To get internet out where we are, we needed to set up a wifi connection between us and town that allowed us to access a broadband internet connection there. This was first done with a 6m pole that we mounted at both ends of the connection. Although this worked well at first, the connection at our end was not working as well as it could, so it was time to make some changes.
Looking down towards the city (shimmering glow in distance) from our YWAM Base, 6km out of town.
Our existing antenna turned out to be only just high enough to peep over the top of the trees. To discover this, I tied my camera to a big stick and set it on movie mode as I raised it up to point in the same direction as the antenna. It became clear that the way things were we remained at the mercy of the trees. The more the wind blew the more our connection was cut and so internet became very slow.
Our original antenna with the 6m pole sustaining it.
So it was off to town to see what we could find to fix this problem. We needed a bigger antenna, but one that would not break the bank, nor cause any problems with the local authorities. The first choice was a nice long piece of iron bar, 12 metres long. It turned out to cost over $700 pesos ($200 USD), an amount inconceivable to us just for internet. We needed another solution.
That solution came in the form of a pressed metal beam, much lighter than the iron bar and much, much cheaper too. It was very flexible so this antenna would need to be sustained by guy-wires to keep it steady. Seeing that it was 12 metres long also, there was no bus nor taxi that would be capable of carrying it. So we loaded it onto our shoulders and started walking.
The last part of the walk back to our YWAM Base. 3kms of nothing.
Upon arriving at the base with what was going to be our new antenna, it was time to set about painting it and preparing it for its new task. This meant that we had to measure the guy-wire lengths and then connect them in the right places. Their lengths were calculated easily thanks to some old school maths relating to right-angled triangles, and thankfully we had enough wire to reach every anchor point. Anchor points were made by perforating walls and wrapping the wire around iron bars on the other side, or using the concrete posts on our fence boundary, and the wire was tightened with standard fencing winders (no pics, sorry).
Soon, everything was in place. We decided to use the old antenna inside the new one to give it more strength and also because it was the easiest way to mount our pole-mounting NanoStation2 at the top of it. This worked out really well, and after a lot of struggling, some scary moments, some yelling and confusion, and a bit of luck, everything was in place. We had our antenna.
The new antenna. Note the old round antenna inside it.
Of course not everything was fixed and in place just yet. We had pre-drilled the metal of the antenna, but to fasten it to the house, we still needed to drill the wall and fit special plugs to the holes. So with the antenna in place, we drilled small holes first, and then moved it sideways just a little bit and re-drilled those holes to the size they needed to be. By this time it was dark, as our work had taken all of the afternoon and evening, and we worked by the light of a telephone.
With the screws now holding the antenna in place on the side of the house, things were much more stable and safe for us all. We then set about fastening each guy-wire to its prepared mounting point, and slowly tightening it until the antenna remained in place firmly. There are two sets of wires, four running from the top to ensure that the wild strong winds that we get down here in the patagonia of Argentina do not move it, and three from the middle of the antenna to avoid any belly-dancing or wobbling activities; something that it was doing as we carried it back to the Base.
The Prayer House, as we call it, has the perfect location for mounting our antenna.
With the new antenna in place and plugged in, nothing else needed to be done. It very quickly connected with our house in the city and over the next few days revealed that the extra height has made a massive difference. We are now very close to the speed of the Internet connection, something that was only dreamed of before. Using the internet, we still encounter moments of slow-downs that cannot be accounted for, but most of the time our connection is really fast and using the internet has become a joy and an efficient way of working once again.
So to get better internet, we just needed to be high.
The new antenna showing its height compared to the trees around it.