antenna connector.  I'm also assuming that the router is either dedicated to the camera or has another antenna connector for localized coverage.
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by:Dr. Klahn
ID: 40376310
If you have common AC power between your home and the outbuilding, perhaps power-line networking might be a solution as long as both buildings are on the same pole transformer.

One adapter is required at each end of the desired link.  The networking then goes over the AC wiring.

Here's a listing of powerline adapters at newegg.  Most big-box electronics stores also carry powerline network adapters.

Side notes:
a) A whole-house surge protector or multiple power-line surge arrestors plugged into the wiring can degrade the performance of power-line networking.
b) Powerline networking eliminates the possibility of someone cutting a cable to external WiFi antennas.
c) Powerline networking is immune to rain, snow, sleet, hail and foul wet weather.
d) Powerline networking can fail temporarily if there are electrically noisy devices on the AC line such as large motors.
e) "Your mileage will vary" with powerline networking.  It works well or not at all, and the only way to find out is to try it.  Some swear by it, some at it.
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Expert Comment

by:Fred Marshall
ID: 40376354
DrKlahn gives good advice.  It's inexpensive and easy to try.
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by:1namyln
ID: 40389152
Sorry for late reply.

The buildings are on different power systems.  Separate meters.  I'm going to attach the network extender I have and see how far the signal goes.  Then go from there.  I need the signal to be strong enough when boosted.  I don't want to catch the signal with a wifi antenna to be ran through another extender then connected to the drop cam.  I want to boost the signal enough so that I only need one antenna/booster then the DropCam.
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Fred Marshall earned 500 total points
ID: 40389483
OK.  It appears that the dropcam has built-in wifi and the antenna for it as well.  That means you're stuck with a high gain antenna at the *other end* of the wifi link.  i.e. in the other building.

So, go back to my original response and just forget about the antenna nearest the camera.  Everything else applies.

Still, you might position the camera so that the optical field of view is what you want AND the radio path is the best possible (fewer / lighter obstructions).  For example, don't mount the camera on the far side of a building column to look further away.  Instead, mount the camera on a bracket off to the side so that the backside is open for the radio and the front side lens can still see the scene.
And, if there's a hallway or other opening to the outside wall in the RF path, line it up with that opening so there are fewer obstructions.  Just things to consider....

Since antennas are likely going to have about the same price point, I would get the highest gain antenna you can find.  This one is likely since you seem to be limited to 2.4GHz although there's a Dropcam with dual band and 5GHz might be better from an antenna gain point of view (and maybe worse from a wall attenuation point of view .. very hard to say about the latter for sure).
L-Com HG2424EG-NF 2.4 GHz 24 dBi Die Cast Mini-Reflector Grid Antenna - N-Female Connector

http://www.flyteccomputers.com/details.cfm?wid=572&wb=HG2424EG-NF&wre=1&gclid=CLvxqp-yt8ECFRBwvAoduGsAGw

That's 10dB better than the 14dBi antenna you mention.  And, 10dB is a lot!

That's about the best antenna recommendation I can make and the other details are already mentioned.
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by:1namyln
ID: 40404421
Still working on this.  Haven't had a chance to make it back to the site yet to try anything.
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by:1namyln
ID: 40424091
Performed a site survey yesterday with a Amped Wireless SR300.  I placed it in a window on the second floor facing the outbuilding I need to get to.  With a WiFi analyzer on my phone I was able to get -83dbm inside of the building.  I don't plan to use the SR300 but did so only for testing.  If I use a SR10000 and the antenna you mentioned this should work.  My question about the mentioned antenna is will the signal spread enough so I could connect the DropCam to it or would I need to receive the signal via another antenna an additional extender?  I would like to just add the antenna and extender to my current network.  I walked it off and its 300'.  The barn is open air so not much obstruction.
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Author Comment

by:1namyln
ID: 40424420
Does the output strength of the repeater matter at all?
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Expert Comment

by:Fred Marshall
ID: 40424570
-83 dbm is marginal.  -70dbm or better is a useful target number.

The mentioned antenna has a rather narrow beam.  See: http://www.flyteccomputers.com/ext/L-com/HG2424EG-NF.pdf
So, all you have to do is carefully aim the antenna at the camera (whether there are walls in between or not).  You don't want the signal to "spread", it's more like a flashlight.  You want it to "extend" and this is the best way to do that.

