Using a satellite dish for Wi-Fi signal

Scavenger1814

Novice Member
Hi. Thanks in advance for any replies.

I have a trailer in a seasonal RV park. The trailer is permanent in that we don’t take it on the road. There’s a Wi-Fi hotspot provided by the park but the signal is weak at my site. I have line-of-sight to the hotspot. I also have an Archer C9 router that I’m not using. I’m wondering if it’s possible to boost the signal by using an old satellite dish that’s at my site. I watched this YouTube video () where a guy replaced the dish LNB with a USB antenna. He then ran a USB cable to a laptop and used the laptop as a hotspot in his trailer. That could work for me (assuming my old/cheap laptop can be a Wi-Fi hotspot), but I was hoping I could connect directly between my unused router and the satellite dish so I don’t have to have the laptop running all the time.

Since my Archer C9 router only has an Ethernet port for its input, can I just use a USB-to-Ethernet adapter for the transition? I’m guessing a USB antenna gets power from the USB port, and I don’t know if that power would be provided over the Ethernet cable.

Richard
 

mickevh

Distinguished Member
I've never done it, but it might work out simpler and involve a lot less head scratching to just buy a Wi-Fi antenna that is a parabolic reflector (and suitably hardened for outdoor use) rather than trying to roll your own and have to deal with all the wavelength calculations and so on. A quick Google finds products of the order of GBP 40-70. Perhaps compare that to the cost of the USB Wi-Fi transmitter "replacement" device plus USB-to-ethernet widget plus power supplies, etc. and see how big the difference is.

Regular ethernet does not convey power. However, there is something called Power Over Ethernet (POE) which does. At time of writing, there are a few variants of POE which essentially convey different amounts of maximum power. There are also some non-standard versions of POE. So the "game" is you need to ensure the POE powered equipment can utilise whatever POE variant is being used to "inject" the power onto the ethernet line. And/or vice-versa in that you procure a POE injector that is compatible with the POE end point. I prefer "proper" IEEE standards base POE rather than proprietary ones like "passive POE."

I tend to suspect most "USB-to-ethernet" devices are intended to turn a USB port into an ethernet port rather that "the other way around" so I suggest an abundance of caution in checking that whatever USB-to-ethernet device you select is doing what you want. Trying to talk over ethernet to something USB is of course additional complexity, if it's even possible. It's about more than just converting one format of electrical signals to another.

There's also "software" matters to consider - it's not just about "signals." Any solution needs to be capable of functioning as a Wi-Fi "client" in order to connect to the upstream (site) Access Point (AP.) That will either need to be vested in you "antenna" device (in which case it's more than just an "antenna") or your router. The latter could also be additionally complicated if you router doesn't know how to "talk" to your antenna.

If it were me, I'd avoid all this complexity and multiple levels of, so to speak, "lashing things up," and just go buy something designed for the job.
 
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Scavenger1814

Novice Member
I've never done it, but it might work out simpler and involve a lot less head scratching to just buy a Wi-Fi antenna that is a parabolic reflector (and suitably hardened for outdoor use) rather than trying to roll your own and have to deal with all the wavelength calculations and so on. A quick Google finds products of the order of GBP 40-70. Perhaps compare that to the cost of the USB Wi-Fi transmitter "replacement" device plus USB-to-ethernet widget plus power supplies, etc. and see how big the difference is.

Regular ethernet does not convey power. However, there is something called Power Over Ethernet (POE) which does. At time of writing, there are a few variants of POE which essentially convey different amounts of maximum power. There are also some non-standard versions of POE. So the "game" is you need to ensure the POE powered equipment can utilise whatever POE variant is being used to "inject" the power onto the ethernet line. And/or vice-versa in that you procure a POE injector that is compatible with the POE end point. I prefer "proper" IEEE standards base POE rather than proprietary ones like "passive POE."

I tend to suspect most "USB-to-ethernet" devices are intended to turn a USB port into an ethernet port rather that "the other way around" so I suggest an abundance of caution in checking that whatever USB-to-ethernet device you select is doing what you want. Trying to talk over ethernet to something USB is of course additional complexity, if it's even possible. It's about more than just converting one format of electrical signals to another.

