What do you think the maximum link distance is for communication between two consumer-grade 32-milliwatt Orinoco Gold USB Wi-FI adapters? A thousand feet? Maybe a mile? How about 55.1 miles? Three teenage ham radio operators, Andy Meng, Justin Rigling and Ben Corrado, from Ohio took the top spot in the 2nd Annual Defcon Wi-Fi Shootout Contest in both the amplified and unamplified class after demonstrating a link of 55.1 miles. While not a new record for links using external amplifiers, it appears this is a new world record for unamplified Wi-Fi devices. The antennas, as you may suspect, gave the Ohio team the edge. The USB adapters were mounted at the focal point of two surplus 9.5-foot satellite dishes!
For a description of the contest and pictures of the equipment used, refer to Wi-Fi Shootout in the Desert by Kim Zetter on Wired.com. Also see Wi-Fi Shootout by William Row on the on the Protein Feed, World Record Wi-Fi Distance Link Set At Defcon 2004 Wi-Fi Shootout Contest in Las Vegas, Nevada, and a mention in Tom's Hardware story titled Defcon 12's Fear and Hacking in Las Vegas.
Last year's Wi-Fi Shootout was covered in RF Report for August 11, 2003. Adversarial Science Labs won the distance contest using a giant pyramidal horn. The links in last year's report are still working, so you can see pictures of the previous winning setup.
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