Originally Posted by bobalpep
I've heard of internet access for a laptop which uses cat-5 (fiber optic)cable and is supposed to be superior to a wi-fi range extender antenna. I understand it is about 2X the cost of a range extender but I can't find any more info on this setup. Can anyone help me out?
I'm still having trouble figuring out what you're asking for.
Basically, there are two methods of enhancing the reception
of Wi-Fi signals:
- add an external high-gain antenna to your existing PC's Wi-Fi adapter using special low-loss antenna coax
- add an external Wi-Fi radio adapter, placing it up high with the antenna, and connect to it using one of three methods:
- USB-connected Wi-Fi modem
- Ethernet (Cat 5 cable) -connected Wi-Fi modem, known as a client bridge.
- Wi-Fi-"connected" external adapter, known as a wireless Wi-Fi client bridge
With the first method, you're keeping the WiFi radio
directly attached to the computer and running a long cable to the external antenna. You suffer signal loss that way, so a low-loss coax cable is required to route
the received signal to the radio. With the second method, you're putting the Wi-Fi radio out high where it's right next to the antenna and there's negligible signal loss. The WiFi radio converts the radio signals into digital bits, which are easily sent over a USB cable (16 feet normally, but that can be extended to 30-40 sometimes) or an Ethernet cable (more than 300').
You can think of the first method as putting a roof-top TV antenna on your house and running coax (or the old twinlead) back to your TV's antenna input. The second method would be somewhat analogous to installing a high-gain pre-amplifier at the base of the TV antenna to boost the received signals right at the antenna before injecting them into the lossy coax cable running back to your TV. With a better, stronger signal the chances are it won't be degraded by losses in the cable on its way to your TV tuner.
The second method usually turns out to be as cheap
as the first because USB WiFi modems and PoE-powered (PoE means "Power over Ethernet") Wi-Fi client bridges are usually dirt cheap
- on the order of $50-100 or less. You can easily pay that much or more for a 50' length of LMR-400 low-loss coax cable to hook up an external high-gain antenna. The drawback of the second method is that it's a bit more complicated.
My personal preference is option (2-2). I have a 12Vdc-powered media/navigation PC onboard, which is connected to my stereo, and to my helm chartplotter
via both NMEA 0183
and Ethernet. The PC, in turn, is connected to a nice little home wireless Wi-Fi router from a company called Buffalo, and our laptops connect to it (we both work full-time from the boat as consultants). The Wi-Fi signal from the router is encrypted (WPA2/AES) and is for our use only.
That wireless router in a home environment
would normally connect to a cable/DSL/FiOS broadband modem
via an Ethernet (Cat-5) cable. But I connected it to a Ubiquiti Bullet2HP Wi-Fi client bridge with a high-gain antenna, both of which I installed up our mizzen mast
. So the Wi-Fi bridge is mounted up high, so it has a clear view of any neighboring Wi-Fi access points offering Wi-Fi Internet service
The nice thing about our setup is that we can work from anywhere on the boat with our laptops, and get access to our media server to watch videos or TV, or to backup work documents, digital photos, and music
files (MP3s), or to even run navigation software
from our laptops if we're too lazy to run to the PC or the helm chartplotter
. At the same time, any of our laptops can access the Internet thru the "internal" Wi-Fi router's WAN port - which as I said is connected to the external Bullet Wi-Fi client bridge.
The advantage of our system is that there's security
firewalls in both the internal wireless router and the external client bridge (which I've setup in router mode). It's very similar in concept
to how large companies protect their networks with "layered security". And if the long-range Wi-Fi Internet signal goes down for whatever reason, we can still access the media/file server for our work and entertainment.
If all that sounds complicated, you can just get a USB Wi-Fi modem adapter and a USB extender cable (or two!), and just run the cable out a hatch
and hang the modem over the boom, dodger
, or bimini
. And most of these do have an external antenna port, so you can connect a high-gain omnidirectional Wi-Fi antenna to it - and have the antenna permanently mounted up high on your bimini
frame, or even a backstay.
There's more talk in some threads in the Electronics: Communications & Audio Visual
forum if you want more information.