The world of 802.11 is generally a realm where we measure our power in milliwatts, and are mindful not to stray past our legal limits. we can get a little beefier when doing 802.11 point-to-point links, but this is generally a discipline where we aim for the lowest power needed to keep things in good order and allow for channel reuse in relatively close quarters. This doesn’t register as news to my fellow WLAN professionals, I know. But I would wager that not everyone realizes there is more to the power story, at least in the 2.4 GHz space. That is, if you have an Amateur Radio license.
STOP! Don’t run away- I’m not recruiting, and this is actually pretty easy stuff.
A few quick facts:
- My son got his Technician Class license when he was 12
- Long gone are the days when you need to know Morse Code for even the highest license class
- It’s cheap- the whole thing will run you under $20
- Practice exams are available for free, here’s one example site
- Like with Twitter handles, your call sign will only add to your already powerful allure
- There are all sorts of cool radio-meets-networking-and-Internet places you can explore
Back to topic. In exchange for the time you put into getting your ham radio license, you’ll become part of a large, international group of tech-minded hobbyists that often work their rigs as much for the public good as they do for their own enjoyment. But… even better, you get to use up to one-hundred-and-fifty-friggin’-WATTS of Peak Envelope Power in 2.4 GHz!! The truth is that hams use the least power needed to accomplish whatever it is they are trying to do, but that sort of power availability really makes for interesting possibilities, from fun signal-throwing experiments to high-power bridging for public service.
Here’s one nice introduction to the notion, and there are plenty of others if you wield the power of Google to find them. It all comes down to FCC Part 15 (Wi-Fi) versus FCC Part 97 (Amateur Radio) and where they overlap in the low end of the 802.11 space. Even if you don’t take the plunge, just reading about what has been accomplished with high-power 2.4 GHz will get your imagination going.
I’m KI2K, by the way. I’m not super active these days, given my busy schedule. But on the right day, I seriously enjoy my Extra Class radio privileges. If you need any help getting started, just let me know. Also, ARRL is a great first stop.