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Wireless Networking

What the FCC's Wi-Fi Expansion Means For You 132

Posted by timothy
from the new-haircuts-all-around dept.
alphadogg writes "Mobile devices like the iPhone 5 are embracing the 5GHz band, and that trend will expand as 802.11ac radios become prevalent even on smartphones starting in 2013. The FCC announced a New Year's Wi-Fi gift during the International CES show earlier this month: a proposal to dramatically expand the unlicensed spectrum in the 5GHz frequency band for use by Wi-Fi devices. The announcement comes as a growing number of vendors are announcing products that will support the "Gigabit Wi-Fi" 802.11ac standard in 2013. To find out the implications of the FCC's plan, Network World talked with Matthew Gast, director of product management for Aerohive Networks (author of "802.11n: A Survival Guide"). Gast blogged enthusiastically after FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski announced the spectrum move, even admitting he had an 'engineer-crush' on the chairman as a result."
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What the FCC's Wi-Fi Expansion Means For You

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  • by alen (225700) on Thursday January 24, 2013 @02:36PM (#42682157)

    in NYC so many people have wifi that i get better performance with cat5. i got tired of my xbox disconnecting from Live and started using Cat5 instead.

    i have something like 20 hot spots around me. 5GHz will be nice for a few years until everyone gets on it as well.

    • by GameboyRMH (1153867) <gameboyrmhNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday January 24, 2013 @02:46PM (#42682285) Journal

      Cat5 (or Cat6e if you want futureproofing) is just better for any device that doesn't move.

      • by h4rr4r (612664) on Thursday January 24, 2013 @02:54PM (#42682375)

        This, 100 times this. If you have a device that is not being moved, run a wire. It is not hard to do nor is it expensive if you need to pay someone.

        In the vast majority if not all states, even renters can do this provided the seal the holes back up when they leave. No matter what the contract states. Check your local laws before doing this of course.

        • Where running cables behind walls is impractical, flush-mount raceway is an option. I used this in my old condo. After caulk and paint it was hardly noticable. In 2004 when my new house was built I put at least 1 run of 5e in each room. I whish I spent the $ on cat 6.
          • by buybuydandavis (644487) on Thursday January 24, 2013 @03:51PM (#42683019)

            If you're going to wire, wire with the best available. It's just crazy to cheap out on the wire, when the installation is the major cost/hassle.

            • +1 here... and doing post-build install of catX gets cumbersome and costly > 4:1 labor:materials costs. Doing it as part of an initial build is way less (effectively).
              • by ls671 (1122017)

                Enough already! I have a fews 100 ft extensions and I just let them lay on the floor. I thus benefit from the lowest possible cost whenever I move my equipment moves.

            • by operagost (62405)
              And regardless of whether you cheap out or not, always pull a piece of twine along with the cables so that you can pull new ones later.
            • by Guspaz (556486)

              So, you install nothing but Cat 7a cables, then?

            • by bobbied (2522392)

              Scratch that.. If you are going to wire, put in 3/4" conduit to boxes next to every receptacle that dump into some accessible void like an attic, basement or central closet. Make sure you can easily get from any box to any other. That way you can pull whatever wire or cable they come up with when ever you like at minimum of cost.

              I knew a guy who built his house with a double gang box every 8' connected by 3/4" conduit into the attic or basement with a number of 2" runs from the attic to his basement back

            • by uncqual (836337)
              If you're building a new house, construct it so you can pull upgraded wiring/fibre easily in 20 years (sticking it in conduit can be part or all of that equation).
            • by Zibodiz (2160038)

              If you're going to wire, wire with the best available. It's just crazy to cheap out on the wire, when the installation is the major cost/hassle.

              Aw heck with that, I pull wires for a living. Last thing I wanna do when I get home is pull more wires. I had a gaping hole in the plaster from where I installed a new bathroom door (plaster in old houses is so hard to keep from cracking into a larger hole than you wanted), so I just pulled a random 50' cat5 cable I had lying around. It travels across the attic and out to a WiMax antenna on a pole on my roof. (I share a network between my house & my shop 2 blocks away; it works pretty awesome, and

          • by h4rr4r (612664)

            You should have run conduit.

