Mount a WiFi Antenna on a Satellite Dish

Repurpose the Junky Old Dish

 

Internet antenna on a satellite dish
Fig. 1 Large (76cm) dish with a biquad antenna

A satellite dish is a powerfull signal booster when used in combination with a WiFi biquad antenna. I see lots of satellite dishes laying in trash when driving. Grab one next time you see an old dish laying on the sidewalk.

I have tried using both smaller Dish Net dishes and larger 76cm (30 inch) dishes [Fig. 1].

They both work well. The larger dish will give you some extra gain but even the small one works really well. How far you can go with this booster?

I have tested it up to 250m (820 feet) with Netgear router on the other end and it worked flawlessly. The router was using the stock antenna it came with.

First disconnect the so called LNBF from the dish [Fig 2]. Then mount your biquad antenna in place of the LNBF. Ideally, it should be in the exact same position as this is the focal point of the parabolic dish.

LNBF on a satellite dish
Fig. 2 Dish 500 and LNBF

 

WiFi biquad antenna mounted on an old satellite dish
Fig. 3 Unprotected biquad antenna will corrode outdoors
Clean, non-corroded copper on a housed internet antenna
Fig. 4 This antenna was housed inside an enclosure and it did not corrode

You can mount the “naked” biquad [Fig. 3] or place it in an enclosure first which will protect it from weather [Fig. 4].

The actual rigging method is something you’ll have to decide based on the materials you have. I tried mounting the antenna directly to the arm of the dish [Fig. 3].

This method works well but all exposed copper pieces will oxidize quickly. In addition, an exposed antenna can be easily damaged should the dish lose footing.

A better way is to house the antenna in an enclosure and mount it using a support made of PVC electrical conduit pieces [Fig. 5].

This method was useful on a Dish Net parabolic dish to elevate the position of the antenna. Dish Net dishes have a chunky LNBF that sits up high. Anything you can do to lift the position of your antenna and make it close to where LNBF sits will help.

 

 

WiFi internet antenna mounted on a Dish Network Dish 500 old satellite dish
Fig. 5 Mounting biquad antenna on Dish 500

 

Make a provision to rotate the antenna 90 degrees [Fig 6]. The ability to rotate 90 degrees will allow you to match the polarization of the distant antenna you’re connecting to.

Biquad antenna polarization on a satellite dish
Fig. 6 Biquad antenna polarization

 

positioning of a satellite dish with a WiFi internet antenna
Fig. 7 Dish 500 fitted with WiFi antenna looking down

All satellite dishes are designed to point up to the sky.

Even when the dish is seemingly 90 degrees to the ground it is still looking up. To properly aim the beam you will need to point the dish down [Fig. 7].

If you are on a hill you will need to point down even more.

Now it’s only a matter of fine tunning the position of the dish. Using a free tool like Netstumbler is a good way to aim your dish properly. Once you lock the maximum signal tighten the screws on the dish and rotate the antenna 90 degrees. One of the two polarization positions will give you stronger reception.

Securing the dish with bricks like I’m doing in this picture is a very bad idea. Winds can easily knock the dish down or lift it off your roof. Use something heavy to hold the dish down while locating a good spot to place it. Once you find the spot mount the dish permanently with heavy screws.

Keep in mind that RF cable attenuates high frequency signal a lot. Keep the cable run at the absolute minimum or else all the signal gain of the antenna will be devoured by the cable.

If you don’t have a proper WiFi directional antenna, you could try mounting a USB wireless adapter on the dish instead.

Finally, there may be regulations determining maximum signal strength for 2.4GHz frequency in your country. In the United States FCC regulates such matters.

It is not likely that FCC would take any action unless they receive interference complaints from people or business in your signal path. Also, this setup is fairly limited and without powerfull amplification you will probably not bother anyone.

