Share Internet between Two Homes?

Dennis Faas's picture

Infopackets Reader 'vking' writes:

" Dear Dennis,

I have a wireless network inside my home and I want to share it with my neighbor, who lives approximately 250 feet away. Is there a WiFi range extender that I can purchase which allows me to share my Internet access and computer network with my neighbor? "

My response:

Yes, there is, however I need to clarify a few things, first.

The purpose of a WiFi range extender is to provide greater coverage in areas with low signal. A WiFi range extender will only work if it is within close proximity to the devices it is broadcasting its signal; that's because each device must also send back its own signal to the extender. As such, a range extender would not work in your case because the devices must be in a clear line of sight to have their signals sent back 250 feet to your house (where the range extender is located).

Due to the distance between your two homes, you would in fact need a wireless network bridge (click here to see an example). This requires two routers (one at each home) pointing to one another. Each home would have its own dedicated router, which can pick up signals to devices inside the home, and then relay it through the bridge. The good news is that a wireless network bridge is much cheaper than most range extenders; the bad news is that it requires some technical expertise to set up the routers to perform as a network bridge.

2.4GHz vs 5GHz Signal Range and Line of Sight

For a span of 250 feet, I recommend you also purchase high gain antennas to increase the range of the signal between your homes. As far as I recall, the maximum range for a router operating at 2.4 GHz is approximately 300 feet; the 5 GHz band range is much shorter and is therefore not recommended. You will also need a direct line of sight so that nothing is blocking your signal / connection for the bridge. For example, there should not be any trees or buildings in the way of the antennas that point to each other.

My recommendation is to purchase two routers that are the exact same brand (and which specifically support network bridging). Amazon.com has TP Link Wireless N300 routers for $20 each and they offer WDS network bridging; as stated previously, you will need two of these routers, so the price would be $40 in total.

Dipole Antennas vs Long Range 'Flat' Antennas

The TP Link Wireless N300 routers come with 5dbi antennas; you can increase the range of both routers by purchasing 4 x 9bi dipole antennas (instead of 2 sets of 2). You would then screw in 2 antennas on each router. Once that's done, you will need to configure each router to run in 'wireless bridge mode' and disable DHCP (dynamic host control protocol).

For the record, I have purchased long range flat antennas for the purpose of a network bridge between two homes, but did not have very good results. These types of antennas look square instead of cylindrical like the dipole antennas. In my experience, both long range flat antennas must be facing each other (100% spot on) or the signal is lost. To help ensure they were spot on, I attached a flash light to the face of one antenna and pointed it to the other. This allowed me to visually see where the signal was being sent. Despite my best efforts, however, I had much better results using dipole antennas. Your mileage may vary.

How to Set up a Wireless Network Bridge

Setting up a wireless network bridge is different for each router; as such, I cannot supply step by step instructions on how to do it. In this case, please consult the manual of the router, or search the Internet for specific instructions for the particular model you decide to purchase. If you would like me to help you set it up, I can do that using remote desktop support. Simply contact me using the contact form and we'll set up a time to meet and discuss your options.

Got a Computer Question or Problem? Ask Dennis!

I need more computer questions. If you have a computer question -- or even a computer problem that needs fixing -- please email me with your question so that I can write more articles like this one. I can't promise I'll respond to all the messages I receive (depending on the volume), but I'll do my best.

About the author: Dennis Faas is the owner and operator of Infopackets.com. With over 30 years of computing experience, Dennis' areas of expertise are a broad range and include PC hardware, Microsoft Windows, Linux, network administration, and virtualization. Dennis holds a Bachelors degree in Computer Science (1999) and has authored 6 books on the topics of MS Windows and PC Security. If you like the advice you received on this page, please up-vote / Like this page and share it with friends. For technical support inquiries, Dennis can be reached via Live chat online this site using the Zopim Chat service (currently located at the bottom left of the screen); optionally, you can contact Dennis through the website contact form.

