Real-World Wireless Bridging- On The Cheap

Raise your hand if:

  • You’ve ever successfully installed a wireless bridge link
  • You’ve ever had the thrill of dialing in that final alignment and getting data to whiz across that new bridge at full supported rate
  • You’ve ever sweated out the first rain or snow storm for that link, then delighted when no packets were lost
  • Written out a fat PO for a pricey bridge link
  • Suffered through the hassle of doing a licensed link-frequency coordination, paperwork, etc.
  • Found alternative links at better prices and thought “gee, cheaper feels pretty good when I get the same or better data rates”

I see a lot of hands out there. But I also see some of you who wish you could raise your hands. Yes, the life of those of us who do bridge links is a sexy, thrilling high-adrenalin realm of no-holds barred rooftop backhaul adventure, I tellya. 

Here’s the thing about wireless bridge links that I want to talk about here though: these days you can get a lot for your money. The options are many, new technology is widening the market and driving prices down, and this handy option for extending the network across long distances when you don’t have fiber options is compelling.

Example #1:

I once did one of these for around $30K. It is “lightly licensed”, and gave 100 Mbps, full duplex.

Contrast the Bridgewave FE80 above to the Ubiquiti AirFiber we recently did for around $4,500 for a two-hopper (with masts/mounts/wiring/grounding) that gives a solid 650+ Mbps in each direction.


Example 2:

Cisco’s venerable 1300 bridge is still out there. It’s an 11g bridge that works in 2.4 GHz (rather, it tries to work in the crowded 2.4 space), and on a good day you might push 20 Mbps over it on a link that’ll run you around $3K installed if you’re lucky. But you also have to feed it low-loss coax. and use a wonky power/data injector.


Or, you could step into this saucy little number, for less money:


The LigoWave PTP 5-N uses standard PoE, outdoor UTP, works in the 5 GHz band, and can give around a real 180 Mbps for as little as under $1,500 typically installed.

The examples are many. There are a slew of bridging options out there at varying price and throughput tiers. Some are “carrier grade”, some are so inexpensive they are almost disposable. Each has it’s own story, advantages, and little gotchas. But wireless bridges are simply wonderful components, and the last few years have brought amazing new offerings to the market.

Other than Bridgewave, Cisco, LigoWave, and Ubiquiti mentioned above, I also follow these bridge/backhaul manufacturers:

And there are many, many more out there. Again, there are link options for all budgets and bandwidth requirements.

Regardless of which bridge solution you opt for- keep in mind:

– If you don’t know what you’re doing, get trained before installing
– Safety concerns are a whole different ballgame with bridging versus Wi-Fi
– There are a slew of do-it-yourself mast/mounting options, but do enough of these and you
may eventually have to pay a tower-climber
– Wiring, grounding, and lightning protection all need to be done to the manufacturer’s spec
– Well-installed links rarely need servicing, but when they do, it’ll be during the crappiest
weather. Install accordingly.
– Bridges in business networks tend be as critical as switches- secure them
(administratively), monitor them, and trend for changes that may indicate
– Never install licensed-frequency hardware without the license
– Stay out of 2.4 GHz- it’s variable to the point of being useless in many areas
– Keep a spare on hand for prod links, keep a spare set on hand for dealing with disasters





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