        • by GameboyRMH (1153867) <gameboyrmhNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday January 24, 2013 @03:27PM (#42682761) Journal

          Seal holes? Pay people? I just pull wires from one room to another, as a bonus it makes your house look cyberpunk as all hell.

          • by drinkypoo (153816)

            I did this in one spot, between my bedroom and the adjacent living room. The cables run under my closet door, and through the wall into the coat closet where they meet up with the AP and the PoE injector for the WISP's hardware. From there they go through the wall behind some furniture into the living room where the television is. You can't actually see any of it though.

        • by cawpin (875453)

          If you have a device that is not being moved, run a wire. It is not hard to do

          You obviously haven't been in my attic. If it was that easy I'd have my whole house wired. It isn't.

          • by operagost (62405)
            If you only have one story, run in through the basement or crawl space instead. Besides being easier to work in (if your crawl space isn't dirt, anyway), you won't have as far to fish.
            • by Anonymous Coward
              Many places I lived in the US, especially in the north where there are decent crawl spaces or nearly finished basements, running a wire would only take a few minutes. You would spend more time trying to install the junction box on the wall and making it look nice. However, a few of the places I live and have family at, like in Florida, where there were no basements or crawlspaces under the house, and only partial attic access to the house, you could easily spend the whole weekend pulling a wire or two.
              • Often you can find plumbing or heating/cooling plenums to run the cable through; just make sure the cable meets local codes for where you're running it. Plenum cables abound. Crimp tools are cheap. And you won't trip over the cables or have them chewed by a neurotic dog.

            • by cawpin (875453)
              I would but crawling through a solid concrete slab is very difficult.
              • by karnal (22275)

                I have a feeling you could make a lot of money even if it was difficult by crawling through concrete slabs. I know for me it's impossible!

        • by EETech1 (1179269)

          You can easily tuck them under the baseboard, use a flat screwdriver turned sideways to tuck them between the baseboard and the carpet and run them right against the wall. there's room for 2 or 3 cords under there in most houses. If it crosses a doorway and the trim strip is too small, just get a piece of trim that will fit over it, and tack it to the floor over the wires.

          I have a coax, and a cat 5 cable running from my bedroom, down the hall, around the living room, and into the kitchen closet, and it's co

          • by godefroi (52421)

            You know, you could leave it for the next guy, who would probably appreciate the work you put into it!

            • by EETech1 (1179269)

              It took me less than an hour including moving the furniture (:and splicing the cable:) and I'm sure the next guy would appreciate the free cable (ahemm, i
              I mean coax and Cat5) only problem is my landlord has an aversion to returning the security deposit, and after he jipped my friend out of $400 to pick up 5 softballs his kids lost in the weeds by the back yard when he moved out, I think I'll take it with me :)

              Cheers!

      • by afidel (530433) on Thursday January 24, 2013 @02:55PM (#42682383)

        Cat6 (there is no e) does nothing to help you futureproof, you need cat6a to do 10Gb as cat6 never made it into any spec (there was a draft version of 10GBaseT that allowed cat6 to 55m without AXT or 37m with AXT but it was not ratified)

      • by bobbied (2522392)

        Cat5 (or Cat6e if you want futureproofing) is just better for any device that doesn't move.

        If cost is no object, I'd use fiber myself. It is unlikely you will *ever* out grow the wiring if you pull fiber... Eventually, even Cat6e is going to be obsolete, but fiber will never really go away.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          yea, Cause you can get easily grab a fiber xbox adapter. Not.

          Wires FTW.

          • by FatAlb3rt (533682)
            Not?

            Garth called, says he wants his Aerosmith shirt back.
          • by bobbied (2522392) on Thursday January 24, 2013 @04:30PM (#42683453)

            yea, Cause you can get easily grab a fiber xbox adapter. Not.

            Actually you can easily get media converters for about $100 US each and use a short patch cable to wire it directly to your XBox 360 network port...

            If I was you, I'd be more concerned about getting the fiber pulled and terminated. Putting on fiber connections is something that takes a bit of equipment and a bit of skill that can be somewhat costly to obtain. But, remember, I said if cost was no object...

            Personally, I'm pulling Cat5e in my house, but that's mainly because it is easy to access the walls from the attic of my single story home and cost *IS* an object of concern for me...

