Ohio college students set WiFi distance record

Four Ohio college students set the record for the world's longest unamplified WiFi link at last week's Defcon event (or "shootout," as the participants call it) in Las Vegas. The students, calling themselves Team iFiber/Redwire, combined very large satellite dishes with donated electronic equipment into a powerful system. Atop a 6,200-ft. mountain 22 miles southwest of Las Vegas, they were able to establish a stable wireless connection to a mountain in Utah 124.9 miles away. In last year's event, the same team, using large surplus satellite dishes, established a 55-mile unamplified link. This year they fell just short of their promise to deliver a 150-mile or more connection.

After last year's victory, the group received donations of a 12-ft. dish and 10-ft. dish. Two members of the team took one dish to Mt. Potosi near Las Vegas, and the other two drove to a mountain just inside Utah, near the Arizona border. After connecting a three-watt amp and 300 mw (dialed down to 30 mw) wireless cards to the dishes, the team established an 11 Mbps connection from 124.9 miles away. The laptops on both sides could ping, SSH, and VNC to each other. The amps were disconnected and connection did not go down. The team believes that a 300- to 500-mile link is not beyond the realm of possibility. The team was also able to connect to an AP in Las Vegas 22 miles away and surf the web.

The team is now planning to use the dishes to scan for Bluetooth devices.

For more on the Defcon competition and record:
- see Humphrey Cheung's Tomshardware report

PLUS: Wireless security and performance specialists from Sunnyvale, California-based AirMagnet spent the weekend monitoring wireless network traffic at DefCon and discovered, not without some surprise, that RF interference from non-WiFi devices seemed to pose the greatest threat to the conference's wireless networks. ReleasePresentation

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