San Francisco Wireless Broadband
I suppose it's time for an update to this page. The access point at my house
is still up, but I don't really keep tabs on it, so I'm not sure how many
people (if any) connect to it. Just a DSL line behind it.
Over the summer and into the fall, I talked with many people about the
possibility of setting up various commercial or co-op wireless Internet
access providers, but by and large, the motivation seemed to be lacking.
A fixed wireless service provider would be fairly easy to set up, however,
most consumers have doubts about the reliability of wireless service and have
no compelling reason to choose it over cable or DSL. Fixed wireless could be
profitable in areas where other broadband services are not available, but
don't expect a windfall.
Mobile wireless service would probably generate more demand and you could
charge more for it, but truly ubiquitous coverage would require a huge
infrastructure build and more capital than even large corporations can come
up with. I think Ricochet/Metricom proved a valuable point.
Companies like Boingo and Joltage have an interesting concept -- I'm curious
to see where that goes. The only problem is, I don't want to have to pay
for a Joltage account, a Boingo account and accounts with 200 other providers
who are also piggybacking on this idea. I want to pay once for one account
and have it work wherever service is available.
That said, I've moved on from wireless to other endeavors. Look for my
upcoming article on the high-altitude weather balloon that I built and
The 3.5 mile link to my employer is no longer up since I no longer work there.
I do have DSL installed now, so SFWBB node 1 is still available, just without
as much bandwidth behind it. I expect that one or two other SFWBB nodes will
be coming on-line shortly. For now they will have their own, separate
connections to the Internet, but we will be discussing how to acheive a mesh
network so that one node's wired link can serve as a backup for another node.
Know anyone looking for a really good network engineer? Here's my
The sector antenna for SFWBB node 1 is horizontally polarized. This is an
important piece of information if you're trying to connect, because your
antenna will need to be horizontally polarized as well or you will get
virtually no signal. After I realized this, I successfully connected from
~1.75 miles away on the roof of my company's corporate offices at 12th & Market
using a Lucent card in my laptop with one of my homebrew ravioli can
SFWBB node 1 is now operational. I've got a 14 dBi sector antenna mounted on
my roof connected to a Linksys WAP11 in a waterproof enclosure. The antenna
has a 95 degree beamwidth and covers a pie-slice-shaped area. One side of the
"slice" extends from Twin Peaks through Corona Heights, Duboce Triangle, Lower
Haight and down Van Ness toward the bay. The other side of the "slice" extends
from Twin Peaks, towards Dolores Park, Mission, south of Potrero Hill and off
toward Hunters Point. Anywhere in between these two "lines" should be within
the coverage area, assuming line-of-sight is available.
If you're planning to connect, I just request that you send me the hardware
MAC address of the device you'll be connecting with so I know who you are.
Here's the info you'll need:
Location: N37.75758 W122.44406 elev: ~500 ft. AMSL
Antenna polarity: horizontal
IP/DNS: provided via DHCP
I'm still hoping to get some other nodes up and running. If you have line-of-
sight to me and also to other parts of the city I cannot see, please get in
touch to discuss setting up another node.
Greetings! Thanks for coming to check out this site. If you're looking
for the original story of how I set up a 3.5 mile 802.11b link to my house,
it's been moved
appeared on Slashdot on the evening of May 29, 2002. I hardly expected
Slashdot to accept it when I submitted it. It also propagated to several
other sites, including
DSLReports.com. My vpizza.org server was slammed pretty hard starting
at about 21:00 PDT on May 29 when the story hit Slashdot and stayed that way
through most of the 30th as well.
To date, I've received more than 100 e-mails in response to the story. Some
of them were "Right on!" general encouragement e-mails, some were asking
specific questions about various 802.11b set-ups, but many were from local
folks who are also interested in getting a community broadband network off
In response to the level of interest that the story has generated, I've done
1) I've created a mailing list specifically for the discussion of planning
and constructing a wireless broadband network in San Francisco and the greater
bay area. I'd like to see this go beyond just one access site at my house
covering just the northeast corner of San Francisco. It's become obvious that
a place is needed to discuss that effort if it's going to proceed any further.
An info page and subscription form for the mailing list can be found at
http://lists.vpizza.org/mailman/listinfo/sfwbb. I will try to make some
initial posts to get the discussion moving.
2) I've ordered a
12 dBi sector antenna and a
9 dBi omni antenna
which will be connected to another Linksys WAP11 at my house. The sector
antenna has a 95 degree beam width, which should be just about right to cover
the area of the view from my house. The omni will provide good coverage for
nearby folks who are behind me and higher on the hill. This should hopefully
be enough to get "Node 1" going at my house and allow some people to actually
start using the bandwidth. Hopefully all of the gear will arrive mid next
Thanks again for all your support and interest! I hope to be hearing from
many of you soon on the mailing list.
jmeehan (a t) vpizza (d o t) org
Updated: 14:13 PST 2002/11/25