Repurposed Satellite Dish Antenna Captures Wi-Fi and Cell Phone Signals

Picture of Repurposed Satellite Dish Antenna Captures Wi-Fi and Cell Phone Signals

When I moved from San Antonio back to rural North Carolina, I found myself completely unable to get a wi-fi or cell phone signal where I lived. The only way for me to get a cell signal at all was to drive over a mile in either direction from where I liveed. I first thought my problem was my cell carrier. I decided to change carriers so I had several friends check out their signal strength while they were visiting me so I could better decide which carrier to go with. Of the three other major carriers we checked, not one could get a signal at my house. It was apparent that my problem was my location. I was at the bottom of a shallow valley. It was uphill in nearly any direction from there.

I had to find a solution. I checked into an external antenna for my cell phone but found they cost nearly $50.00 and there was some question about whether they actually work. I knew there had to be a better way. While working in my yard one afternoon I noticed an old satellite TV dish on top of a pole in my backyard. It had been left there by the previous residents. Suddenly a light bulb came on. I grabbed some wrenches, took down the dish and held my cell phone next to the antenna's horn and pointed the dish in various directions. I was amazed to find that I got full signal in one direction. I could not believe my eyes. I went from no signal to full signal and had not spent a dime or changed anything on my cell phone. Just to make sure I made a call using speaker phone and found that this thing truly did work.

The next test came when I took the assembly inside the house to try it. With aluminum siding on the house I have problems even getting a television signal using a rabbit ear antenna. To my surprise, I got two to three bars inside so long as I pointed the dish at a double window in my living room. I no longer missed calls and I didn't have to leave home to talk on my cell phone. Using a blue tooth headset really worked well. It isn't an ideal setup but it worked and it didn't cost me anything. It was also a great way to recycle that old satellite antenna that would have ended up in the trash otherwise.

I had a friend give me another old dish that I used for wi-fi. I mounted it on the pole the other dish came off of. After some tweaking I found several really strong wi-fi signals that I could not get without the dish thanks to some really great neighbors with unsecured networks. ; )



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theressaS19 days ago

My question is how to hook up from dish to wireless router dsl. My Problem here I can only receive 2mb download and .80 upload. I tried so many companies and they won't change here for new wires yet. and I live so close to the city where the tower is 5 miles away.

MareeJ11 month ago
This works for me!
mangareds2 months ago
Wow! thats very useful trick bro. I'm going to use my old satelite dish to catch the wifi signal from my ISP.
cell-guy2 months ago

Home Cellular solutions are really cost effective now, how ever it does make sense to have a tech come out there and pop an amp in real quick as oppose to fighting to through an amp in your self. I just launched a business around it. They work great.

cell-guy2 months ago
Garf2 months ago
I have been searching for answer to my poor cellphone signal for months. scary thing is I am starting to understand what you all are saying. I just
moved into a metal sided mobile home. I can only get a workable signal in bedroom. No reception in kitchen. cellphone is my only internet connection and email/text.

I understand about placing phone against horn and using ear piece but how would I text and view web? I have two old dishes. One on roof and one on pole in yard I must stay on Verizon tower or there is no reception at all for anyone out here. I am on the ocean out on a point. The direction of tower depends where on
is standing. as coastline here has lots of bays and lagoons. I know the tower is at the same compass direction it's just confusing when I walk the coast It's too hot, buggy & dark at night to go outside and at night certain wildlife roams. Am I understanding. that there is no way to run a hard wire from dish to phone? That would leave me to bring dish inside. It's rather large. And still the texting & web problem. what's the answer. I really don't want to go landline

You never mentioned your carrier. I live in appalacian mountains of east Tn about 25 miles from NC state line in rural area also and here, Verizon(cdma) rules the rural areas while att, tmobile(gsm) is the worst.

PankajP46 months ago

how make any

signal catcher device pls.............tel me

Hey, FYI, I got an adapter and antenna for my usb computer modem at a PETRO truck stop. Reasonably priced, and if anything didn't fit, unlike EBAY, I could return it. The manufacturer was Wilson, came with a nice long mini-coax cable on the whip type antenna. Bought an adapter specific to my modem, which at the time had been out less than a month.

are you talking about http://www.wilsonamplifiers.com/ ?