10 thoughts on “Mount a WiFi Antenna on a Satellite Dish”

  1. I’m trying to hook up a WiFi network at my house. A 20 mile long range booster antenna is what i need to connect with local Hot Spots public library or Mc Donalds only 2 in my area. Do you know of such a Monster. I’ve cut the cable went to OTA Free TV by using a LAVA 2605 Ultra HD antenna with spitter to 4 TVs. now i need to get Free WiFi. Any Ideas would help. Thanks Much James stewart

  2. If you go to the link above you can purchase a low power apmplifer for 2.4 Ghz.. this is what I use with a converted
    Dish network parabolic antenna. My closest Free WiFi is at
    Denny’s some 4.2 miles away. I get 4.75 Bars on my WiFi both TX and RX. It seems to work great! I have no connection to the people selling these on ebay and I’m not getting anything from them for reccommeding them. It just the same one I bought
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/like/261753977656?lpid=82&chn=ps

  3. Hey, great tutorial; I have a question.

    I built a similar project from the many tutorials online (in my case a double biquad). I’m using it a little differently; what I’m trying to do is use it boost the signal of my own network, attaching it to my Linksys WRT 1900-AC. It doesn’t seem to work very well at the moment, and reading your tutorial it would seem that is because I am using the run of coax that came with the dish, which is very long, about 40-50′. So I obviously need to fix that.

    My question though is once I reduce the run, to use it as a TX antenna from the router rather than an RX antenna as it seems most people are using it, will I also need to amplify the signal as well? Or will I get the same results transmitting in terms of distance as most people get receiving?

  4. That’s a good question Steve. But let me address the issue of the cable first.

    Not only you will need to shorten the cable run, but you will also need to get cable rated for 2.4 GHz frequency. This coaxial cable is very thick and expensive.

    How does satellite TV signal get inside the home with just the cheap coax cable? The receiving element on a dish called LNBF outputs the received signal to intermediate frequencies that common TV antenna cable can carry.

    Unfortunately, your passive WiFi biquad can’t do that. It can only feed very low power microwave signal into the cable. The signal attenuates very quickly even with the best cable.

    Now, regarding your question, you should get a better Tx with a parabolic reflector like a satellite TV dish than Rx of an access point of the same power that uses an omnidirectional antenna.

    The reason for this is that an omnidirectional antenna dissipates energy around the pole in all directions equally, whereas a parabolic dish reflects a more focused beam. The dish doesn’t create any more energy than there is. It just deflects it and sends it in a more narrow direction therefore saturating a smaller area with energy if you would.

  5. Help Please: I live in a remote area in the Himalayan mountains, Here we have very week mobile signals and we don’t have Internet. I read about satellite internet via dish antenna. I have a normal dish antenna of 6 feet, a digital receiver and webstar cable modem dpx100.
    My question is … is it possible to use free internet connecting this or is ther a way to use internet with my present equipment?
    or how can i use internet in this area?

    Thanks in advance

  6. Halkal, unfortunately this article focuses on using a satellite dish in WiFi networks. These are local networks for use at home or an office. A dish can greatly extend a range of such network.

    What you’d need is a satellite based Internet service. This is an entirely different thing and it is not free.

  7. My smartphone picks up the WiFi from the local town cell tower. It’s free for the town. I am at the very edge of the towers capability, so I get a weak signal. The problem I have is that when I am not in the line of site (which is only in my driveway) I lose the signal. I want to be able to go inside and have the WiFi available. I have an old dish and it boosts the signal only when I place it in the driveway, but how do I get the signal to my smartphone??

  8. does a WiFi antenna send the signal to my phone? I don’t have a computer or a router. Just my phone. Does the WiFi antenna from the dish hook to my phone to get the WiFi signal??

  9. James, without a repeater hard wired to your dish, there is little you can do to boost the free WiFi signal.

    If you were to aim the dish at the city’s WiFi antenna and place your smartphone in the focal point of the dish, it would reflect and focus the radio waves at the phone. Although this would help the reception, it is not very practical as you can imagine.

    1. Thanks. I had the dish in my lap with my arms wrapped around it holding the phone, and the signal was great, and would make for a silly youtube video “what strange things people will do for free WiFi. So I guess a repeater is the direction I must go. Thanks much.

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