How to Make a Long Range Non-Line-of-Sight Wi-Fi Antenna

By Eli Laurens

The wireless network router or LAN card uses the same principles as other radio equipment, receiving and transmitting a radio signal through modulation into an antenna. The radio waves generated or intercepted by the antenna are always stronger in a line-of-sight scenario, but powerful directional antennas that are mounted in an elevated location can overcome buildings or other obstacles. Many times, software settings or power boosting amplifiers can extend the range even farther. The average wireless technician can make an extended range, directional Wi-Fi antenna in about an hour.

Things You'll Need

  • Large parabolic surface (cooking pan lid, wire mesh, old satellite dish)
  • Strong all-purpose tape or glue
  • Pliers
  • Knife or scissors
  • Screwdrivers

Step 1

Prepare the parabolic surface by making a hole in the center with the knife or scissors. Pierce the wire mesh and bend it back with the pliers, creating a rough hole. Cooking pan lids will usually have a removable handle in the center, turn the screw counterclockwise with the screwdriver to take it off. The hole should be large enough for the antenna wire to pass through, about 1/8 inch. Used satellite dishes will have a transceiver arm that can serve as a mount for a wireless device antenna.

Step 2

Mount the wireless device antenna, or entire wireless device -- USB W-LAN -- into the center of the parabolic surface by running the wire through the hole until the concave side of the lid or mesh touches the antenna or device. Antennas can be held in place with a small daub of glue placed where the antenna meets the dish. The entire wireless device can be secured to the surface with short sections of tape. The antenna or device should point straight up, away from the center of the dish. Secure the antenna wire on the opposite side of the parabolic surface with strips of tape. Some galvanized wire mesh may not take to glue or tape, and short twist ties can be used to secure the wire.

Step 3

Mount the antenna dish at the highest location possible, facing the direction of the receiving wireless network device. Altitude will make the greatest difference when transmitting and receiving radio signals, even through objects such as trees and buildings. The same antenna at different heights will have dramatically different performance. The wire mesh antenna array can be mounted to a wall or post by using small sections of wire as twist ties; the cooking pan lid and used satellite dish can be mounted with screws, turned clockwise into the mounting surface. Orient the antenna before mounting, and make sure there is enough antenna wire to reach the wireless device or computer.

Tips & Warnings

  • Parabolic metallic surfaces make the best directional antennas, but any parabolic reflective surface will suffice.