            • by Miamicanes (730264) on Thursday January 24, 2013 @05:48PM (#42684257)

              For INSIDE a house, fiber really is gross overkill. Most DATACENTERS don't even go all the way and use fiber for connections between devices in the same room. If you end up having to plug the fiber at both ends into an adapter box to turn it into gigabit wired ethernet, what have you *really* accomplished besides ego-masturbation and slightly increased latency due to two more conversion steps?

              It's like Toslink... everyone thinks it's the ultimate L33t way to run SPDIF signals between your player and amp, and both Monster Cable and Toshiba have done their best to reinforce that notion... except actually, it's not. If you look at real-world performance, Toslink positively BUTCHERS the signal, and turns it into metaphorical mush that Solomon-Reed error correction can *barely* keep up with and fix. Toslink falls over and dies with relatively short lengths where a video-grade RCA cable works flawlessly. Optical interconnects for signals running less than a hundred feet, or within a single room, are almost ALWAYS counterproductive. Toslink, like passive fiber interconnects in general, is one of those things that sounds really cool in theory, but ends up sucking in real life because you're taking something straightforward and making it 200 times more complicated than it has to be.

              Remember, 10-gigabit ethernet over copper ALREADY exists. It's not suitable for direct use, but with anticipated improvements to DSP technology, I think it's safe to say that when the day comes that you need to casually shovel 10gbps around your house, if push came to shove you'd be able to buy a pair of 10-gigE switches so you could multiplex the traffic of up to 10 gigabit devices into a single cat6 cable for up to a few hundred feet... at worst, using the same basic technology used to make VDSL work (just more wires operating in parallel to spread the work around).

          • by LiENUS (207736)
            http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16833156017/ [newegg.com] It's 100mbit only but gigabit and beyond are out there and not difficult to find.
        • by Anonymous Coward

          Copper will never go away either. It's the devices on either end of the wire (whether metal or optic) that go away, and it's those devices that dictate the usefulness of the wire you've strung between them. Devices that use copper will be plentiful throughout our lifetimes, and they already support speeds fast enough to justify their use in 99% of short-run applications.

          Where fiber really shines is in long-run applications, since light attenuates so much slower than electrical signals do over copper.

          At the

          • by gv250 (897841)

            At the end of the day, electrical signals travel over copper at the speed of light (minus minimal overhead) the same as light does through fiber

            Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] disagrees with you: “In copper wire, the speed s generally ranges from .59c to .77c”

            • by sFurbo (1361249)
              What's the refractive index of the core of fibers? I wouldn't be surprised if it was 1.3 or above, making the upper range of the speed in copper higher than the speed in fiber.
            • In fairness, fiber optic transmissions aren't light speed either... any resistance will slow things down. That said, it really doesn't matter *THAT* much to use one that's much more expensive over the other.
            • by jandrese (485)
              Not that running at .59c vs. .99c matters in the least when your entire cable run is 50m. In this case, copper will be faster anyway because converting from copper to optical and back takes time, and nobody has a pure-optical machine yet.
          • by bobbied (2522392)

            I'm not sure I'm ready to claim that Cat-5e or Cat-6 cabling is going to be staying forever. There are limits to the speed of each of these cable types and I think that we will continue to see a need for increased bandwidths as time progresses. Eventually, the necessary speeds will exceed the available bandwidth on the cable and you will end up replacing it.

            The real issue is how long will it take? I remember back when commercial grade networks ran on Coax and you got 1 Megbit/second or less. This was on

            • by whit3 (318913)

              >I suspect that you are likely going to be very safe with Cat-6 for a few decades, but ...

              A few decades is the human lifespan. That's good enough for me.

              Parenthetically, cat5 was developed for the old only-uses-two-pair standard, 10baseT, but works fine with four-pair gigabit (1000baseT) gear. The cat6 advantage isn't really speed, it's range (and for my house, one can painlessly forego any range beyond 50m).

              • by bobbied (2522392)
                A few, is like two or three, maybe 5 at the most... So I sure hope you plan to live longer than a few decades... I sure am.
        • by amorsen (7485)

          If cost is no object, I'd use fiber myself. It is unlikely you will *ever* out grow the wiring if you pull fiber... Eventually, even Cat6e is going to be obsolete, but fiber will never really go away.