Be careful of using long cables on cellphone (or wifi) antennas.  These radios work at thousands of GHz, and even best quality coax cable gets very lossy at these frequencies.

Use the shortest cable run that you can - certainly not more than several yards, unless you are prepared to spring for something like "Andrews Heliax", which is
E X P E N S I V E !

Otherwise, all that signal that you got by using the dish will just vanish coming down the cable!
Thanks for the words of caution, but I was speaking about an antenna that is purpose built for cellular use by a company that has been building them for use in tractor trailers. The total run of cable is approx. 3 yards, plus the pig tail adapter for the USB modem.

Here is the exact antenna I was referring to-

P.S., it is mounted above the roof line of my house and works great.

Amazing to get such awesome tech at a truck stop. 
Sorry  about the error above - I should have said "thousands of  MHz"

The antenna has great claimed gain for its size (but remember that "dBi" is not "gain over a dipole" - the figures would be lower in dBd)

Even for a short tail, RG58 really is too lossy at 800MHz or 1600MHz, and the 3 yds extension cable advertised would double the loss! (plus the extra loss from 2 more connectors)

Having said that - it's still going to be better than the standard cell antenna, inside the cab!  But a better solution would be an antenna with something like RG8 low-loss cable, and it should plug into an antenna socket on the phone (not "couple" by a few turns of wire around the phone antenna, or through a plate stuck to the phone)

Good luck, and happy phoning!
UmeedA7 months ago

gadgets in your home that can meddle with system activity on the 2.4ghz
recurrence range. You can purchase an Amplifier who is boosting signal power
such as WILSON AMPLIFIER to help you
find the wellspring of impedance


TrevorW18 months ago

I would like to thank you for this instructable. This is a big issue in many developing countries such as those in Africa, where there is a great need for better cell phone coverage. I will be looking into this post on a regular basis, to see if there any updates or improvements that can be made.

JaideepN9 months ago

i tried it but it didn't work. I placed my mobile at the focus but no increase in phone signal or the wifi signal of the phone. I wonder what am i doing wrong. Can anyone help me.

biochemtronics (author)  JaideepN8 months ago

JaideepN: It is difficult to tell for sure what is causing your problem But I would guess the problem is likely related to aligning the dish antenna to the signal source. This is a bit complicated for a message so I added another step to the instructable to explain how to do it. Thanks for bring this up.

biochemtronics: The mobile tower is located just 600 feet away. While trying this experiment i also knew about the offset thing of the dish but nothing helped. I performed this experiment just out of curiosity, to see if it really works. I also tried it with different service providers but still no luck. Is there a chance that the dish i am using can't be used for this purpose. I have also attached a picture of the kind of dish i am using.
I also have one more question. I am using a TP Link 5210g access point to connect to distant wifi. Is there any way i can use that with the parabolic dish to get even better signal?
Eagerly waiting for reply.

biochemtronics (author)  JaideepN8 months ago

I am not sure where you are, but in the USA towers do not provide service for all cell phone carriers. If you can see the tower but cannot get a signal then the tower is not providing service for your cell phone carrier. When I was using this antenna I could see a cell tower from my back porch but it did not service my telephone. That is why I used the dish antenna. From looking at your picture there should not be a problem using that dish antenna. As for the TP Link system working with a dish antenna - I doubt if it is going to offer much improvement as the TP Link already gives you a 12 db gain. If that is not enough then nothing I know of is going to help.

S.A.M11 year ago

Would this dish antenna work if I have a signal booster to capture the signal from dish antenna. I have a signal booster installed but I think it does not get enough signal from outside antenna so it doesn't have anything to boost. I wonder if dish antenna can capture enough signal to work with booster.

SueB41 year ago

If you have a computer and wi-fi, you can plug your cell phone into the computer and get great service. We live 5 miles out of town and the cell tower is partially blocked by a mountain. I've tried all kinds of boosters, but this one is totally free. Give it a try.

