Quick Network Bridge Gets Off-grid Home Back Online

Off-grid living isn’t for everyone, but it has gotten easier in recent years. Cheap solar panels and wind turbines let you generate your own power, and there are plenty of strategies to deal with fuel, water and sanitation. But the one thing many folks find hard to do without – high-speed internet access – has few options for the really remote homestead. [tlankford01] wants to fix that and is working on an open-source mesh network to provide high-speed internet access to off-grid communities.

But first he had to deal with a major problem. With high-speed access provided by a Clearwire wireless network, streaming content to his two flat-screen TVs wasn’t a problem. At least until Sprint bought Clearwire and shut down the service in early November. Another ISP covered his area, but his house lies in a depression out of line of sight of their tower. So he rigged up a bridge between the WiMAX network and his lab. The bridge sits on a hill in sight of the ISP’s tower 3.5 miles away. Solar panels, a charge controller and deep-cycle batteries power everything, and a wireless link down the hill rounds out the build.

This is obviously a temporary solution, and probably wouldn’t last long in winter weather. But it’s working for now, and more importantly it’s acting as proof of concept for a larger mesh system [tlankford01] has in mind. There are plenty of details on what that would look like on his project page (linked above), and it’s worth a look too if you’re interested in off-grid connectivity.

40 thoughts on “Quick Network Bridge Gets Off-grid Home Back Online

    1. What is cheap when you are buying ~1500m of fiber, and want at least 1Gbps, since 100Mbps never is enough? I’ve never found a good guide to laying down you won fiber.

      1. Looks like under 1000ft to me based on the pic, if thats true, 300bux or less for some good singlemode, which could do 100 to 10,000mbps based on the devices used on either end…..

      2. In my neck of the woods 4-stranded outdoor fiber is cheaper than outdoor CAT5e copper. 20% even!
        I’m not saying his setup is bad but I don’t like wireless stationary short-hauls. Too many points of failure, more configuration, more rf noise.

    2. True for a single end user, but I think he’s trying for proof of concept to provide connectivity between the bridge and a small, isolated community. You might be able to run fiber to a group of homesteads, but if they’re spread over a thousand acres, that might be prohibitive. Wireless for the “last 0.2 mile” makes more sense in that case.

      1. Unless you live at the geographic north or south pole, or in a deep valley with 120 foot big thick trees to the south of you Hughesnet is absolutely available to you.

        The problem is you cant watch netflix, because you get 2gb-5gb of data per month for your $199 a month and you will hit that watching a couple of movies.

    1. I had satellite Internet when it first came out, I had DirectWay / DirectPC it was awful, it would die all the time, and even when it was working the F.A.P / Fair Access Policy limited you to only 150MB every 4 hours, and I had so many problems with the system that I could not often use it when I needed, and DirectWay / DirectPC always blamed the problems on my end, and no amount of replacing hardware, cables, computers, or fresh installs of Windows would fix the problems.

  1. I’ve had to do exactly what he has. The house was out of LOS from the tower so I had to erect a mast in one of my pastures that did have LOS then from there I was able to shoot to the house. Works great until you have a lightning strike…..

    1. Lightning strike is easy to prevent. heavy metal pole, top it with a metal fence post in a PLUS configuration and then about 12 sharp metal spikes, heavy nails will work welded to the fence pipes. lightning will nail that and travel down the pipe to your ground and skip your gear.

      Lightning is not the biggest problem, it’s the static electricity build up from wind. and the spikes help drain that.

    1. Not anymore than having electricity and running water. My cabin is off-grid, I live on solar and wind and haul my water in (for now) 300 gallons at a time. For now I use a 4G hotspot. Had a wireless ISP but at $65 a month for what amounted to dial up (IRL) I decided to dump it and go 4G.

  2. There is no reason at all for having the pi in there, You can do that easily with two ubuquity devices and a crossover cable. In fact I have several of them in place except I use a cheap china wifi dish and use the micro ubuquity unit that I can remove the antenna and connect the china dish lead to it.

  3. I live off grid. I’ve had wireless Internet for over 3 years. Pay $29.95 a month for a -throttled- 2 meg link. Server transmitter is about 20 miles away and takes at least one more hop before it ties into backbone fiber that runs between Salt Lake City and Las Vegas. My link is rock solid, even through a white out blizzard. Has never gone down. Have a wire mesh antenna similar to those used on radio station STL links. Antenna is mounted to corner of a Connex box. Power consumption of entire system including modem and local WiFi hub is under 28 Watts.

  4. I enjoyed the article so much I hit the tag “off grid”, expecting to find a plethora of ideas in action .
    3 stories .
    2 were from Caleb ( missed)
    Thanks to the writer. Let’s see more

  5. Does anyone know if this system is still operating? Or did it have to be updated over time. Solar in remote areas works great since the sun goes to work every day. But if the panels need dusting off every week and are located in a hard to clean location. – abe farag

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