          Two problems with that: Are you going single mode or multi mode? And how do you do power over fiber?

          By all means, pull a few pairs of fiber while you're at it, but do not skimp on the copper.

          • by bobbied (2522392)
            Personally, I'm pulling just plain old cat 5 because I'm cheap. But as I said, "if cost is no object" and the goal is to not have technology over run your cabling, pull fiber. In your case, if there is no power outlet close enough to your POE powered device, you might want to pull some twisted pair copper too, but expect the twisted pair to be outdated long before the fiber.
    • by Ost99 (101831) on Thursday January 24, 2013 @02:47PM (#42682297)

      Range on 5GHz tends to be limited by walls etc. so you should get less interference / overlapping with 5GHz inside your own house / apartment.

    • by radish (98371)

      You ALWAYS get better performance with a wired connection. Even if you have superfast wifi that can max out your downstream connection the stability and reliability is never as good as wired. And if you need to run multiple streams of data around the house, forget it.

      • by operagost (62405)
        I've planned to compromise. I use laptops and tablets in the house, so I currently have two old Motorola 54G boxes in a wireless bridge. The bridge halves the speed, plus G is too slow now anyway. In addition, due to signal attenuation I can't have them as far apart as I'd like, so I'm going to run one Cat 5e cable in the crawlspace/basement to link two new N access points. That will give me full speed over most of the house. One cable and two low-voltage utility boxes aren't hard to do.
      • I use 10BASE2 you insensative clod!
    • Run cable if you can. If you can't, and speaking from experience (5GHz is already available commercially in Canada), 5GHz stuff runs significantly better than 2.4GHz, and not just because the spectrum is less crowded. There's 120 channels to choose from instead of just 11, and frequency-hopping is built into the specification, so if you start to have noise on your channel it'll just switch frequencies. And that's with the stuff you can get today. With even more spectrum allocated to it, it'll only get bette

  • Surely this must be the world's most useless book?

  • Will it have more range?

    • by bobbied (2522392)

      Unlikely this will have better range than 2.4Ghz. 5Ghz is attenuated a lot more than 2.4Ghz by walls, plants and such.

      The good news though will be that with an expanded available spectrum, speeds will go up. Higher attenuation and lower usable distances will help with crowded environments. But I don't think the available range will be greater than 2.4Ghz equipment.

      • by LiENUS (207736)
        In really crowded areas you might see more usable distance with 5ghz than 2.4ghz simply by virtue the speed on 2.4ghz being so unusable at any distance that the 5ghz stuff works better at any distance.
      • by GNious (953874)

        This is a selling-point - less range => less RF polution :D

  • by Rob Riggs (6418) on Thursday January 24, 2013 @02:55PM (#42682395) Homepage Journal
    Looks like they are adding more channels in the 5cm ham band. Good for getting access to cheap equipment that can be modded for amateur radio use. Bad because of the added interference.
    • Re:5cm Ham Band (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Bill_the_Engineer (772575) on Thursday January 24, 2013 @03:31PM (#42682805)

      Very bad since the entire 5650-5925 MHz amateur radio allocation is included in the WiFi announcement.

      Bad for experiment and hobbyist that uses the band. Bad for the industry because the proposal will meet opposition.

      Also there is a lot of hand waving on the "Dynamic Frequency Selection" channels and how they will enforce minimal interference to weather radar.

  • I just got a Asus 802.11AC (RT-N66U) router and their AC66 PCIE adapter last night. The performance through one wall about 20 feet from the router is a claimed 1.3GBIT however transfer rates so far are 8 megabytes a second. I know it's still in draft blah blah but it's quite sad how slow it is in the real world.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      I just got a Asus 802.11AC (RT-N66U) router and their AC66 PCIE adapter last night.

      The performance through one wall about 20 feet from the router is a claimed 1.3GBIT however transfer rates so far are 8 megabytes a second. I know it's still in draft blah blah but it's quite sad how slow it is in the real world.

      The Asus RT-N66U has a max wireless speed of 450Mbps for 2.4Ghz and 450Mbps for 5.0Ghz (N speeds). Combined total throughput (with both radios in use) is supposed to be 900Mbps (aggregate). Asus's website has the "RT-AC66U" listed as their 802.11ac wifi router (offering speeds up to 1300Mbps).

