for 802.11(b or g) Wireless Networks
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|Got no dough for a commercial WiFi antenna? Looking for an inexpensive way to increase the range of your wireless network? A tin can waveguide antenna, or Cantenna, may be just the ticket. This design can be built for under $5 U.S. and reuses a food, juice, or other tin can.I am not an electrical engineer, nor do I have access to any fancy test equipment. I’ve built some antennas that worked for me and thought I would share what I learned. I have no idea if this is safe for your radio or wireless network equipment. The risk to you and your equipment is yours.Building your Cantenna is easy, just follow these steps.
Collect the parts:
- A N-Female chassis mount connector.
- Four small nuts and bolts
- A bit of thick wire
- A can
These vendors can supply the parts (the wire and can you provide yourself).
A N type Female Chassis-mount connector. One side is N-female for connecting the cable from your wireless equipment, and the other side has a small brass stub for soldering on wire. These can be found at electronics stores internet suppliers (see the list below under “Connect your antenna…” If you shop around, you should be able to find these for $3-$5.Nuts & Bolts
You’ll need them just long enough to go through the connector and the can. I’ve used #6×1/4″ stainless. If your N-connector is a screw on type, then you won’t need the nuts and bolts.Wire
You’ll need about 1.25″ of 12 guage copper wire. This wire will stick into the brass stub in the N-connector.
This is the fun part. You’re looking for a can between about 3″ and 3 2/3″ in diameter. The size doesn’t have to be exact. I made a good antenna with a Nalley’s “Big Chunk” Beef Stew can that was 3.87″ in diameter. Others have reported good results with big 39oz. coffee cans that are 6″ in diameter. The pringles can is really too small for good performance, however. Try to get as long a can as possible. The old fashioned fruit juice cans should work well.
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Drill or punch holes in your can to mount the probe
|The N-connector assembly will mount in the side of your can. You need to put holes in the right place to mount the connector. The placement of the hole and connect is very important. It’s location is derived from formulas that use the frequency that the antenna will operate at and the can diameter. To make life easy on you, here’s a calculator to figure it out for you.
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Assemble the probe and mount in can
Now you’ll need that bit of wire. You’ll need a soldering iron or a friend with one as well. Cut the wire so that when it is stuck in the connector as shown, the total length of both the brass tube and wire sticking out past the connector is 1.21″. Get as close to this length as you can.
When you’ve got your wire correctly sized, solder it into the connector keeping it as straight and upright as you can. When it’s cooled, bolt or screw the assembly into your can. Put the heads of the bolts inside the can and the nuts on the outside to minimize the obstructions in your antenna. Your Done!
Connect your antenna to your wireless card or access point
To use your cantenna, you’ll need a special cable commonly called a “Pig Tail”. The pig tail connects your wireless card or access point to you antenna. One end of the cable will have a “N” Male connector (just right for connecting your your cantenna), while the other end will have a connector appropriate to your card or access point. For a good picture of a pig tail, take a look at:
You’ll want to have a wireless NIC or access point with an external antenna connector. Otherwise, you may have to hack into the one you have to hook up the cable. I wouldn’t recommend this unless you’re good with a soldering iron and electronics. For this reason, I like the Agere Orinoco cards which have a nice antenna connector. Pig Tails can be hand made if you have the right tools, but it’s probably easier to get a pre-made one. Try:
Hook up your cable, point the antenna at a friend’s, and see how far you can stretch you network. Be sure to let me know (firstname.lastname@example.org) how it works.
This antenna has linear polarization. That means that how you rotate the antenna will affect the strength of your signal. Usually, you will want to put the connection straight down, but experiment with rotating the can while watching the signal strength on your PC to get the best performance.
For more information, check out these resources:
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802.11b Homebrew WiFi Antenna Shootout
I’ve been Slashdotted!
Read the How To
Greg’s obsession de’ jour
My plan was to get relative performance measurements for various designs (including mine) of homebrew antennas for 802.11b (WiFi) wireless networks. To do this, I setup a wireless link and changed only the antenna- recording each antennas’ performance under identical conditions. I didn’t compare them to a commercial directional antenna as my only one has a male connector and I don’t have the right cable to hook it up yet. The contestants were (click on each for design specifications).
The Performance Summary
The results surprised me! In our test, the Flickenger Pringles can did a little better than my modified Pringles design. Both did no better than the Lucent omnidirectional. Now this is just on raw signal strength, noise rejection due to directivity still makes a directional antenna a better choice for some uses even if there is no gain benefit. The waveguides all soundly trounced the Pringles can designs. I mean they stomped them into the ground on signal strength – as much as 9 dB better. Every three dB is a doubling in power – that’s three doublings (8x increase)!
Of the waveguides, the Nalley’s “Big Chunk” took top marks. It was followed by the Hunts Pasta Sauce, my modified coffee can, and the Flickenger coffee can in that order. My three waveguide designs, which utilized the correct theoretical spacing, out performed the Flickenger Yuban coffee can handily. It seems that the design formulas for the waveguide design made a sizeable difference in performance. In the yagis, it didn’t matter much. This could be because neither Rob’s nor my designs are anywhere near right for optimum performance for a Yagi. I’ve decided that Yagi design is not for the timid or non-radio-expert.
With these results, I’m convinced that the waveguide design is the way to go for cheap wireless networking. The performance is good, the cost is very low and the skill required is minimal. If you can eat a big can of stew, you can make a high performance antenna.
The How To
Build your own Tin Can Waveguide WiFi Antenna (Cantenna). It’s the easiest antenna design I know of.
Copyright 2003-2007 Gregory Rehm – All rights reserved.
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