There's also "software" matters to consider - it's not just about "signals." Any solution needs to be capable of functioning as a Wi-Fi "client" in order to connect to the upstream (site) Access Point (AP.) That will either need to be vested in you "antenna" device (in which case it's more than just an "antenna") or your router. The latter could also be additionally complicated if you router doesn't know how to "talk" to your antenna.

If it were me, I'd avoid all this complexity and multiple levels of, so to speak, "lashing things up," and just go buy something designed for the job.

Thanks. That’s fair enough and maybe I’m trying to over complicate things. It’s not that far (150’) from my trailer to the RV park provided wifi hotspot. The signal isn’t always strong enough so I just want to boost it a bit. My ignorance in understanding networks is a big part of my struggling with a solution. A have a few questions that might help with my understanding of the solution.

My TP-Link AC1900 router has three antennas on top. When I’d previously used the router it was to connect an ISP’s modem to the Internet port on the router. Now that I want to use the router to connect to a wifi hotspot can I remove one of the antennas and connect the coax from an external, directional antenna aimed at the hotspot? I presume the remaining two antennas will provide wifi connectivity for devices in my trailer, while the coax from the external antenna will be providing the incoming signal from the hotspot.

What router configuration is required so that it can connect to the hotspot?

A general question that I’ve always struggled with. I’ve seen wifi boosters and extenders mentioned whenever I’ve been looking for solutions to improve wifi. I’d always thought the two terms were interchangeable in that they were devices to push a wifi signal out further, and that they don’t enhance a weak incoming signal. Is that true? If it is then I presume that I do NOT need one of them.

Would a directional wifi antenna like this be appropriate for connecting to my router?
Amazon product

Thanks, again. 😁
 

mickevh

Distinguished Member
There is bit to unpick there, so bear with me. I am also going to address is in a different order from the more general to the specific.

I submit that a good metaphor for how Wi-Fi (indeed, any radio transmission) works, think of it like sound. Ask the question "if a thing 'here' was not making enough noise that I can 'hear' it well, how would I fix it...?" Pretty much whatever you would do for sound also holds for radio. Typically - transmit louder, remove any obstructions. move closer together or use an ear trumpet. Wi-Fi is already as "loud" as it is (legally) allowed to be and in your use case, moving closer and removing obstructions isn't available. Using parabolic (or any other directional antenna) is the "use an ear trumpet" option.

In the world of Wi-Fi terms like "booster" and "extender" don't really mean anything - it's "marketing" speak more than anything. Whereas Wi-Fi Access Points (AP's) and something called "Repeater" are a specific kind of "thing." A lot of (so-called) "boosters" and "extenders" are Repeaters, but one needs to dive into the datasheets and specifications to know for sure.

Nothing can actually "boost" any radio signal (or audio for that matter.) It is physically impossible. What such things like Repeaters do is make a copy of a transmission, wait for the airwaves to go quiet, then broadcast an almost verbatim copy of the original. In Wi-Fi "only one thing at a time can transmit." Repeaters are but one such "thing" and the more things there are that want to transmit, the more data they want to send, the more competition (it's anything but "fair") for some "air time." So Repeaters, whilst they "work," can seriously degrade the throughput which is a big deal if "speed" is you thing or signalling conditions are already poor. Ideally a Repeater needs to by physically positioned somewhere with good signalling conditions of the upstream node and the poor coverage area being targeted. So more like A---R---B and less like A-------RB. So again, not much help in your use case.

In the field of data networking a "router" and a Wi-Fi Access Point (AP) are very different and unrelated things. It just so happens that a SOHO "get-you-on-the-Internet" omni-box happens to contain both and more besides. There's a block diagram of the innards of a SOHO "router" attached to the "Using Two Routers Together" FAQ pinned in this forum. "Routers" sit at the "edge" of a network connecting the network to other networks, they don't sit in the "middle" bossing it. You don't need "routers" to "do Wi-Fi."

In the use case of a trailer park, or similar use case whereby you are "guesting" onto another network that is availed to you, you don't need your own "router" at all. However, I would still prefer to use my own as that would sequest anything in "my" trailer away from the traffic and any potential malware that someone else on site using the same network might have bought along.

Whether you can use any given SOHO router to form a Wi-Fi link "upstream" to another network is a matter of the capabilities of that router. Many cheap SOHO routers do not avail this, but it's a case of reading the manual and seeing what's on offer for any given device. Some after market kit does offer this and some of the after market "alternative" firmwares like DD-WRT and Tomato unlock such functionality. However, installing such after market firmwares will invalidate your warranty and may even "brick" the device, so you would very much do so at your own risk.