      • by Megor1 (621918)
        Whoops sorry listed the wrong router model, I did get the AC model you listed. It's also fun how they list 1.75Gbit on the box, but it's really 1.3gbit if you use 5ghz and 450mbit if you use 2.4ghz.
        • It's also fun how they list 1.75Gbit on the box, but it's really 1.3gbit if you use 5ghz and 450mbit if you use 2.4ghz.

          Do their drivers support simultaneous multi-radio use and channel bonding? That wouldn't be a terrible idea (though I doubt it's implemented). Linux could do the bonding even if the drivers can't natively if both radios could be simultaneously addressed.

    • by Dwedit (232252)

      You're really lucky to get that kind of speed. I have a a/b/g/n wireless adapter, I get a connection rate that claims to be 54 mbps, and data transfers at 3MB/sec. Any of the other b/g/n wireless adapters won't connect any faster than 54 mbps either.

      I was getting better speed when I was using a linksys WRT54GL than a wireless AC draft router. Really not impressed by the N standard.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        I'm using an N router and I'm getting about 10 Mbps. I was doing just as well with my WRT54G, and I will probably go back to it now that I have removed the GigE client from my living room.

    • by CastrTroy (595695)
      Yeah, the problem with wireless is that all the speeds they give are theoretical maximum speeds where the actual speed is quite often way below the theoretical maximum. This is especially true once you start to move far away from the access point, and there walls between the router and the wireless card. Whereas with wires, you almost always get the advertised speed unless there's something wrong with your cable, or your computer isn't fast enough to keep up with the connection (if the data being sent is
    • by adri (173121)

      You won't get significant throughput with the first generation kit if you deviate from the ideal behaviour.

      Going through a wall counts as that.

      Look at the encoding for 11ac MCS8 and MCS9. It's an insantly high QAM (256) up there. The slightest distortion from the ideal is going to mess up that constellation and it'll drop back down to 11n style encoding.

  • I thought that 802.11A was already in the 5Ghz band, and "everyone" went to 2.4Ghz (B/G) because it performs better inside due to the shorter waves penetrating walls better.

    I could RTFA but that would be against the true spirit of /. so I will just ask. Is there something about the new 802.11ac standard that makes it better for use inside buildings and other structurally dense environments?

    • by kaiser423 (828989)
      It adds good, compatible MIMO to the spec. Nicer routers will actually dynamically point a more directional beam at devices that are having signal to noise problems to allow for a better connection. Not much, but that extra 3-5dB or so can really make a big difference in connection quality.
    • by kaiser423 (828989)

      I thought that 802.11A was already in the 5Ghz band, and "everyone" went to 2.4Ghz (B/G) because it performs better inside due to the shorter waves penetrating walls better.

      I could RTFA but that would be against the true spirit of /. so I will just ask. Is there something about the new 802.11ac standard that makes it better for use inside buildings and other structurally dense environments?

      Forgot to add that it's the longer waves (lower frequency = longer wavelength) that penetrates walls and objects better.

    • by Moses48 (1849872) on Thursday January 24, 2013 @03:07PM (#42682555)

      Not to be pedantic, but I think I should clarify that 2.4Ghz has a longer wavelength. The longer wavelength penetrates walls better.

    • by Trepidity (597)

      I could RTFA but that would be against the true spirit of /. so I will just ask. Is there something about the new 802.11ac standard that makes it better for use inside buildings and other structurally dense environments?

      Well, I could quote what Cisco's whitepaper [cisco.com] has to say about it:

      802.11ac, the emerging standard from the IEEE, is like the movie The Godfather Part II. It takes something great and makes it even better.

      The whitepaper doesn't say anything about walls though.

    • by JonBoy47 (2813759)
      802.11a has been at 5GHz for a decade. Unfortunately, none of the early 802.11a equipment was backward compatible with the (at the time) more widely deployed 802.11b. 802.11a/b solutions eventually became available, but by then the 802.11g ship had sailed. 802.11g provided a-level speed combined with backward compatibility to b-level and at a much lower cost.
    • by adri (173121)

      So:

      * 2ghz goes further through objects
      * 5ghz is cleaner, there's more of it out there, but it gets attenuated strongly by walls and such.

