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High Gain WiFi Antennas: How To Get Free Internet With Long Range Wifi Adapters

By "Eve L. Genius"        

About Me: I am the Information Technology Manager and Network Administrator for a large company that manufactures golf carts. At our large facility near Atlanta, which includes four outbuildings, of which the farthest is over one half mile from the main office, we use the components that I describe in this article to establish a strong wireless network. If you have any questions about how to establish a long range WiFi network feel free to contact me here:

There are now high power, long range WiFi adapters and antennas that can help you pick up a free WiFi signal up to several miles away. These high gain WiFi adapters are more powerful that the one that is embedded in your laptop or connected to your desktop.

In these tough economic times many people are looking for ways to save on expenses like internet. With the products mentioned in this article you can share a connection or get free WiFi internet, even if it is a mile or more away! There have been successful wireless internet connections using 802.11 G over 100 miles across Salt Lake In Utah! While the gear in this article is not for range of that distance you can get well over a mile. All you need is a clear signal path, free of hills, buildings and other obstacles.

When you set up a wireless network in you home the origin from which the WiFi signal is transmitted is called the router. The  terminal point which is located either in your laptop computer or attached to your  laptop or desktop computer by USB or a PCI slot on the rear  of a desktop is called a wireless adapter. A wireless adapter is only as good as it's antenna and transmit power. To get longer range you need a better antenna and more power to link up with a distant router.

How WiFi Works        

802.11 b/g Wireless uses a frequency of 2.4 Gigahertz, part of the microwave end of the radio spectrum. Typically your laptop's wireless adapter only transmits around 50 milliwatts (mw).  High powered, aftermarket long range WiFi  adapters  may transmit as much as one watt (1000mw) and you can connect to them to a high gain 2.4 Ghz panel antenna (14 dB or greater) that is mounted outside the home or vehicle. 

These long range WiFi adapter - antenna combinations can often pick up WiFi signals up to a mile or more away. One application where they could be used is by RV'ers in a large park to pick up the WiFi network at the far end of the site.

What You Need For Very Long Range Wi-Fi

I recommend the USB type of wireless adapter sold by Alfa or Engenius plus a high - gain panel antenna. It is what we use on our computers around the facility where I work. It works for both PC's and desktops and you can take the USB long range WiFi adapter from computer to computer easily.   You only need to install the driver, that comes on CD, to each computer you plan to use it on. Once the driver is installed you click on the utility and search for networks and connect to the one that is the strongest.

Sharing A Wireless Internet Connection With Long Range WiFi Antennas and High Power Wireless Adapters

A long range wireless adapter and antenna can even be used to share your neighbor or family member's internet connection, even if they are several blocks away. Most long range WiFi adapters such as the one below feature a RP-SMA antenna port that you can connect a high gain, directional antenna to. With these long range directional WiFi antennas you can pick up wireless internet signals at an amazing distance. You can use the panel WiFi antenna and cable below on your router as well if it has a removable antenna with the standard RP-SMA connector. In the case of a router with two antennas, simply unscrew one antenna and attach the cable going to the outside panel antenna and you can beam the signal toward the other location.

  There are some factors that affect long range WiFi reception. Weather, such as rain between the sending and receiving point, objects such as trees and buildings and the number of users that may be connected to that access point. You should always try and get the antenna as high as possible, outside the home or vehicle.

Here is what I Recommend for Super Long Range Wireless Internet...

Start With An Engenius or Alfa USB Wireless Adapter. Engenius is known for industrial-quality ultra long range cordless phones and wireless adapters. The Engenius model below transmits a full 200 mw, more than enough for a long range connection and Alfa models put out 1000mw which can help reach out even farther.

Next, add in an 18 Db gain panel antenna.  Then, to connect the two you will need a cable that has an N type connector for the panel antenna and an RP-SMA connector for the Engenius adapter. The  PRE ASSEMBLED cable below is 15'. You won't want to have cable runs much longer than that for most applications because of signal loss. 15' should get you outside the house where you can mount the antenna on an exterior wall. The bracket from an old DirecTV satellite dish works great to mount the antenna on or you can simply attach it to a piece of pipe.

That's it. Once you are up and running try adjusting the antenna in very small increments to see what WiFi signals you can pick up. From my home I can pick up over 30 Wifi Networks, half of them are open, including the Starbucks, although weak, at ten miles away.

  ++ = Very Long Range WiFi*

Here Is How To Put Your Long Range WiFi System Together...

To build yourself a very long range WiFi system that will allow you to pick up wireless internet at a distance, you will need all three of the following items: One High Power USB Wireless LAN adapter, One 2.4 Ghz Panel Antenna and One Low Loss Pre-Assembled cable. (see below). Note: If you are sending your own WiFi to an outbuilding or other location, you will need a second panel antenna and cable assembly to attach to the router where you have your broadband modem.

+ = One Mile Or More Range* Great for picking up your neighbor's network*.

How To Rebroadcast A Distant WiFi Signal Again Inside Your Home

The equipment shown above can be used to pick up a distant wireless internet signal for use on one computer. If you want to rebroadcast the signal via wireless (sort of like "doubly repeated WiFi,") you will need to use a special repeater such as the one below. The Alfa models allow you to rebroadcast wireless internet that you have picked up with a high - gain antenna and adapter and share it with any wireless enabled device in the home by creating a hotspot. You can actually create a second WiFi hotspot from the original one by using this method. The Alfa R26 should work with an Engenius adapter, but so far I've only used an Alfa adapter with an Alfa repeater. So far I've had good luck with the Alfa products.


*Note that your range with any of the long range WiFi adapters and antennas above depends on the router's placement and antenna it uses. If you are using the components above to connect to your own router at a distance, you may want to add an external antenna to the router too. The panel antenna above, and cable, can connect to most routers with an RP-SMA connector. Between the two panel antennas you may expect range up to five miles or more with no obstructions in the way.  My longest WiFi connection using these components at home has been 12 miles so far. Your range may vary depending on obstacles and the availability of open wireless networks in your area.  Note, you should always enable your wireless router's security key to keep your home network safe.  Eve*

*Note: Using the following components together may exceed the FCC's power limits if used in the USA. Use at your own discretion since each country has different laws regarding maximum output power of 802.11 B/G WiFi equipment. You can find out which antennas are legal by contacting the manufacturer. You can find the FCC approval code on your router or wireless adapter and find a list of approved antennas designed to work with it.  Picking up your neighbor's wireless network should be with their permission only.




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