I am trying to help provide decent (better than ATT's awful 3Mbps-on-a-good-day DSL) internet service to a cluster of homes in our rural neighborhood. The first house (near the main road) has good cable internet, but the provider wants extortionate prices to run service down our 1/2-mile private road. The plan would be to have that house sign up for a separate maxed-out cable account (maybe 20-50Mbps) and try to extend that service down the road (after the cable modem, using ethernet or wireless). One neighbor believes "mesh" wireless networks, using Ubiquity or Meraki equipment, is the answer. I agree, except it's a good 1000ft from that first house (the one where the modem would be) to the first house in our cluster - and it's heavily forested. After that, it shouldn't be too hard to get wireless to the other houses, 500ft or so apart, with some decent sight-lines.

So, how to do that first 1000ft jump ? I'm pretty sure Cat6 won't get it. I'm trying to figure out if fiberoptic might be the answer, but I know nothing about it (even though I'm a EE). Is it as simple as plugging an ethernet-to-fiberoptic transceiver to each end of a 1000ft string of outdoor-rated multi-mode fiberoptic cable, and connecting one transceiver to the modem and the other to the router, wireless gear, whatever ?

I'm cautiously (or naively) optimisitic that it can be done for $500 or so using:




Please be gentle !

  • 1
    If you're going to bury/string anything, it should definitely be fiber. Yes, it's just that simple -- fiber directly into a switch (SFP), or media converter. You'll want pre-terminated fiber, as doing it yourself is not something you can do. (the equipment alone blows your budget)
    – Ricky
    Jan 11, 2016 at 5:33
  • 4
    I think you may be in well over your head in trying be become an ISP.
    – Ricky
    Jan 11, 2016 at 5:34
  • Thanks for replying, Ricky. Why over my head though - technically or organizationally ? On the former, it doesn't really seem much different than creating my home LAN, notwithstanding my ignorance about fiber. On the latter, maybe, but it's a pretty friendly neighborhood and we're probably talking about 4 houses - seems like we just create a bank account, pay for the cable ISP plan and equipment from it, and people pay into it ever so often; but, if you stop paying, we change the password and don't tell you. Jan 11, 2016 at 5:45
  • Peter Green's answer largely covers the issues, but as for the actual "plugging", yes, it is basically as simple as buying two 1000Base-SX SFP modules (supporting 550m over multimode fiber), which will run you $25-30 each if you are just putting them in generic hardware (SFP NICs, cheap switches, etc.). Your cabling will cost a lot more than the transceivers. Jan 11, 2016 at 20:04
  • 2
    You linked to 62.5 multimode cable - DO NOT use that. It's an antique and will limit your possible top speed/distance immensely. If using multimode, you want one of the 50 micron core variants, but in fact you probably should be looking at single-mode, and not from Amazon, IME.
    – Ecnerwal
    Jan 12, 2016 at 2:38

3 Answers 3


If the houses are 500' apart, Wi-Fi is not the answer since, like copper UTP cabling, it is limited to 100 meters (328').

With multi-mode fiber, you need to be aware of the distance limitation for the particular fiber interfaces you are using. Also, terminating multi-mode fiber can take experience and the proper equipment to polish the fiber ends, and a microscope to inspect them. Outdoor fiber needs to be armored, gel-filled, loose-tube fiber that is buried at least 24", or deeper if the frost-line goes deeper where you are. Stringing it overhead involves a whole other set of conditions such as load bearing cable and lightning protection. Outdoor cable cannot extend more than 50' indoors, and it should not be directly connected to your equipment (you must terminate it to your indoor cabling system, properly grounded and bonded with lightning protection even for buried fiber, which then terminates into your equipment). Outside plant cabling is an entire specialty unto itself.

As Ricky Beam pointed out, the equipment required will be well over $500, and you probably are in way over your head. Home networking (off-topic here) is nothing compared to what you are trying to do.

You also need to check beforehand about the legalities: sharing of a single Internet account, the local and state laws regarding easements, and the National Electric Code. I got into trouble as a kid when some neighbors and I rigged our own communications wire between houses, and the local telco had a fit. You may need to hire someone who knows how to do this sort of thing.