As far as the output strength of the device connected to the added high-gain antenna (I presume that's what you're asking about).  The High Power 14dBi Outdoor  Directional Wi-Fi Antenna Kit AD14EX that you mentioned originally isn't a repeater.  It's only an antenna like the one I mentioned but with a bit less gain.  This means that there is no "repeater output".  In a sense that's good because it's not clear, if you were going to use the AD14EX that you would want a repeater.  Repeaters only add complexity and reduce the bandwidth and are only useful if you can't run Ethernet cable.  The question for this is: How long will the coax be from your router to the new antenna?  You will want to use low-loss coax like LM400.  But, if it's going to be too long then I would recommend this:

Get a wireless router with external detachable antennas.
Run Ethernet cable from your router to this new wireless router.
Connect it as in the diagram I've attached.
Have a short run of LM400 coax from the added wireless router to the high gain antenna.
(You can buy the coax cable already made up with the proper connectors and length.  That's what I'd recommend.)

As far as power goes, we should probably be more concerned about the camera output power than anything else.  It has to get back to the main building.  That's why the high gain antenna.
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by:1namyln
ID: 40424716
The DSL Modem/Router is down stairs.  I'm adding the repeater upstairs then removing one of the antennas and connecting the external antenna.  I like the omni directional antenna's better.  There are no trees or anything of substance blocking the signal.  Except of course the drafty barn walls.  :)

The wire from the repeater to the antenna would be less than 6'.  If I were to replace the current router and add something I could attach an antenna to the run would be 50' +.

I should have tested the camera to see if it would connect to the signal at all.  I will try that and see what happens.

The high gain antenna is just a few $ more than the average omni directional.  That being said how do I aim that narrow beam?
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Expert Comment

by:Fred Marshall
ID: 40424817
You can see the cable loss at: http://www.ame-hft.de/pdf/lmr400.pdf  So, you'd lose about 3db in 50ft with LMR400 cable.  Actually 50 feet that might be OK if you have the high gain antenna.

You would not like the Omni antennas better looking at the difference in gain.  Probably 6dB vs 24dB = so an 18dB difference in gain.  And, it appears you need at least 7 dB more than what you've measured so far.  And, was that AT the camera?  The camera may not work without it.  That's the idea.

You aim the beam "broadside"  Think of it as the reflector inside a flashlight and aim it the same way.  You aim the "bowl" at the target.  You want the feed rod in the center of the antenna to be pointing at the target (ie. the camera in this case).  You might attach a fishing pole or other lightweight rod to the feed rod that sticks out of the center of the antenna and improve your aim that way.  That should be more than good enough.  

I find that eyeball aiming with these antennas in a situation like yours is good enough.  Just use adequate care in doing it.
Not only aim it while at the antenna but look back at it from the camera location to see how it looks.  It it pointing at you or not?

The other approach is to set things up and then test various aiming directions in one of these ways:
- very slowly move the antenna in azimuth until the signal fails.  Note where it's aiming.
- very slowly move the antenna in azimuth the opposite direction until the signal fails.  Note again where it's aiming.
Then, split the difference and you should be right on.
Do the same in the vertical direction.
I say "slowly" because you want to give the radios time to react.  Going too fast may cause you to overshoot on one side or the other and not symmetrically.

Alternately, you can look at signal strength *at the camera* with a laptop using a program like inSSIDer.  The idea is to get a reading of the signal strength as you have already done.  Then tweak the antenna position to get the best signal level.  

These latter methods are a bit more tedious but technically more satisfying maybe.
If it works then it works, so I'd start with the eyeball.
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Author Closing Comment

by:1namyln
ID: 40444452
Thanks for your assistance.  I'm closing the question but haven't completed the install yet.  I've purchased a antenna similar to the one you listed and an amped extender.  I agree that it would be best to connect directly to the router but in my application this would be very difficult and expensive.  Thanks again.
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by:1namyln
ID: 40444465
I forgot to ask.  This will be mounted to the side of the house near a second story window.  Do I also need some type of lightning arrestor?  If so could you post a link to Amazon?
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Expert Comment

by:Fred Marshall
ID: 40444603
Assuming that you're running coax of the LM400 variety then:

http://www.amazon.com/Wilson-Electronics-Lightning-Protector-Connectors/dp/B00BYF8LJ2

This one includes the coax you'll need to go from the arrestor to the antenna.  Then, of course, you'll need a ground wire that's suitable and connect it to a ground stake or ....
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