Tales From The Towers
Interesting fellow that Shakespeare because not only did he write plays, he also acted in them. And although Tales from the Towers, doesn’t hold a candle (pre-electric times, you can groan now) to Mr. William’s contributions to culture, I have a double life too. If you haven’t guessed yet, writing articles really isn’t my full time job (now my wife is groaning), I actually run a WISP, do installs, and handle tech support calls. After 10 years though, and many mistakes and successes, I’ve decided to rethink my network from the ground up as if I was starting tomorrow and share that. The idea is to lay out a simplified road map that will bring forth thousands of new WISPs into the market that can start breaking down the digital divide without taxpayer money and creating a new business. Since a thousand bee can take out the biggest animal, the more companies that jump into the industry, the better the chances of competing against the incumbents. It’s time to open the floodgates of small business entrepreneurs and begin the war for last mile bandwidth delivery everywhere. And although few outside Star Trek fans will recognize one of Shakespeare’s most famous sayings, they will recognize this modern variation, “Who let the dogs out”! Hopefully it’s the WISP industry.
One thing I’ve noticed is that the article comparing Ubiquiti and Cambium seems to be the most read of everything I’ve written. With the new ePMP from Cambium and Ubiquiti announcing their new NanoBeam products and future 802.11ac AirPrism technologies, I thought this would be a good time for an update. For the record though, my personal favorite was Chapter 22 since I was able to include a ton of metaphors, Arlo Guthrie, politics, and technology. If I’d remembered to include HoHo’s, all the high-points would have been covered.
I like cars. I’ve been a car guy since Hot Wheels in the 60’s. I’ve been through the Smokey and the Bandit Trans Am phase and although I’m in the Mustang phase now with enough horsepower to turn earth into my personal dynamometer, I find that my interest is turning to gas mileage, vehicle longevity, and reducing the cost of operation of my vehicles. I know this isn’t technically a WISP type article but it’s a fact of life with a WISP from a financial sense. That and there is a big lull in the industry on hardware/software announcements since WISPA is almost 30 days away where we get the really big news.
In this article, Rory Conaway describes a nightmare of a project and the lessons learned.
Many WISPs do one-off wireless projects. As consultants, we get referrals for many projects from a variety of sources. I have partnered or been lead on many projects, some of which I’ve written about here, others that have been profiled in magazine articles, and some of which I’d rather put in the category of “what was I thinking”. These projects are a great way to add to the bottom line, build reputation and experience, work with new products, and get away from users who think their sole and final purpose in life is to send me speedtest screen shots 6 times a day. When someone refers a project to us, we do everything possible to make that referring company or client look good on the project. However, sometimes they are engineered incorrectly and there is no way in all good conscience to complete the installation. Even worse, if you complete the installation and it doesn’t work or work well, you get blamed. This damages your reputation with the client or the referring company, meaning no more referrals. It’s a total lose-lose situation that reminds of the decision you have to make when the doctor asks you to choose between a laxative and a suppository.
The 900MHz band used to be viable for WISPs. Then the FCC started relaxing the rules and giving it away to companies that should be using different frequencies, like Progeny for example. To add insult to injury, they then give them an unfair advantage of higher power. But as sleazy as the Progeny deal was that Julian pushed out the door for his buddies or bosses, I’m not sure which yet, it doesn’t even come close to the number of illegally power SCADA devices that almost every single municipality has in place. Municipalities are so used to over legal power limits on their SCADA 900Mhz devices they have in place, it’s become standard operation procedure and is even documented as being illegal in the RF analysis of their engineering study . And the worst part is that nobody, especially the FCC , is doing anything about it.
5GHz has been the backbone of WISPs for a long time. 900Mhz is under assault in any urban environment meaning you are limited to Grizzly Adams neighbors and hope that most users only want to watch 70’s TV shows on NetFlix. 3.65GHz WiMax is tough on the budget and ulcers but it’s still the best option for long-range and vegetation, it’s just not magic. 2.4GHz is pretty much toast in any suburban area or city area. If you really want to see interference, I’ll show you the logs from our Xirrus router installed indoors that picked up 1400 APs. 2.4GHz still has value in remote areas for WISPs due to the 3-1 exception rule except that without Vivato, nobody has an AP that can take advantage of it any longer. I’m still holding out hope that with 802.11ac that the idea makes a comeback. Even though 802.11ac is specifically 5GHz, I’m not seeing the problem scaling it down to 2.4GHz in the future. A variation of this with dual-banding could bring back the mesh market.
This article addresses why the Connect America Fund should be shut down and what steps can be taken to encourage competition in the market for wired and wireless broadband services.
