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Chris and Keri’s Blog » Blog Archive » Internet Tower
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Chris and Keri’s Blog

Just another WordPress weblog

Internet Tower

by chris - September 24th, 2008.
Filed under: Uncategorized.

When we bought our new place we knew we’d probably have to get wireless Internet as there is no cable or DSL here - too far from town. However I didn’t fully think this through and didn’t consider the fact that our house is surrounded by huge trees. Of course trees block wireless signal, so after some persuading I convinced Keri that the logical thing to do was to build a radio tower. I’ve always wanted a radio tower (what ham radio operator hasn’t?) and this was the perfect reason. I found someone selling 4 towers on craigslist, one that would be suitable for my needs and the other to resell to offset the cost. To summarize the tower building process, it ended up being a lot more work and a lot more expensive than we initially thought, but we’re finally done and enjoying our highspeed Internet service our here in the boonies. I’ll attach some photos below that we took throughout the process. All of the photos (many) can be found in the photo gallery.

Tower Foundation Caption Goes Here!!!

Tower foundation form about half full of concrete showing rebar cage and three 1"x30" anchor bolts.

The tower foundation was 5′9″x5′9″ and 4 feet deep, about 5 cubic yards of concrete. Due to site access problems and cost we mixed the concrete ourselves in a rented mixer using sand from the hole and gravel we already had on site. I would never mix this much cement by hand again, it took about 10 hours of grueling work.

Tower Winch Mechanism Caption

Me standing by tower winch pole. The cable in the foreground runs to the tower, in the back you can see the guy cable running to the anchor. Our house and driveway is in the background.

I decided rather then try to climb the tower to assemble it and work on it I would construct it as a tilt-over tower so it could be assembled and serviced from the ground. This added some cost and the complexity of the winch pole system. It lifts the tower using 1/4″ galvanized aircraft cable, the lifting load is about 1500 lbs which decreases as the tower gets closer to vertical.

Caption

The finished tower foundation and fully assembled Rohn HBX-56 tower on the ground. There was already a small clearing in the woods here, I only had to take down one 49 year old 20" DBH white pine and one smaller beech tree to make room for the tower.

I actually bought two of these Rohn BX towers, and used pieces from both to make up an HBX-56 foot tower. This is a self-supporting tower so there are no guy wires to support it, hence the need for the massive foundation. I initially put up the tower with a 10 foot mast and placed an orange 5-gal bucket on it so we could see the top more easily through the trees. We were all kind of disappointed that the 56+10 foot tower didn’t appear to really be tall enough.

Caption

Lifting the tower with 30-foot mast and radio equipment installed. Yes the mast really flexes that much under its own weight, once it is upright it remains straight and only sways slightly in the wind. Luckily the antenna is not sensitive enough to aiming that the wind sway will disturb service.

I ended up lengthening the mast an additional 20 feet, using one section of 1.5″ rigid electrical conduit for the lower section and 2 sections of 1.5″ EMT conduit for the upper two. The mast is not ideal but was much easier than trying to adapt more tower sections to the tower. This gives me a total height of about 80 feet. I have a good stable link to the Wireless Internet Service Provider’s tower about 2.5 miles away but my speeds are somewhat less than expected, so I think I may try to get another 10-15 feet out of the tower somehow.

900-926 MHz 9dBi gain yagi antenna

900 MHz 9dBi gain yagi antenna

Alvarion SU1 Radio and Power over Ethernet adapter

Alvarion SU1 Radio and Power over Ethernet adapter

I’m currently about 600-700kbps and I should be able to get over 1000 according to the WISP. The WISP uses Alvarion radios on 900MHz ISM band and I’m using a 9dBi Yagi antenna to get as much of a boost as I can. The radio itself is actually installed on the tower in a weatherproof enclosure and cat5 Ethernet cable is run into the house to a standard wireless router. The WISP is currently deploying a new wireless network in the area using WiMax radios, a newer, faster technology. Their closest WiMax tower is much farther away, about 15 miles, but the WISP guy said they’d be willing to give me a radio to try out if we’re interested. If our tower is tall enough, we might be able to get the WiMax signal which is about a 6Mbps service. So that might be an upcoming project.

And thus, we are online!

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