What is the longest range wifi wireless gear you can buy?

by David Davis on January 1, 2008

I recently had an email from a Happy Router .com visitor. Here is his question:

Hi David,
What is the best Wireless access point to have for setting up Hotspot to connect to my Gateway within a 20+ Mile radius. Do you have an example configuration to hand to perform this?

Wow, this is a challenging question. I will give this question my best shot. Maybe there are other HappyRouter.com members that have had experience in this. If so, please post your comments!

Here is my response-

Honestly, I have never seen or heard of any wireless gear or technology that would create a circular (omnidirectional) wifi hotspot that is about 20 miles in circumference.

Now, you may be talking about cellular gear – like what is used in cellular towers (3G). It can do data and has long range but usually at slower speeds than wifi (maybe 512k-3MB) however, you need a cellular data card and probably hundreds of thousands of dollars to get that type of gear.

With wifi 802.11b, g, or pre-n, the range is usually that of a typical house. In fact, the signal from my 802.11g wireless gear barely reaches from one side of my house to another. Outdoors, I have heard about 300 feet.

Now, a new option for you that gets you closer is Wimax. It generally has a range of about 10miles, maybe up to 20 in ideal conditions. Still, the people connecting will need wimax adaptors (not 802.11b, g or pre-n). I think that Wimax is the best bet for you.

I am trying to picture why you would want a hotspot that is 20 miles around. The only think I can picture is like a huge rock concert of festival. I have read articles about those where they setup wifi access-points every 300 feet, or whatever, and covered the area with them. That is usually what has to be done.

Now, you said “hotspot” to me that is a wireless area with a circular shape (an omnidirectional antenna). You can put a directional antenna on wifi gear, add an amp, and, maybe, just maybe, you could go a few of 10 miles. Not sure exactly as I have never had to go more than maybe 1000 ft. I have done that with some Cisco 1300 bridges. It works great but it isn’t a “hotspot” it is a site to site wireless connection to connect buildings.

In the end, I think that wimax is the best option to check out. Here are some links:
WiMax Link 1
WiMax Link 2

I hope that helps you out! Please post your response here in the forum. And, if you are interested in wireless Networking, please checkout this wireless
networking video training series that I created:
TrainSignal Wireless Networking Training – help you achieve your certified wireless networking administrator (CWNA) certification, 15 hours in length – learn all about wireless security!

David Davis

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous 04.19.08 at 2:36 pm

Hey Guys,We have multiple sites with over 500 users and because we have a lot of users who are walking around the construction
facility we needed a way to communicate to them leveraging off our voip system. We found some wireless gear made by Tropos which mesh off each other and have a handover function so it won’t interrupt your voip calls to wireless voip phones. Tropos has been used to wireless mesh whole cities and when you see their outdoor wireless units you will soon see why. I have never seen such a serious wireless unit before. Well worth a look and have a very strong range. http://www.tropos.com/products/

Anonymous 04.19.08 at 2:36 pm

Dear all, I want to ask things about Tropos, is it even better in range than Cisco Aironet types? Because I’ve implemented Cisco Aironet and we’re quite satisfied with the range.Thanks

Anonymous 04.19.08 at 2:36 pm

I know of at least one service provider using Ruckus Wireless equipment for city wireless. If you read about the technology it’s quite interesting.http://www.ruckuswireless.com/

Anonymous 04.19.08 at 2:37 pm

RAD is the famous player in wireless technology. I have some experience in WiMax/Wireless for WAN links. You can definitely go for
RADWIN or some other players. RADWIN is little expensive. To say most wireless companies are from Israel. You can search for wireless appliance vendor on israeli sites. If you buy customized circuit board its damn cheap. For 5 kilometer range single antena costs around 1500 US$. I suggest you to check
RADWIN. They are true leaders in wireless specifically.All the best, Amey.

Anonymous 04.19.08 at 2:37 pm

Tropos is still inferior to Strix.http://www.strixsystems.com/

Anonymous 04.19.08 at 2:37 pm

Amey, Is RADWIN 802.11 compatible? or rather can i use my 802.11abg on the RADWIN Network.

Anonymous 04.19.08 at 2:37 pm

I think the interpretation of the original question is incorrect which is leading to some “odd” answers regarding design and equipment manufacturers.As pointed out, the short answer is that one single link (even Wimax) doesn’t work in 20 mile distances. That has to do with many different factors, but one of the important ones is wavelength size of the RF used and its susceptibility to various kinds of interference.

Now, my take on the question asked was how to set up a hotspot to connect to his gateway. The hotspot itself may well have an omnidirectional antenna, but that’s just for local access, not backhaul. IMHO, he/she’s asking about how to backhaul to his gatway. From a wireless standpoint, you can use parabolic antenna to increase your distance on P2P connections, but for 20 miles, you will need to look into some other medium such as microwave or laser. In the long-run, those are incredibly expensive methods for access there and you’ll be much better off nabbing a cable/dsl line and setting up an IPSec tunnel in order to backhaul your traffic to your gateway.

If you really were asking about a giant hotspot, my bad, but I think you already have answers. 🙂


Anonymous 04.19.08 at 2:38 pm

I realize I am commenting a bit late. However, my first response is: Please rephrase the question with what are you trying to
accomplish? Hotspot means a location with a Wireless Network Available usually providing internet access to those associated. The Gateway is usually the device that is part of the Network that is connected to the Internet. 20+ Miles is a range or distance. I am not understanding entirely what the actual question is?
1) What Access Point provides the best wireless conversion of ethernet tcp/ip connectivity?
2) What Access Point provides the best connectivity for a 20+ mile Link.
3) What Access Points provide the best coverage of a 20+ Mile Radius?
If I were to assume that what is needed is a 20+ Mile Data Link, then you would first need Two 100? plus towers to overcome the Earths horizon. Then you would need two AP/Bridge Devices with proper antenna’s to create this link. The Data Rate to be achieved would be the deciding factor on the AP/bridge selection. As for connecting to a gateway, this would a controller of sorts if you are trying to create a t-mobile/starbucks type of hotspot (assuming you aren’t trynig to offer connectivity after the expense of setting up the 20+ mile link)
In summation, at the current time there is no Access Point that is capable of connecting to a Gateway at 20+ miles.

arsin 03.08.10 at 3:01 am

how we can buy that router upto 5 miles range and to manage the wifi userrs with their own security and bandwith control?

Allan Gabriel 02.16.12 at 7:09 am

How best to get Wi-Fi from my main house to my cottage which is 130 feet away without having an added line in?? and separate modem?? My currant modem is a standard one that just supplies the main house with Wi-Fi.
Any help would be appreciated. Thanks,

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