Chapter 6.  Wide Area Network Saturation

You have an access point. Your laptop is humming merrily along. While working at home or the office is more flexible than ever, you find yourself wondering what it would take to get a signal across the street, at your favorite coffee shop.

Or maybe you live in an area where you’re on the perpetual “we’ll get back to you” list for broadband services like DSL and cable modems, and you’re ready to make it happen now. With the right equipment, enough participants, and the cooperation of the lay of the land, you can make broadband Internet access a reality in your neck of the woods.

Whatever your motivations, you are looking for a way to extend 802.11b beyond the listed 300-meter limit. This is not only possible and completely legal, it’s also a lot of fun. You first need to figure out what your target coverage area is, and what resources you need to make it happen.

While extending your private network an extra block or two (or even several miles, with the proper antennas) may be interesting for you, it does nothing for those around you except generate more noise in the band. Most people will find it prohibitively expensive to rent tower space and set up network access for themselves, for wherever they happen to be in town. This has led to the fascinating phenomenon of the cooperative wireless network.

The single best piece of advice I can give you on your journey to the ultimate network (whether public or private) is to fight the urge to blindly ...

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