I'm sure that logging onto their Internet connection from my home wasn't exactly what these businesses had in mind when they advertised, “Free Internet” but hey, it looked like an open invitation to me! So I took them up on it. Actually, there are three businesses I can I can log onto from my house that advertise Free Internet. The closest is just over a half mile away, the other two are a few tenths farther.
Now, you're probably thinking… these guys must have a powerful router for me to be able to pick up a WIFI signal from that far away. Truth is; they don't. They're using standard off-the-shelf routers connected to the Internet through an ISP just like everyone else. The trick to accomplishing this feat is on my end.
In order to get the maximum range in a WIFI connection, you either need a powerful transmitter or a powerful receiver. The government limits the power of the transmitter, so to make this connection; it's the antenna design that's important.
This isn't something new. Antenna modeling has been going on since Nikola Tesla first started experimenting with wireless communication back in the 1890s. WIFI is just an extension of that early technology. The range on most WIFI routers is only about 300 feet. But with a good home built antenna, this range can be extended tremendously. My connection is rock solid.
To those of you that have trouble getting a good connection from one end of your house to the other, this might seem impossible, but with a custom antenna, it's pretty common. The current WIFI long distance record for unamplified ‘stock' routers is 238 miles! That's just using antenna technology.
So, how expensive are these antennas and where can you get them? You can buy them, but commercial versions are over $100. The least expensive way to acquire one is to build it yourself. It's easy and it will only cost you about $10 to $15. When you think of what you spend on Internet service charges each year… that's a drop in the bucket.
There are two types of WIFI antennas you can build… Yagi and Waveguide. The Yagi is pretty complicated for a beginner. The Waveguide, or antenna, is something a ten year old can build in an afternoon. About all it consists of is a tin can and a USB Internet adapter.
Of course, the can has to be a certain size and shape, and the USB adapter has to fit into it in exactly the right place in order for it work properly. But that's no problem if you can follow simple instructions. It's also easy to step up this antenna's power by adding additional parts. It's the advanced designs that are the most interesting.
The best place to find building instructions and more about WIFI antennas is to log onto Amazon's online book store and type, “FREE Internet” into their search engine. This will bring up several books that will show you exactly how to build these and even more powerful WIFI antennas. Book prices range from $5 to $20. The books at the top are the most popular.
Not only was this a fun, afternoon project, but I figure it will save me about $500 a year from here on. Or at least until they take the, “FREE Internet” sign down!