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Are Super Long Range WiFi Antennas Legal?

Updated on July 4, 2010

How To Pick Up Wireless Internet Up To 50 Miles Away

You can pick up wireless internet from very long distances. It is legal? Both yes and no.

Example of a long range WiFi antenna that may be overpowered in the eyes of the FCC if used with over 200 mW adapters.
Example of a long range WiFi antenna that may be overpowered in the eyes of the FCC if used with over 200 mW adapters.

Ultra Long Range WiFi Antennas and the FCC

Anyone can buy over the shelf gear and pick up WiFi internet for free over very long distances. I am an electronics hobbyist and have picked up WiFi from over 60 miles away. Is this legal? The answer to that question is yes and no. The FCC has very clear rules about how much power can be used on 802.11 B and G wireless that operates on the 2.4 Mhz band.

Here is what they state:

* Higher EIRP is allowed if the antennas are directional in nature.

* Systems operating in a point-to-point operation may use transmitting antennas with directional gain greater than 6 dBi, provided the maximum output power of the transmitter is reduced by 1dB for every 3dB that the directional gain of the antenna that exceeds 6 dBi. Maximum transmitter power versus largest antenna table for PTP:Maximum transmitter power versus largest antenna table for PTP

Transmitter RF power Antenna GainM EIRP in watts

30dBm 1W 6dBi 3.98

29dBm 800mW 9dBi 6.35

28dBm 630mW 12dBi 10.14

27dBm 500mW 15dBi 15.81

26dBm 398mW 18dBi 25.23

25dBm 316mW 21dBi 40.28

24dBm 250mW 24dBi 62.79

23dBm 200mW 27dBi 100.2

If you follow this chart then yes, a 200 mW Engenius Long Range WiFi adapter is

legal when used with a 24 Db gain or grid parabolic antenna such as the one I used.

These rules are necessary to prevent interference to other services and from one WiFi network using long range antennas from overpowering the frequency so that nobody else in town could use it. The rules are a bit vague however, and for the most part if you are buying FCC approved gear, such as the Engenius long range adapter (200 MW output) and combining it with an FCC approved antenna, you should be just fine.

About the only instance when you could run afoul of the FCC when using super long range WiFi gear is if you tune up FCC approved gear to put out more wattage or use a super high gain antenna.

There are antennas called grid parabolic antennas that can pick up WiFi signals over 60 miles away. I proved this on a recent trip to a mountaintop in Texas and another in New Mexico. On top of Guadalupe peak I was able to establish a WiFi connection of almost 60 miles.

Super long range grid parabolic WiFi antennas are entirely legal if they are used with the right wireless card or adapter. It depends on the Db rating of the antenna and whether the long range WiFi adapter to which it is attached is of a wattage that falls within the FCC guidelines above. I use a grid parabolic paired with an Engenius WiFi adapter. You can see these for sale in my store here: Long Range WiFi Antenna And Back Country Electronics

There are many paired kits for sale in the United States that use 2000 Mw, not 200, and are sold along with a 24 Db gain WiFi antenna. I don't notice them for sale on Amazon.com anymore so I suspect there may have been a crackdown.

If you are interested in tinkering with ultra long range WiFi antennas and gear to set your own WiFi long distance record or just share internet with a neighbor, see the following article about my recent long range distance attempt from the top of Guadalupe Peak in West Texas:

Long Distance WiFi Experiment From Guadalupe Peak In this test I used a grid parabolic and a high power WiFi adapter from Engenius.

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    • profile image

      azneedajju.malayali 2 years ago

      How to hack wifi of 1km long using a software

    • profile image

      gigaboytech 5 years ago

      @doodlebugs lm: Are you using a specific adapter? Is this type of scenario something you can piggy-back a router or access point/bridge to?

    • profile image

      timwilly90 6 years ago

      Long Range WiFi Antennas a great concept for discussion and sharing, loved reading your lens, keep it up....

    • sarita garg profile image

      sarita 7 years ago from Hisar

      Thanks for sharing.

    • doodlebugs lm profile image
      Author

      doodlebugs lm 7 years ago

      Anyone can use this gear to get free WiFi from great distances. See my bio for a link to my store.