Rate this article: 
Average: 5 (5 votes)

Comments

gi7omy's picture

You need to check with your national communications agency about increasing the power output of a wi-fi router. The reason is that there is a set limit on the ERP (effective radiated power) from any domestic transmitter which varies from country to country and if you use a gain aerial (antenna if that's what you wish to call it) you can easily go over that limit. Remember that 2.4 GHz is a shared band with ISM (Industry, Scientific, Medical) as well as being an amateur radio band and any RFI (radio frequency interference) will be jumped on hard by the authorities. The penalties include a substantial fine plus confiscation of all equipment

rshackel_3934's picture

If they found out (dubious, depending), I bet they'd just tell you to stop it.

gi7omy's picture

2.4 GHz is also shared with radio control models . If your signal jams theirs there could be serious damage or injury when a large, heavy model goes out of control and, believe me, if they suspect RFI, they WILL report it and it WILL be acted on. It is also shared with different pieces of medical equipment (including patient monitoring) so you are also putting lives at risk there.

rshackel_3934's picture

I've done this several ways. The simplest and most reliable way was to run Cat5 between the houses. Requires just a plain ole WiFi router in the 2nd house, plus plugging each end of the wire into the correct places on the rear of each router (2nd router's LAN port, not WAN port). My circumstance made the wire viable, don't know if yours does.

p.s. Despite the listed max length, high quality wire got me 400 ft with no problem. Cheap wire didn't do it. The local phone company had the good stuff and just gave me some.

Dennis Faas's picture

I have a private network of cat5e between my house and my mother's house (behind me), under ground at 100FT in length, encased in sprinkler system pipe. I tried using 'green' routers on both ends (lower wattage), but the connection would fail. So it's safe to say you will need a decent powered router on both ends. Frankly, I'm surprised you managed 400FT.

Lastly, if you do bury cable, make absolutely sure you ground it. My back yard got hit by lightning twice in the same week and fried both routers each time. Both times, the system was hooked up to a power bar and surge protector with cat5 connections, but it didn't do anything for protection. I have since purchased a gigabit cat5 lightning surge protector by APC (ProtectNet) and placed it on both ends; so far so good.

rshackel_3934's picture

The houses were ~250' apart, but by the time the wire got to where it needed to be, it was right at 400'. Plain vanilla $20-on-sale routers on each end. Normal Home Depot Cat5 could get 300+', but only the stuff from the phone company worked at 400'.

I lost a few cheap routers to lightning strikes, just on the far end. Temp solution was to unplug one end of Cat5 when thunderstorms were coming. But I got tired of buying $20 routers after we had unforeseen-by-me lightning, so I raised the cable just a couple inches off the ground (no lawn to mow there) and that solved it. Had to run new wire after about 5 years due to intense sun and weather making the outer layer crumble (which made it not work when wet).

p.s. Both houses were mine, so it was all legal, which is why the phone company gave me the Cat5 (I was using their DSL at the time).

lightft_3936's picture

I used some direct burial Cat6 to go from a guy's home to his barn. The stuff costs a lot, but what price your data? We put a mirrored drive Network Attached Storage unit in a 2 foot cube box along with an industrial life 40W light bulb that we set up on a thermostat. This way, when it got cold in the box, the light would come on and keep everything at a reasonable temp. ( this technique also worked great elsewhere to keep a friends cat warm all winter!) That gave us (not the cat) a hard wired backup to a site several hundred feet from the main building. Much less chance of having both structures lost at the same time, and if someone runs off with your electronics, there is only a slight chance they are going to check out a scruffy box in the barn. (Yes, we hid the wires!)

One last thing: running the link to the neighbors may be fine if they are a close relative, but you will probably be violating your subscriber agreement with your Internet Service Provider by sharing your service - especially if your neighbor pays you anything for it. I'm not suggesting you violate your service agreement, but burying the wire makes it much less susceptible to weather related problems and less visible to crooks and service vans alike.