I’ve mentioned many times that I believe our current government is simply clueless. Unfortunately, I’ve come to realize that it’s simply far worse than that. If you combine corruption, selfishness, ignorance, arrogance, cronyism, stupidity, and incompetence in one package, that would pretty much describe the bloated, bureaucratic mess that is the US Federal Government. I’m not saying that there aren’t good people in the government; but as a whole, it’s simply pathetic. And this starts at the top and weasels its way down to every penny given to almost every private company, courtesy of politicians and bureaucrats who are either paying off someone for getting elected or through the concept of the welfare state. This didn’t start 5 years ago but has been going on for at least 100 years or more. Most of us never saw it or even paid attention unless they gored our ox. At this point though, the WISP industry’s ox is not only getting gored, its remains are multiplying and being spread across the land. I believe the other name for this is manure.
I’ve seen projections in our industry range from “the WISP market is dying, we need to move to fiber” up to “new technologies in RF are going to make fiber the horse and buggy of bandwidth industry”. The truth is that the wireless industry is about to put the hurt on the Wired World and they aren’t even hitting their stride yet. My newest model which I call, Galactus – Destroyer of Wired World (say it with a low grumble in your voice for more effect), is designed just for that battle. The good part is that you can do it today and be ready for tomorrow. Then when tomorrow comes, or really 802.11ac, it will just drop right in and re-arm you for the next few years of wired and fiber battle. However, the WISP paradigm and deployment mentality is going to have to change somewhat to take advantage of tomorrow’s technologies.
I should have called this article, “How I spent my Christmas vacation developing an ulcer”. I know, I know, WISPs never really get a vacation. I’m so paranoid about being out of touch that I took a satellite phone on a cruise and left the number with my Vienna Hot Dog vendor in case he was worried when I didn’t show up every Tuesday. However, recently I’ve put 24 hours on my cell phone over 4 days, had to drive 700 miles, and waste two 16 hour days on-site while my family was enjoying Italian dinners, Christmas cookies, and many hours around the card table. But this isn’t an article about goofy client customer support calls.
Every time a new product comes out, there is a lot of discussion about pros and cons, and how it works within existing deployments. The primary manufacturers have been following the same formulas for years. Cambium builds for high-density, long-range tower deployments based around a tower-centric hardware product line, Ubiquiti builds for pretty much everything else that is deployed by WISPs. This long-range tower-centric model is the only one that makes sense from a financial position for WISPS with Cambium equipment. When an AP costs $3000-$4000 dollars or it costs $10-$50,000 dollars or more to outfit a tower with APs, routers, backhaul radios, and battery backups, it’s imperative to maximize the efficiency of that that tower to increase profitability.
At WISPAPALOOZA this year, I was asked to be one of the speakers at the <500 User WISP presentation. Although we are supposed to go to WISPA to learn from others with more and different experiences, which I did, I also learned some things about my operations that I hadn’t thought about. Putting together a PowerPoint presentation about your company is a great way to step outside and look back in. If you think through all the facets of the company, where you are, where you are going, what’s working, what’s not working, etc…, and put that to paper to explain it to others, you may find that there are many things about your company that you have overlooked or just take for granted.
If you haven’t been to WISPAPALOOZA before, be prepared to find out it’s nothing like your fathers WISPAPALOOZA. This event was so full of activities, speakers, and new information that I think WISPA kept Vegas awake, not the other way around. If you think Vegas is a vacation when WISPA is there, think again. For all of us who have been to conventions, this is more like hanging around with 1000 friends who want to help you make your business better. Even though I have to admit to watching a couple of playoff games with the Giants embarrassing the Tigers (maybe Obama can get Detroit a bailout for Justin Verlanders arm since he is a union member), it just meant staying up later to discuss even more ideas. I literally didn’t get more than 4-6 hours of sleep on this trip any night and I wasn’t even at the hotel to experience the fire alarm treatment. I finallysent a postcard to the Blackjack dealers on Thursday and told them I would try and stop by next trip.
WISPS have more tools available today than ever before. There is an optimized product for every single model that is currently deployed, and there are a lot of different models. From grounded RJ-45 connectors to so many antenna models and every component in between, it’s impossible to keep up with everything any longer. Ask 5 WISPS what cable they use and you will get 5 different answers. MikroTik turned routers into white boxes and billing systems range from polished to what my Grandma’s kitchen used to look like when she decided to try a new recipe. There are now more ways to design a WISP than there are ways to play Monopoly.
Anybody starting a business knows that funding is the biggest problem. Angel investment and venture capital for first round funding is about as scarce as shade in Phoenix. That is of course, unless your Uncle RUSs or Aunt CAFee open up the government (meaning poor taxpayers) purse strings (lookup OpenRange, Main Street Broadband) to people who haven’t quite mastered the intricate and mystical techniques of the Excel spreadsheet.