Even if your router has the ability to create a Wi-Fi based "upstream" link , I would be very surprised if a SOHO device was sophisticated enough to be able to be configured so that certain antenna are dedication to certain tasks - namely "uplink" on antenna 1 and client access on antenna 2 & 3 (or whatever.)

Wi-Fi kit with multiple antenna usually does so for a good reason - the antenna are used (kind of) "in parallel" to achieve higher speeds in the N/AC/AX protocols so splitting them up, even if it's possible, could compromise you speed. Some also use them to create a bit of "steerabiliy" to improve signalling conditions using phase delays and so forth - point being the entire radio chain, antenna and all, need to work "as a piece" so to speak.

So you've basically got two work streams to figure out: How to achieve connection "upstream" to the site Wi-Fi, then how are you going to deliver that inside you trailer.

You can almost think of the "Upstream" Wi-Fi link as if you have an external modem like one would in a traditional A/VDSL service, it's just that you want to do it with a Wi-Fi device instead of a (separate) A/VDSL modem. Thence there's how you are going to deliver that inside the trailer.

I don't recommend kit, especially kit I haven't used, but a quick Google turned up something from TP-Link called a CPE710 (though it looks like it's 5GHz waveband only and thusly will be no use if the site isn't offereing service on 5GHz.) That's a highly directional parabolic antenna, but is a "active" device and not just the antenna which facilitated various operating "modes" one/two of which sounded like it would suit your use case. Specifically you could run it in "client mode" (to form the uplink) and thence deliver that onward to the local provision, which could be your Archer if you can run that in such a way that you can manually configure the "WAN" link to expect service over ethernet and that does not require any credentials, PPP exchange and so on. I note CPE710 is also externally rated, highly directional and so on. Check that out and see what you think. It doesn't seem very expensive for what it offers.

I forget what it was called, but previously I've seen another system which is specifically aimed at this use case and the "router" has both "internal" antenna to provide service inside the trailer and an "external" antenna that you mounted outside on the roof or whatever to uplin to the site provision. Whist I don't recall what it was called, ISTR is was around GBP 170, so not exactly the cheapest thing in the world.

We appreciate that this can seem very intimidating at first as there's a lot to comprehend which may seem daunting, but it's all built up from very simple components that each plays a part and each component is (at a basic level) fairly simple to understand. So take it step by step, one lump at a time and eventually it should make sense.
 
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oneman

Well-known Member
If you search uni directional antenna or panel antenna there are quite a few options. 50m isn't to far and you should be able to get a decent signal. However you will still be sharing with everyone else in the part so you may well find your speed doesn't change significantly.
 

Scavenger1814

Novice Member
Thanks again for the replies.

I did some further signal strength testing today using Speedtest.net. When I stand beside the trailer park wifi building, connect to their wifi using my iPhone, then run Speedtest I get around 25 Mbps. Running successive tests as I move away from source and towards my trailer the rate drops to around 9Mbps at the outside corner of my trailer. Just inside my trailer at the same corner the rate is about 2Mbps, so the trailer structure significantly degraded the signal. So an external directional antenna could make the speeds acceptable.

My confusion now is how my router antennas work. Previously I’ve always had the incoming signal to the router entering through the internet Ethernet port (from an ISP modem). Then presumably, the three antennas on the router are communicating with any wifi devices I have connected.

If I now install an external directional antenna (like the CPE710 mentioned earlier) to receive the incoming wifi signal, do I remove one of the three antennas on my router and attach the external antenna in its place? There’s no specific port on my router for an ‘external’ incoming antenna.

Sorry for my lack of knowledge on how these things work. I guess that’s what these forums are for. :)

Thanks, again.
 

captain morgan

Active Member
The cpe710 suggested is not an antenna it is a wireless device in its own right.

The first point you need to establish is what frequency the WiFi hot spot uses, if it does not use 5Ghz then the cpe710 will not be suitable.

If it does then I suggest you review the installation and configuration manuals to see how confident you are on the deployment side.

Install guide: Download for CPE710 | TP-Link

PharOS user guide:Download for CPE710 | TP-Link United Kingdom


In essence you set the cpe up to connect to the WiFi access point and then connect it up to the wan port as you would a cable modem.

