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DIY: Outdoor Wireless Access Point/Signal Repeater

outdoor-wifi.jpgIn my previous post, I went over how I created a weatherproof Wi-Fi camera rig. I decided to write a separate entry about how I got Wi-Fi signal to the camera during the construction process of my new home.

This project was installed about a year and a half ago and has been functioning since. There have been times I needed to reboot the repeater throughout the year, so it’s not like you can install it forget about it (unless you buy commercial products, not a Linksys). You also have to keep an eye out for growing shrubs and trees, since that will limit your signal over time.

First up, you’re going to have to have access to an internet connection (DSL/Cable). I had the luxury of having my parents near by, so I didn’t have to deal with any neighbors trying to secure an internet connection during construction (check your area and see if anyone has their wireless wide open… you might just want to repeat that signal).

I hope this post gives you some ideas as how to easily setup an access point outside your home. Maybe you have a park across the way that you’d love to work at, but can’t because you need to be connected… this project can surely make it possible.

Lets begin.

The Parts List:
- A HyperLink 8db Compact Omnidirectional 2.4ghz Antenna or a HyperLink 8db Patch Antenna
- UPDATED: Use two Ubiquiti NanoStation loco M5,  Ubiquiti PicoStation M2HP 2.4GHz 802.11g/n High Power Access Point or EnGenius Long Range 2.4GHz Wireless Bridge/Access Points as the Linksys WAP11‘s 802.11b Access Point is no longer available.  The Ubiquiti and EnGenius is waterproof however you may still want to house it in a box for other components you may have in there or you can use any other WiFi router/bridge models that support repeater mode (or flash with DD-WRT).
- 1 – 10″x10″x4″ PVC enclosure from Home Depot or Amazon.com
- Misc PVC parts for Antenna Mast attachment, PVC Glues, Silicon, etc (found at Home Depot)
- Automotive Grade double-sided foam tape to attach parts in box
- A few power tools… drill, screw, etc.

If doing Power-Over-Ethernet (not repeater mode), you’ll also need:
- Cat5e Connection Box
- Digital Multi Meter (DMM) or Volt Meter (to check cable resistance)
- Cat5e cable (outdoor direct burial type)
- New power supply to accommodate length of cat5e cable (or use PoE).

You’ll need to find an enclosure that will fit your access point. outdoor-wifi-2.jpgMost of the time, the case is bigger than the actual electronics inside… so if you are having trouble finding a case, you can always dismantle the access point/repeater, however, this will void your warranty. For my WAP11, I took some measurements and headed to my local Home Depot. I found they had a 10″x10″x4″ PVC box that looked perfect for this project.


outdoor-wifi-4.jpg
I wanted the status LEDs to show thru the bottom of the enclosure so I had to remove the front of the WAP11. The photos above show how I did this. I took the front part and stacked it on the back of the WAP11. This gave me some support and the height was perfectly in the middle. I marked and drilled the 3 LED holes. I filled them up with clear silicon so the LED lights could still shine thru. I also attached some double-sided foam tape so I could secure it in the enclosure.

outdoor-wifi-1.jpg

In the photo on the right, you can see the complete naked enclosure. My first attempt was to have a full outdoor Access Point. To do this, you need a wired ethernet connection and power. So I took the PoE (Power over Ethernet) route. That worked for about a year, but, because I didn’t used outdoor grade cat5e cable when I buried it, one day it suddenly stopped working. I think a rat ate it or it just corroded. If you are planning on doing PoE, then you’ll want to follow this guide and BE SURE TO USE outdoor rated Cat5e cable!! If you don’t want to deal with volt meters and ohm’s law, the check out Hyperlink’s PoE solution.

