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What is the most cost effective way to secure our wireless access point?

The ISP that I work for has their wireless access point (WAP) on their mast, but I feel that it should be enclosed (if possible, inside a room) where it can be monitored and maintained to avoid the effects of weather, etc. One alternative is buying a long cable, but that is quite expensive. Is there a cheaper alternative?
You can put your WAP in an outdoor enclosure, mounted on the mast or placed very close to the mast (connected by a short antenna cable). Homegrown enclosures have even been made from Tupperware, but you're probably looking for a commercial grade outdoor enclosure like one of these: Qorvus, Demarc, Moonblink, Streakwave (This is just a small, random sample group. Many such products are readily available within a wide price range). Outdoor enclosures are waterproof, with fittings for power and data cables, and mounting brackets. Some enclosures are RF shielded, heated, lockable, and/or supplied with related hardware (power supplies, lightening protectors, antenna connectors, etc.)

As you note, the other option is to bring your WAP indoors and run a cable from the WAP to the outdoor antenna. RF cable and connector quality and cost varies; the lower the cost, the higher the signal loss. The longer the cable run, the more cumulative signal loss (usually measured in dB per foot). A very long run may require a signal amplifier to compensate for loss. You'd need to price out your exact configuration to compare the cost of a long cable run to the cost of an outdoor enclosure. But you should have no trouble finding example prices by Googling "802.11 RF cable."

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