  • 2
    WiFi is absolutely not limited to 100 meters. A pair of directional antennas in freespace would easily be able to talk to each other over 500 feet without violating laws on maximum gain over unlicensed spectrum. Jan 11, 2016 at 19:59
  • 1
    The IEEE 802.11 defines Wi-Fi for 100 meters. Other methods have been used, but they are non-standard. Yes, you could set up a point-to-point connection using the non-licensed spectrum, but that doesn't meet the Wi-Fi standard. You can usually get ethernet on UTP to work farther than 100 meters, too, but that is outside the 802.3 standard.
    – Ron Maupin
    Jan 11, 2016 at 20:03
  • 1
    The 802.11-2012 spec has no restrictions on range (or, more appropriately, BSA parameters), only requirements for the PHY properties. If you can meet those requirements with miles of propagation (and you can), have at it. Jan 11, 2016 at 20:11
  • Why can't the cable freeze, because of the gel in outdoor cable ? Why can;t it extend more than 50ft indoors (though not an issue for me, just curious) ? Jan 11, 2016 at 22:19
  • 1
    Hmm- a lightning strike on a fiber cable - nice scare tactic, utterly irrelevant if it's metal free, as many/most are. Utter lightning immunity is one of the reasons I use fiber between buildings on my campus.
    – Ecnerwal
    Jan 12, 2016 at 2:42

Part 1: Using fiber to run a 1000 foot ethernet link

Using fiber to run a long ethernet link is not quite as simple as you make out but it's certainly not unreasonable to DIY.

A few things you have missed.

  1. Putting connectors on the end of fiber is a specialist job. If you don't want to involve any specialists then you need to buy pre-terminated fiber terminated with the right connectors.
  2. You should avoid sharp bends in the fiber, I would also suggest running a duct rather than direct burial even if the cable you buy is advertised as suitable for direct burial.
  3. The individual fibers breaking out of a fiber installation cable will have very little protection against damage (far less than a patchcord does). If you buy a pre-terminated cable it should come with a preattatched gland that you can use to attatch the sheath and reinforcement of the cable to something solid and then a cover that covers the breakout section during installation. The proffesional way to deal with this is to fix the cable to a patch panel and then use patchcords to connect to the media converters. For a single link that is IMO overkill but you should take reasonable steps to ensure that the individual fibers don't get disturbed.
  4. Multimode fiber comes in different grades. I would suggest getting the higest grade (OM4) to minimise the risk of problems.
  5. Media converters are often fixed speed and will not work at lower speeds. So if one or both of the devices at the ends of the fiber links only supports 100 Mbps then you should buy 100 Mbps media converters.
  6. Remember to cross transmit and receive between the two media converters. The general convention with duplex patchcords and couplers is that they are always crossed (so you get an odd number of crosses between the end devices) but your installation cable will likey have single connectors on it so you will have to thing about the crossing yourself.

Part 2: sharing an internet connection

From a technical point of view you can build an ethernet network that spans multiple houses, connect it all to a normal home/small buisness NAT router and it will work. The protocols have no idea if the endpoints are ithe same house or not. However there are a number of things to be aware of.

  1. You will all be on the same LAN. There are obvious security implications to this.
  2. Your cable provider's terms and conditions may prohibit such usage and they may disconnect you if found out
  3. You will be sharing a public IP address, if someone in your community abuses the connection it may be difficult to determine who did it and you may find yourself all banned from online services. If people need ports forwarded there may be arguments over who gets what port.
  4. There may be local laws that put some legal responsibility on you as an ISP which you may struggle to comply with.
  5. If someone runs a connection hogging program like bittorrent they may drag down the quality of internet service for everyone.

There are ways around some of these, for example you can put NAT routers behind the main NAT router to provide some isolation between lans (though at the cost of having two layers of NAT which can break some services). You may be able to buy a buisness package from your ISP that allows the first level LAN to have public IPs so each house has thir own public IP, getting a buisness package from the ISP may or may not also eliminate unfavorable terms and conditions. You can get traffic shaping routers to try and reduce the impact of the torrent traffic.

Part3: responses to comment

I was thinking of simply laying the cable on the ground - it's all forest - except burying it in PVC where it crosses the road.

Doesn't seem like a good idea to me, a cable running along the surface is at quite high damage risk.

If unable to terminate myself, that means when the cable gets damaged, we need a whole new cable.

Rejoining a broken cable outdoors is possible but it's not a DIY job.

I have no idea what you mean by crossing transmit and receive; do you mean I need two cables, with one end connected to transmit port and other to receive (on the two media converters), and vice versa on the other cable ?

Normal fiber equipment uses two fibers, one for each direction. You have to cross over transmit and receive ports between the two transcivers, the fiber world has no equivilent to the AUTO-MDIX you see in the twisted pair world.

With most common fiber connector types you have both single fiber connectors and duplex (paired) connectors. It is possible to insert two single connectors into a duplex connector.

Couplers and patchcords are usually duplex and crossed. So if you connect two transcivers with duplex couplers and patch cords you end up with an odd number of crosses and everything works.

Installation cables usually contain at least four fibers (it is considered good practice to put in at least a couple of spares, so there is little point in a 2 fiber cable). If you buy them pre-terminated it is most likely that each fiber will be terminated on a seperate single connector (it's easier for them to fit a protective cover over the connectors for pulling the cable that way, as an asside make sure any preterminated cable you buy has this). So you have to remember to cross them over yourself when connecting them up.