I have not done this myself but a scan of the software setup guide would suggest you’d use either wisp client or client or bridge mode to connect to the ap and convert to a Ethernet then take that to feed the wan port of your existing modem/router/ap box (archer c9?)

You’d then set the archer up as normal and connect your devices to that.

You will likely need to try a couple of permutations to get this working

Edited as the links broke
Edited as re reading manual points out that client mode is also an option
 
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mickevh

Distinguished Member
I did some further signal strength testing today using Speedtest.net. When I stand beside the trailer park wifi building, connect to their wifi using my iPhone, then run Speedtest I get around 25 Mbps. Running successive tests as I move away from source and towards my trailer the rate drops to around 9Mbps at the outside corner of my trailer. Just inside my trailer at the same corner the rate is about 2Mbps, so the trailer structure significantly degraded the signal. So an external directional antenna could make the speeds acceptable.

That's not surprising - the physics of how a wave propagates in 3 dimensional space means that it's power falls off very steeply with distance at first as one moves away from the source thence the power "curve" flattens out with distance. There's plenty of plots showing this graphically if this if one Googles (distance versus signal strength.)

Caravans and similar "boxes" made mostly of metal are particularly problematic as they form something called a Faraday Cage and those are very efficient at curtailing, even eliminating radio signals. It's essentially doing the same job as as the shielding in a shielded cable.

So a directional antenna may help a little, but getting said antenna outside of the metal box of the trailer, especially if you can arrange unobstructed line of sight to the site AP should also help.

I commend Captain Morgan's reply to other questions.
 
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Scavenger1814

Novice Member
After looking at the setup for the CPE710 it seems complicated, or at least has the potential for setup frustration. So, if your willing, I’d like to understand the directional antenna route.

This directional antenna (Link) seems to fit the bill but per my previous post I’m not sure where it would connect to my router. The description of the antenna says it’s “used to radiate the signal into the forward space” but I’m assuming it receives also because one of the Amazon reviews is from someone with a situation similar to mine.

So, do I just remove one of the three antennas from my router and attach this antenna in it’s place.

Thanks
 

captain morgan

Active Member
After looking at the setup for the CPE710 it seems complicated, or at least has the potential for setup frustration. So, if your willing, I’d like to understand the directional antenna route.

This directional antenna (Link) seems to fit the bill but per my previous post I’m not sure where it would connect to my router. The description of the antenna says it’s “used to radiate the signal into the forward space” but I’m assuming it receives also because one of the Amazon reviews is from someone with a situation similar to mine.

So, do I just remove one of the three antennas from my router and attach this antenna in it’s place.

Thanks
Just for clarity I have no experience with this type of solution so can’t continue to help.
 

mickevh

Distinguished Member
This directional antenna (Link) seems to fit the bill but per my previous post I’m not sure where it would connect to my router. The description of the antenna says it’s “used to radiate the signal into the forward space” but I’m assuming it receives also because one of the Amazon reviews is from someone with a situation similar to mine.

So, do I just remove one of the three antennas from my router and attach this antenna in it’s place.

No, that won't of itself solve your problem as there's two things you need to address:

Work stream number one is that you need to create a Wi-Fi "uplink" to the site's Wi-Fi provision with better signalling conditions that you currently enjoy. That's "simply" about improving the signalling conditions., of which a more direction antenna system might help.

Work stream number two is that you the need to deliver a Wi-Fi service inside the trailer. That's nothing to do with "signals" it's about how the equipment and software relay the data from one network "hop" (the uplink) to another (the in trailer client access.)

You are essentially trying to create a point-to-point link between the site's Wi-Fi and your trailer and then avail a "normal" Wi-Fi AP inside the trailer for local clients to connect to. SOHO routers (in the main) simply aren't capable of doing both these things as, with very few exceptions, the Wi-Fi AP built into a SOHO router is designed to facilitate the second part and not the first. No matter what antenna you connect. It's a "software" rather than a "signals" issue.

A Wi-Fi Repeater does provide both functions, but in the main they tend to be single integrated units without detachable antenna. Though if you search hard enough, I don't doubt there's something out there that'll do the job, but it's a more esoteric device, so there may not be much to choose from.

