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Long Distance Wireless Bridge (AKA: Free Internets) by Brett

Want to share one network and internet connection between multiple buildings? Need to stay connected to work, but hate the speed of VPN? Too cheap to pay for your own damn internet? All the above? It’s time to take your wireless network to the next level. Enter the gear:

04-09-2005 037Two or more wireless bridges (I like the multimode bridges, so they can be repurposed later in life), external antennas (type will vary depending on your connection specifics and geography), pigtails to connect the antenna to the bridge, and plenty of CAT 5e cable.

P2120076My bridge system has been through different stages over the years and has served me well. Before WDS, it was simply an access point with a client box and directional antenna pointed right at it. In that setup, I had to use a NAT device at the client end.

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As wireless bridging matured, I upgraded to WDS and swapped out the panel antenna with pole antennas to reach the added nodes.

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Sometimes it’s best to put these things up at night so the neighbors don’t- you know, what the hell, let them wonder. I like to avoid POE when the run is short as you can see, but that’s just my preference.


I’m not saying polarization doesn’t matter, because on paper it does, but for some reason, this antenna liked to be horizontally polarized. Perhaps it has something to do with that nice aluminum siding reflector?


There are a lot of variables to consider when planning a wireless bridge. Its outside the scope of this document to tell you exactly what you need, but I can offer some tips:

  1. Keep your antenna cables short. 2.4GHz will lose a lot of power in a short amount of cable. That’s why it’s usually best to mount the bridge outside, as close to the antenna as possible.
  2. Paint your plastic boxes. If you plan on using plastic food containers like I did, paint them when you are done. Make it a reflective color or any light color, like white if you have it. The paint will block a lot of the UV rays from the sun and will extend the useable life of the containers. The light color will keep the inside a little cooler than if you were to use say black (don’t!). They will still probably have to be replaced after about 5 years. Without paint, they will probably only last 2 (3 if you have partial shade as mine did). An alternative would be to cover the container with something that can stand UV torture. In my current system, the plastic containers are just sitting inside an old empty computer case on the roof- Take that mother nature!
  3. Treat your lumber. I know you have a can of polyurethane around somewhere just waiting for you to fight with it to get it open. Use it. Otherwise you may find your wireless system on the ground one morning a few years later as I did after the 2x4’s rotted straight through. Brings a whole new meaning to “The internet is down.”
  4. Clear a path people. You need a mostly unobstructed path between points. 2.4GHz signals will be stopped easily by anything in the way. If you can see from one site to the next, you’ve got it made. If not, you might have to get higher. In my setup, there were a few trees that would block my clear path in the spring, but since I was only going about 2 blocks away, it wasn’t an issue. Omni directional antennas will help with that too.
  5. Cold. Not as big a deal as I thought it’d be. The system has survived 6 Michigan winters without one problem due to cold. Fact is, like most electronics, they seem to do great in the cold! (I’m sure there is a limit, but that’s probably near –30 degrees)


Most importantly, have fun!


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