      For home deployments (ie, one AP, lots of rooms) then you likely want 2GHz.

      For deployments where you have money (ie one AP per room then you want 5GHz, but with the power cranked down on each AP.

  • I recently turned an old computer into a router/wireless AP, and made sure I picked up a proper wireless card beforehand. Currently the only company that has any serious wireless driver support in Linux is Atheros, and the ath9k driver has become quite good, worked right out of the box with hostapd.

    However the only 802.11ac adapter listed on newegg seems to be a Broadcom chip, so you can't really do a damn thing with it. Oh well.
    • Big tip for anybody who's trying to roll his own access point: stick to PCI or PCI-express (1x is fine) interfaces (maybe... MAYBE Cardbus or Expresscard, as long as you make sure it's not "USB-over-Expresscard"), and forget about USB.

      To say that "AP mode" via USB (even Atheros) is "bleeding-edge experimental" would be a gross oversimplification of just how hard it is to get something that even pretends to briefly work over USB. AFAIK, Atheros is the only chipset that can even halfway work in AP mode over

  • We have 2.4GHz and 5 GHz unlicensed because nobody else wanted to use them because they're inherently poor choices for radio propagation. I'll think the FCC actually cares about individual radio users when it lets us use something in the VHF range, and a big chunk of it at that. The useful frequencies are still for the wealthy individuals and corporations.

    • by 0123456 (636235)

      We have 2.4GHz and 5 GHz unlicensed because nobody else wanted to use them because they're inherently poor choices for radio propagation.

      Which is exactly what you want for a home wireless system, so it won't interfere too badly with your neighbours.

    • by satsuke (263225)

      Problem is, there are not any significant bands in the VHF range that are unallocated or easily reallocated. Certainly not in the 60-100mhz quantity that would be required for a useable deployment of wi-fi style connections.

      Look at the allocation listings for LF-VHF .. it looks like somebody took a blender to frequency listings and put names on the pieces.

      Another problem is inherent distance characteristics. Even at the milliwatt range of home wifi, you'd still get a useable signal at several hundred feet

    • Actually, 2.4GHz ended up as an ISM band because microwave ovens rendered it commercially useless (remember, microwave ovens are basically thousand-watt 2.4GHz radio transmitters that cook by rapidly altering the polarity of the signal to make water molecules rock back and forth... all the faraday cage around a microwave oven's cavity does is diffuse the signal & scramble its polarity so it won't cause water molecules in your eyeball to start rocking back and forth, too. The 2.4GHz RF signal itself radi

  • Why is there seemingly not a SINGLE product available for consumers to buy -- access point, interface, or otherwise -- for 802.11y?

    OK, sure... you have to fork out a whopping hundred bucks for a 10-year license, but Jesus H. Christ, you get to run with sufficiently high power to achieve 5km range, and better yet... you get to have the EXCLUSIVE local usage rights to your licensed chunk of spectrum. I'd pay a hundred bucks for 10 years to have my own exclusive chunk of the wifi band in a HEARTBEAT.

    * No more

    • by Anonymous Coward

      You want a consumer product to buy, but you also want something for an "exclusive club for the computer elite." Do those two things really make any sense, together?

      Pulling a piece of plastic out of your wallet and reading a number to Amazon, isn't elite.

      "I don't understand. I bought the best guitar and the best amp they had. How come people say my punk rock band isn't punk rock?"

  • by Anonymous Coward

    One problem is propagation through walls. 5GHz sucks at wifi / 802.11n power levels.

    I have a ~6,000 sq. ft. house with four dual-band APs (i.e. simultaneous 2.4 and 5GHz radios). The 5GHz is only faster when you are in the same room as an AP. With a single wall between you and the AP the 2.4 and 5GHz are roughly equivalent and everywhere else in the house it is actually faster to just use the 2.4GHz band (especially on mobile devices like cell phones/tablets/ipods, etc.). I end up just leaving everyth

  • I live in the boonies with limited bandwidth. Will this help with very long distance wifi (miles) in the forest?
    • by quetwo (1203948)

      No. Most likely you will need to wait for somebody with a licensed frequency, and long-haul gear to come in and help you. This is all for consumer-grade, in-the-home-or-office stuff.

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