Perhaps it might be useful if we step back a bit and do a some basic data networking one-on-one to help you understand what terms like "packets," "routing" "signals" "bridges" and so on all mean. Newbies can get confused over the distinction between "signal" and "data" and how the two are abstracted from each other and tumble down a terminology rabbit hole and there's seemlingly a lot of complexity to comprehend all at once. I'd be happy to help if you are interested.
 

neilball

Well-known Member
mickevh is spot on with his last reply - you should break this down into two distinct tasks. First consider an external access point with integrated directional antenna to create the point-to-point wifi link to the site network. These will be mostly powered over an ethernet cable that you then run inside your caravan. This ethernet cable then becomes your wired WAN connection to your internal router/wifi access point, and at the same time keeps your internal network somewhat isolated from the rest of the caravan park network.

Yes, it’s more complex to set up as you need to be able to configure the external access point to provide the link, and often these devices have multiple applications which means lots of configuration options. However, once set up, it needs little or no ongoing maintenance to the setup.

You will struggle with the router with external antenna approach as the majority of routers are just no designed to work natively with a wifi link as the incoming internet connection. So you may fail to find a one-box solution that provides these features in any event.
 

captain morgan

Active Member
As mickevh and neilball have both said its a fairly simple process, even more so if you break it down into the logical steps, that said I would definitely take up mickevh on his generous offer to develop a greater understanding of the networking aspects involved.

I'll attempt to help clarify the steps involved if you want to go forward with the link.

in essence you are using the sites wifi and the cpe710 (cpe going forward) as a replacement for the cable modem your are more used to and the c9 is going to become your wifi/router box

All good?

There are three main steps
  1. What frequency does the site wifi use? 2.4Ghz or 5Ghz

  2. Connecting the cpe to the site wifi

  3. connecting the cpe to the c9


1 What frequency does the site wifi use? 2.4Ghz or 5Ghz.
As we've said the cpe only operates on the 5Ghz frequency so you need to confirm what frq's the site wifi uses, to do this you can download a program called inssider which is a wifi analyzer it generally runs on windows but I believe there is a beta version for some macOS versions now.

Assuming you have a (relatively) modern laptop this should see both frq's and tell you what networks are within range, there frequency and channel, 2.4Ghz channels are 1-14 (1-11 in NA?) 5Ghz are channels are generally 32 and above.

So from inssider you can see what frq the site wifi is on and what channels are in use, its worth noting what channels seem to be free/lowest used for later, its also a good time to log into the site wifi and confirm what ip address range the network uses (I'll assume you can look at the network properties and confirm the ip address and ip range uesed)

Here's a screen shot from inssider showing a network that is present on both frq's

inssider-screenshot-01.png


If you only see a 2.4Ghz range its possible your computer doesn't have teh 5Ghz band so I would power up the c9 and check that inssider sees that on both frq's.

Assuming you see a 5Ghz entry for the site wifi and have a idea what channels are in use locally and your ip range then its on to step 2


2 Connect the cpe to site wifi.
using the manual from here: Download for CPE710 | TP-Link United Kingdom
follow the 'AP Client Router (Wisp client)' config steps using the Dynamic IP wan connection option

Looking for the name of the sites wifi network and using the given password

if the ip address range of the site wifi you checked earlier is in the 192.168.0.xxx range then you need to go to the Network setting section for 'AP router/AP Client Router' (Page 74) and set IP address setting to a different /24 range

e.g use 192.168.10.254 as the ip address and 255.255.255.0 as the netmask or 192.168.100.254 and 255.255.255.0 as the netmask

If you are unfamiliar with ip address definition/management then perhaps this will shed some light: Understanding IP Addresses, Subnets, and CIDR Notation for Networking | DigitalOcean

You should now be able to connect your computer to the cpe ethernet port and it should connect to the internet.


3 connecting the cpe to the c9
Now the easiest bit
Disconnect the computer from the cpe, follow the tp link instructions to set up the c9 as a 'Access Point' once you've done that and saved the config connect the cpe ethernet to c9 wan and you should be able to connect devices to the c9 via wifi and have them access the internet.


Obviously feel free to ask any questions on the process

If it still feels beyond you when broken down like this then perhaps a local pc repair shop might have some local networking professionals who could do this for you, I'd suspect its ~1-3 hours at most depending on the difficultly in mounting the cpe
 
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