The 8db compact Hyperlink omnidirectional antenna I used has a mast attachment, so I bought a 2″ PVC pipe and cap and attached the antenna to that. I only attached one external antenna, so I’m not doing a true diversity system like the Linksys originally had. You can turn off the other antenna or keep it on… your tests may yield different results. Omnidirectional is great if you want to spread the 8db signal over 360 degrees. Sometimes you want to use a directional antenna. Let’s say the park you want to check email at is right across the street, and the the picnic table 30 degrees to the right. You could use a patch antenna and blanket just that area with a full 8db. So instead of an 8db (or whatever) omnidirectional antenna, which spreads that 8db over 360 degrees, you can give a 30 degree spread more of the 8db signal.

outdoor-wifi-5.jpg
Next, I attached all the cables to the WAP11 and powered it up. Again, if you are setting your system up as just a repeater, then all you need is power. If you are setting it up as an outdoor access point, then you’ll need to provide power and ethernet. Having done both, I like the repeater method. It’s easier than running a cable… but you spend more because you need another WAP11 to act as the main access point.After I mounted everything inside, I found an area I thought would work the best and did all the network setups. Then I ran some tests. Depending on tree coverage and any structures, there is pretty good coverage… it can only get better with more access points and/or bigger antennas. Flat, clear areas do better than hilly, treed areas (trees suck up the signal and metal structures reflect) For now, the coverage is pretty much want I need… but I’m thinking about putting a Wi-Fi Amplifier on the repeaters. That should really light up the block… and maybe even a visit from the FCC!Below is an “artists rendering” of my signal spread. My terrain is a bit hilly, so I don’t get the same coverage as if I were on flat lands.

wifi-map.jpg

Total cost? Under $500.

  • Fabe

    Hi , Im in south america. Argentina.
    Internet access is via long range wifi.
    Im wondering if you might help.
    I have a large 2.4gig rooftop antennae. Id like some pointers on how , using 2 access pointws I can bring in the signal to my home.
    I cannot reach anything with any wificard , as they are not at this time connected to the large antennae.
    One access point would be used to bring in the signal from the antennae to the second acces point in the house, thereby eliminating a long cable run.
    Ond is an smc web g the other one is an old 3com with an internal only antennae. I think the question is ” how should i configure the aps to attain the signal from the large grill antennae.
    Thanks
    Fabe, Argentina

  • Fabe

    Hi , Im in south america. Argentina.
    Internet access is via long range wifi.
    Im wondering if you might help.
    I have a large 2.4gig rooftop antennae. Id like some pointers on how , using 2 access pointws I can bring in the signal to my home.
    I cannot reach anything with any wificard , as they are not at this time connected to the large antennae.
    One access point would be used to bring in the signal from the antennae to the second acces point in the house, thereby eliminating a long cable run.
    Ond is an smc web g the other one is an old 3com with an internal only antennae. I think the question is ” how should i configure the aps to attain the signal from the large grill antennae.
    Thanks
    Fabe, Argentina

  • Ken Martin

    The OE-254 Mentioned above is for much lower frequencies then used with wifi. True it is a great area radio antenna array and has been used for years . I would think you would be very limited using this array for Wireless.
    If you have found different,Please let me know. I have been a Tech with the Army for 30 Years.

  • http://n/a Ken Martin

    The OE-254 Mentioned above is for much lower frequencies then used with wifi. True it is a great area radio antenna array and has been used for years . I would think you would be very limited using this array for Wireless.
    If you have found different,Please let me know. I have been a Tech with the Army for 30 Years.

  • Kai

    Sweet

  • http://Tags Kai

    Sweet

  • Adam Taylor

    Have you looked at replacing the AP with a router compatible with DD-WRT, it lets you do some nice distributed wireless setups, schedule reboots automatically, use it as a repeater and adjust Tx power.

    Also check out using KNSGEM with Netstumbler. It lets you make exact coverage maps that can be displayed in Google Earth, neat.

  • Adam Taylor

    Have you looked at replacing the AP with a router compatible with DD-WRT, it lets you do some nice distributed wireless setups, schedule reboots automatically, use it as a repeater and adjust Tx power.

    Also check out using KNSGEM with Netstumbler. It lets you make exact coverage maps that can be displayed in Google Earth, neat.

  • http://www.kimbley.com Kimbley Computer Services

    Think I will have to have a go at this. Would be nice to work in the Garden with a decent connection.

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  • Salman

    how about using cantenna for directional and long range signal

    • Danny Mavromatis

      Yes, that is possible.

  • William Kendrick

    it seems a bit narcissistic though. if you dont want others using your wifi, why extend it so far? so you can read in the park? what a douche. use your wifi at home asshole. then you cant complain if someone steals your shit. there’s a reason wifi routers are created for personal use – and its not because they want to make you pay for a repeater – its to keep your web hidden.