  • Thanks, Peter. Yes, I gather I want to stick with pre-terminated cable. I was thinking of simply laying the cable on the ground - it's all forest - except burying it in PVC where it crosses the road. If unable to terminate myself, that means when the cable gets damaged, we need a whole new cable. I have no idea what you mean by crossing transmit and receive; do you mean I need two cables, with one end connected to transmit port and other to receive (on the two media converters), and vice versa on the other cable ? On Part 2, I hear you, I think we can deal with those issues. Jan 11, 2016 at 22:17
  • Does my edit answer your questions? Jan 12, 2016 at 0:15
  • Cables on poles or buried are very often chewed on by animals. I wouldn't expect cable on the ground in a forested area to survive long. That would be a very bad idea.
    – YLearn
    Jan 12, 2016 at 3:48
  • @Peter Green; nice post. My $0.02...also include the feasibilty of doing it all over wireless, cost of trenching may be over the top. See this page for hardwares:- ubnt.com/airfiber/airfiber5
    – user4565
    Jan 13, 2016 at 19:10

The regulatory aspect (getting an internet provider connection at the "road house" rather than misusing a "end-use subscriber" connection until you are found out, disconnected, and possibly sued for breach of contract) is a potentially large hurdle. Don't discount that.

Fiber-wise you'll probably be money ahead with single-mode fiber (the fiber is so much cheaper than multimode fiber that slightly more expensive connectors and SFPs are paid for by the savings on fiber cost whenever the run gets moderately long.) Might as well get reduced bend radius single-mode while you are at it - it adds little to the cost of a cable and reduces the fussiness of handling quite a bit. Slap a MicroTik RB260GSP on each end with an appropriate SFP (it's a small switch with an SFP slot for less $ than many "media converters" - I use 3 at present and recommend them, but I'm not in any way affiliated and an open to the concept that there might be a cheaper option I haven't found yet.) For SFPs, obsolete 4GB fiberchannel 1310 S-M SFPs do a wonderful job with gigabit ethernet and will cost you under $5 each on ebay if you shop well. 2-fiber drop without a lot of shopping (you could do better) $250, $112 for switches, $10 for SFPs, and a little budget left for terminating. Or you could spend a little more on chinese (or surplus non-chinese, if you can find them) BiDi SFPs and save more by going to 1-strand drop fiber (then again, sometimes a smart/lucky shopper can find 12-fiber drop for less than 1 fiber drop - depends what's on the market at a given moment.)

Wireless links don't go through trees well at all, but if the land is owned by friendly (or open to negotiation/cash settlement) parties punching a hole (right of way) through the trees for a high-speed point to point wireless link (not MESH, Gawd, Not Mesh) is likely to be a lot cheaper than the mechanics of getting fiber run (the fiber itself is cheap - the hole for it is expensive.) If the land is hostile, look at "very tall flagpoles" (AKA towers) to get above the trees. If the cost of these things make the cable company look less rapacious, cogitate on that fact. You may also find that some other location is better to put a tower to serve your houses - long distances are not so much a problem, trees and dirt are (so if you can get signal to a mountain you can see, it might be a lot cheaper than trying to get signal through or over trees "closer.")

Running fiber on the ground will almost certainly introduce you to a host of ills (things that gnaw, things that stomp with hooves, people who steal it, or at least cut it with the intent of stealing it, for the copper that isn't actually in it) and not having a splicer will begin to look pound-foolish. If nothing else, look into the actual owner of the utility poles (if there are utility poles) and pole rental costs - running "drop fiber" or some other form of ADSS cable (but drop fiber is usually the most cost-effective form) on legitimately rented poles might be the best option.

You should search around and see if there are WISPs in the area already. You should also investigate what you have in local companies that will send someone out to terminate fiber, since pulling a 1000 foot fiber with connectors on and not damaging the connectors is a lot harder than pulling 1000 feet of bare cable and having it terminated after it's in place.

  • Thanks, some good thoughts. I don't understand the use of "drop" when describing fiber cable. What's the rationale of disparaging comment about "mesh" (I don't know anything about it) ? Jan 12, 2016 at 6:09
  • Drop fiber is similar in physical form factor to telephone drop cable, and is intended for the "drop" from a utility pole to a house - it's also harder than average to screw up since it has fiberglass reinforcing rods to give it physical strength, which help you not bend it too sharply unless you are remarkably insensitive. Mesh is a disaster where you combine backhaul and subscriber service on one radio; Keeping those separate results in much more reliable and effective wireless networks.
    – Ecnerwal
    Jan 12, 2016 at 16:55

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