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Need help setting up wireless broadband via satellite for 100+ users

I am trying to provide wireless broadband via satellite on a volunteer basis to a gathering of a 100+ motor homes in county fairgrounds. These motor homes will be located on several rows in what I would guess would be several acres of land area. I could probably locate my motor home at either end or middle of this pack. I'd appreciate any suggestions for an antenna that would get best signal out. I will be using a Netgear AP WG602.
This might seem like a great way to share Internet access with others, but you're going to run into several big challenges.

  1. You won't be able to serve 100+ users from a single 802.11b/g access point. Don't be fooled by the fact that you can assign 253 addresses with this AP's DHCP server -- you'll never support that many active sessions on the wireless LAN. You are probably looking at serving no more than 20 users concurrently on a single AP, so decide how many of your 100+ users will be on-line at the same time. For example, if you want to support 60 concurrent users, you might install 3 of these access points, using channels 1, 6, and 11 to avoid co-channel interference.

  2. I could suggest that you use an omni antenna at the center of the area to be covered. That makes sense for a big open space. However, the access point you've chosen (Netgear WG602) has one integrated antenna and does not appear to accept external antennas of any kind.

  3. I don't see a distance specification for the WG602, but let's assume 300 feet as a best case. You won't be able to cover several acres of land using even three APs with this reach. Lay out the space you're trying to cover and fill that area with circles representing your APs, minimizing overlap between circles. At the extreme edge of coverage, signal will be very weak and speed will be very slow, so you probably want to assume a smaller effective reach for each AP. For example, according to this PC Magazine review of the WG602, you can expect to get 11.5 Mbps at a distance of 100 feet.

  4. Distributing APs around the fairground to match the diagram you just created requires some type of backhaul link from each AP to the central location where you have your satellite uplink. This may not be very practical in your case, given the outdoor setting filled with motor vehicles.

  5. Finally, give some thought to that satellite uplink. Just how much bandwidth do you have to share among those 100+ users? Again, think about how many users will be on-line concurrently and divide the available bandwidth.

Maybe you can do what you want - share Internet access - by providing a much smaller wireless LAN "hot spot" outside your mobile home. Instead of trying to deliver signal to everyone in the fairground, create a place where a handful of users can come to sit near the AP and use the Internet. Start simple and see how it goes. If you find that usage is high, you might want to expand your plans next year and figure out how to install more APs to cover a larger area.

This was last published in August 2003

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