Ask LH: Can I Set Up Long Range Wi-Fi?

Ask LH: Can I Set Up Long Range Wi-Fi?

Dear Lifehacker, I’ve read your article on Wi-Fi boosting and was wondering if you can touch on ‘long range Wi-Fi? I have a business about 2km away from my rental house. Because I’m at work for most of the time, I don’t see it as logical to pay for an additional plan ; which is why I’d like to connect to my business network instead. One big problem I have is that even though my house is just two kilometres away, there are other tall buildings in front of it (not a clear line of sight). Any suggestions? Thanks, Need Free Internetz

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Dear NFI,

Alas, our suggestion is this: you’re going to need a home internet plan. Wi-Fi is not a long-range technology. On its own, there’s no way you’re going to get your office signal to travel two kilometres. As tenants the world over can attest, it can sometimes be a challenge to get it to travel from one room to the next. But at least in your house you can install repeaters.

There’s no obvious way of convincing every household each few hundred metres between you and your business to install a repeater. Even if you could, you’d have to pay for the hardware and (potentially) offer to share your network with those home owners as well. In the end, it would almost certainly be cheaper to just buy another connection.

There are community networking associations (Melbourne Wireless springs to mind) that aim to create public wireless networks over a wide area. Note, however, that these aren’t designed to share internet access. They’re great ventures that will teach you a lot about networking and help you share resources, but they won’t solve your particular problem.

If you really don’t want to pay for a separate home account, you have a couple of options. If you’re using the net for downloading media torrents, you could do that in the office and copy the files to a drive for viewing at home. If your mobile has a relatively generous data allowance, you could use that for home access. But if you really want to have a shot at using your office connection at home as well as work, you’ll need to move across the street from your business, or set up business at home.

Cheers Lifehacker

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  • The other option is using a Microwave system that is operating on an unlicensed band though that does require line of sight to do. While you might think you don’t have line of sight, how different would that be if you had five/ten meter poles on top of your house and business? Would that be enough to get over the top of the buildings in the way?
    The first bit of searching that I did turned up a company called Wave1 which might suit if you can get around the line of sight issues.

    • This is the only viable solution, but it’s expensive to implement ie in the range of $1000 to DIY.
      There’s a few threads on Whirlpool mostly with country users who have set up a Tesltra 3G dongle in a solar powered box on top of a hill and then fire the signal down to their house in the valley.

  • Dear NFI and Lifehacker,
    I am pretty sure that if you have to transmit wifi over public domain, you are breaking some laws, as only the internet providers are able to offer this kind of service. So, not only it is not practical, but it is also against the law.
    PS: maybe a naked deal would be an option for you with cheap ADSL or ADSL2.

  • Even if you could use WiFi over that distance, the power required to transmit the signal between buildings would almost certainly violate Australian regulations on transmissions. You can’t transmit above a certain dBm value, even in unlicensed frequency bands (like WiFi).

  • Dial up modem at the home and office would be an option, but the speed of dial up is pretty bad, unless you don’t load any media or applets (so text based browsing).

  • There are plenty of people in the FPV community (flying model planes via video link) that are transmitting video 10+km on 2.4Ghz or 5.8Ghz spectrum, using small low-power 12V transmitters.

    If you can achieve line-of-sight between the two premises, I wouldn’t mind betting that a couple of well-designed directional antennas would easily do the job. I don’t know what data speed you might expect to achieve, but the radio link should be possible.

  • Not sure that’s great advice – under some situations it’s certainly possible. I did it 10 years ago over 1.5km with only a few trees blocking LoS.
    Used cheapo Minitar 802.11b APs, connected to old Galaxy pay TV dishes (basically 18db parabolic grid antennas) mounted on the roof of the two houses we were trying to connect.
    Once we got some firmware issues sorted out it worked well for about 3 years. Plenty fast enough to keep up with the 512/128 ADSL connections of the time.
    Sure it would have been better to get an ADSL connection at the second house, but Telstra refused the connection due to being too far from the exchange. This was a great workaround.

  • Your have a business. The outlay is tax deductible. Internet is hell of a lot cheaper than it used to be. If your business is that badly off that you cannot afford one of its most essential tools, your in a lot of trouble.
    Failing that
    a) move the business next to McDonalds
    b) use next door’s wi-fi connection.

    • This is also a great suggestion…
      Pay your neighbor $10-20/month to share their connection. That’s usually sufficient to increase their data allowance to the next level if necessary.

    • +1

      If a business can’t afford a “Home” internet plan then it’s model is setup to fail. Not to mention those Businesses using these services and not paying extra for an SLA.

      Sounds harsh but if your primary source of revenue relies on this it needs the most attention.

    • +1 to Freenet.

      They set me up with a 1km wifi link from work to home. $410 kit including cables (Ubiquiti loco M5 from memory), BYO poles to achieve line of site. Very helpful staff. Our internet is actually faster via work than is was via the home ADSL connection- must be a long cable run.

      This set up is apparently good for 30km line of site and still Australian legal.

  • Have a look at we have one of their out door ones ZoneFlex 7731 and it says it can do up to 15 kilometers between the 2 ends. we have it only over 200 Mtrs so haven’t tried that distance. but it is brilliant. Plug it in point it at the other end and it just bridges between 2 Switches.

    Expensive for home use but way cheaper than microwave for a business

    • I seccond that Ruckus make amazing equipment although they can be expensive. Another commercial sollution i have used before are the Ligo Wave wireless links. A quickle final (and even more expensive option) is a laser link but they start at ~$5k

  • I use a mobile with a woolies sim, gives me 5 gig of internet every 45 days. Tether your mobile or do what I do and use a windows 7 phone with internet sharing and connect to it with a laptop easily.

  • get a home net account with the same isp as your work one.
    home account low bandwidth cheapest option as you will get free traffic on its network.
    then vpn all traffic through to your business.

    • Or just use the business log-in from the home account.
      As long as your business modem is never connected at the same time as the home one.
      As I understand it, this is strictly speaking not allowed, but it does work. (I’ve connected using my account details from my parent’s house who use the same ISP. I did it because their data allowance was pitifully small and I was doing a fresh Windows install with Service Pack updates)

  • Any kind of setup is going to cost more than a years worth of internet fee’s for a home internet connection on a cheap plan……. and since your in a rental property you could move at anytime (maybe closer or further away) which means all the tech you just forked out for is potentially useless. Just get a cheap internet plan at home…….

  • I know this sounds silly, but can you bounce a signal off something? I’m not an expert but it will create noise but isn’t the wifi fft idea based on bounced signals and multiple delayed echoes?

    • It’s not a silly idea, that’s how shortwave radio works, and given that WiFi is a type of radio wave, it is theoretically possible, though practically infeasible to be bouncing it off the ionsphere for a short distance like 2km.

      Probably better to set up a repeating network, like this:
      Having said that, for the price, security and amount of ‘potatoes’ you’d need, might as well get a DSL connection installed.

  • An internet connection can be as low as $40 a month from MyNetFone. Use your mobile at home as suggested, and a adsl connection to your business. It’s not like an extra connection will cost $1000 per month.

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