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I have a box with a working ADSL Internet connection. About 40 meters away (straight), in another house, there is another, older box. There are two houses in between.

Would there be some practical way to supply an Internet connection to the older box? The neighbors are ok with us installing cables and stuff. I'd say wifi would not be practical, since the houses in between would weaken the signal too much. And using Ethernet cables might require a switch or router in between, due to Ethernet distance limitations.

Advice?

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A cable can go about 100 meters, but you will need to take measures to protect it across that distance, especially outdoors (moisture, animals, people, etc). Wifi over that distance, especially with who knows what kind of interference is not a very good option with standard equipment, but with a high-gain directional antenna, you might be able to manage it. –  MaQleod Jun 20 '12 at 21:17

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Even though your neighbours may be fine with you running cables through their houses, they're probably less keen on people walking in every now and then for maintenance. Adding switches is a solid way of extending the range of your wired network, but not having physical access to them can be a real pain.

Luckily, 40 meters is well under the maximum distance for up to Gigabit Ethernet connections with any decent (as in: holds up to specifications) Cat 5, Cat 5e or Cat 6 cable, that can run up to 100 meters. Cables meant to be used outdoors are available, but obviously cost more. A simple and cheap way to protect them from the elements is to run the wiring through a plastic pipe.

Wifi might also be suitable for 40 meters, but will either be slower, less reliable or more expensive and unless you're into building directional antennas from kitchen supplies, probably be slower, less reliable and more expensive.

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If you can get enough height to give line of sight over the other two houses, wireless with directional antennas at each end will work. Various homebrew directional antennas (http://www.turnpoint.net/wireless/has.html has some examples) would be good at that range. The "coffee can" design (http://www.turnpoint.net/wireless/cantennahowto.html) would probably be the easiest, and can be weatherproofed.

You'll need wireless routers (one of which has to be able to be configured into client mode) or bridges at each end of course, but you can probably find 802.11g routers quite cheaply even if you have to buy them new.

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