Tbus1 year ago

My instructor from school wrote an article on how to solve mobile antenna problems in the winter that cover some of reception issues mentioned here.


bruc33ef6 years ago
Great! Wonder if it would work with any household parabolic disk, such as a steel cooking bowl, bottom of a 1-2 qt beer can, etc. I've read you can use a satellite disk to do solar cooking as well.
biochemtronics (author)  bruc33ef6 years ago
I have seen other household items used as dish antennas, but I really doubt their effectiveness. One of the few things I remember from 2 years of algebra is that a true parabola is usually very shallow (like commercial dish antennas) and their point of focus is very small. Any convex surface will work to some degree, but to get a surface to focus all the signals it receives into one small focal point is a very complicated mathematical undertaking not likely to be duplicated in a common kitchen vegetable strainer. I am sure my design would work a lot better if I were to remove the plastic cover from the horn assembly and position my cell phone in the exact focus point of the parabola. Most any convex surface will work as a parabola but I feel it is best and easiest for me to let the engineers of satellite television do the complicated math, design, and construction. I will merely focus my efforts on the re-purposing of their fine work. As for cooking with a dish, if you could mirror its surface I am sure it would work great.
if u do mirror the the dich have get a crud load of safety gear.
Parabolas (or paraboloids) aren't necessarily shallow. The steepness of the curve is related to the distance between the focus and the vertex and can vary over an infinite range.
solar energy is easily harvest to cook and/or be converted with parabolic dishes ....
Various bowl shapes you find around the kitchen probably won't have a parabolic shape, and as a result won't properly focus the radiant energy at a point. A properly designed parabolic antenna might provide 18 dB to 22 dB of gain, while an improvised dish might only achieve 5 dB to 7 dB, but, hey, if that stainless steel mixing bowl or wok only cost you $2 at a garage sale and it boosts your signal enough to achieve your aims, go for it!
swyatt12 years ago
I wouldn't do this but if you got a tv box to descramble the signals couldn't you use this to get free tv?
yes but some unit will send out a location feed. but if u unlock the box then go 4 it.
spylock1 year ago
Cool,my Pops and I have Sprint,and have to go outside to talk,its unreal,it reminds me of Green Acres.
WifiWLanMan2 years ago
I live in a semi populated city (Town of 20,000) do you think if I stuck a wifi card in where you said to put it I would get a lot of signals? (I also live on a hill)
biochemtronics (author)  WifiWLanMan2 years ago
The answer to that question depends on how many neighbors you have within range of the dish. It will also depend on ho many of the networks are not password protected. I have seen more than 30 Wifi networks in one place, but not one of them was unsecured so I could not use any of them.
cool. i was wandering if this would work, as i have basically no phone signal at my home. however im wandering for the next step. if you could make a wire antenna at the focal point of the dish that runs and can be attached to your phones actual antenna, through some sort of connection. there for the dish can be out side and your phone inside. though the wire antenna in the dish would probably have to be wound the the right shape to pick up the appropriate frequency for the phone. but its just a thought :)
biochemtronics (author)  dcarter-davies2 years ago
There is no reason why your idea won't work. However, I would use a commercial external antenna if one is available for your phone. A quick internet search will let you know if one is available. They are not available for some phones. Most cell phones today have internal antennas so you can't connect directly to them. Only a few have external antenna jacks. Just attaching a length of wire to your cell phone's antenna probably won't work, will likely reduce your reception even more and could damage your cell phone's transmitter circuit. Antenna lengths and shapes are extremely critical at the frequencies cell phones use. On top of this you would have to use special coax cable (not the television type) to connect the antenna to your cell phone. If you can get a commercial external antenna then you are set to go. If not then you are going to have to mount the antenna indoors. It works fine in stick built homes even through walls. When I was using this method years ago I lived in a metal mobile home so I could only get a signal through windows. Infact, with an external antenna you may not need the dish. Good luck.
Thank you for your help , im now gonna have to experiment with some bits and bobs and see what i can come up with. :)
lkruger4 years ago
Hey, wonder if you could help me, I am in the middle of now where and saw what you have done with the dish, just want to know do you think it will work with a USB Modem for internet aswell
Replace the LNB with a cantenna (dongle inside), have a look elsewhere on this site, there are many things like that.
Just place an external USB WiFi antenna infront of the horn. Just glue it there or use double sided sticky tape. Point to the source.
onemoroni12 years ago
I have seen these antennas thrown away and wondered how to re purpose them. Now you have given me a great idea.
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