Chapter 36: Tales from the Towers – And back into the Frying Pan: Part 2
I’ve rewritten this article several times in the last few weeks due to the sinking stock price of Ubiquiti. Since this article was based on where I thought the companies were going and Ubiquiti stock was sinking faster than Eddie Murphy’s box office appeal from Pluto Nash, I was hoping to see things settle down first. Right now it’s almost impossible to make any predictions. However, I’m going to anyway because I have as many opinions as Obama has excuses. I’m willing to stick my neck out if I have some reasonable foundation to base my prediction on, but frankly these may be as much a coin flip as anything else so clearly don’t base any investment decisions on it. I never saw this crash which means I’m as clueless as the next guy when it comes to investor mentalities. Other than the typical annual or bi-annual stock shortages which the supply chain it totally used to, I can’t figure out how a company with their numbers and expanding product lines goes down by 2/3rds in stock price. I’ve also delayed because I’m down to typing with two thumbs which is slightly slower, albeit some may say more accurate, than my usual technique (if you ever find your arm pinned to your chest for a month, I heartily recommend the Azio thumb keyboard).
Chapter 35: Tales from the Towers – Jumping into the Fire: Part 1
Before you start reading this article, I’m warning you that it’s the longest one I’ve written and the only one I let the manufacturers involved see it before it was released. I have my opinion and perceptions as many of you do. However, I also wanted it to be factually accurate and gave both manufacturers a couple of days to respond to any inaccuracies. Designing a WISP with a tower-centric model is pretty straight forward. Many of you have done that successfully for several years. In the beginning of our industry, that was pretty much the model that stands proven and true today. However, recent startups today range from a friend who wants to cover his neighborhood to companies that are looking at going public down the road. As Open-Range, Key-On, and several other recent failures have demonstrated, that type of model is more difficult to design and deploy successfully (read profitably) in today’s competitive environment in the United States. As the United States is only 20% of the Worldwide WISP market, I’m not going to presume that my analysis applies everywhere. In two other countries that I’m dealing with, both models are valid though and I’m looking at hybrid models in each of them.
I’ve seen business plans for WISPs from small to large, and from municipal mesh to tower-centric models. In every one, I try to look at design methodologies that would make the deployment unique technically. The goal is that th effort pays off in reduced capital expenditures, competitive advantage, and hopefully an overall better financial business model. One of the problems with being an engineer though is that we rarely assume we are wrong unless someone proves that we are.
Tales from the Towers: Chapter 33 – What’s your Vector, Victor?
I participate in various forums that cover the wireless industry. One of the things I enjoy hearing about is that unlicensed frequencies can’t work in certain applications for various reasons. Too much interference, too expensive, and if it’s possible why anyone else hasn’t done it, are common objections and just get my shackles up. The third one is my personal favorite and the one that really motivates me more than a good Chicago Vienna Hot Dog with pumpernickel bun, a Diet Coke (substitute YooHoo if available), and a Hostess HoHo. I’m also worried that the Hostess bankruptcy filing might mean the end of my favorite snack so I’m starting a public awareness campaign to save the HoHo J.
I’ve seen bids in the last few weeks that range from wireless municipal specifications from 8 years ago to the desire to reach for the outer limits. Both strategies have unrealistic expectations, just from different ends of the equation. Eight-year old municipal specifications assume that delivering 300Kbps is an adequate expectation for anyone in 2011. Of course, if you still use AOL dial-up, then 300Kbps is a magical upgrade. For the rest of us, using 300Kbps is painfully close to watching paint dry for some websites and applications. Forget using the cloud for storing anything with 300Kbps.
The skill sets required to install backhaul systems and residential or business clients can be utilized in many other applications. Although I’ve been fortunate enough to see many unique types of wireless applications, some stick out more than others. Video Surveillance and SCADA for traffic, water, sewer, are pretty standard. Last week I ran into a new one that really piqued my interest as both a wireless engineer and as a guy that reads www.physorg.com. Although I only understand about 1/1000 of what I’m reading, it’s still really cool stuff.
That’s not exactly how it’s sung by Frankie in “How you wear your hat” but if the slipper fits… Public Safety is scared to use 2.4GHz. Fears of hackers and the fact everything on the planet that is WiFi enabled runs in 2.4GHz. And why should they use it when the government has given them their own system in 4.9GHz? The reality check is this, when you share a taxi with someone going in the same direction, you both get to where you are going and you save a little money.
Running a WISP takes a wide variety of skill sets. My collection of technical skills looks sort of like this:
1) RF Engineer
2) Field Installer
3) Network Administrator
4) Client and Desktop Support
Chapter 27: Tales from the Tower - 2.4GHz for PTP Mission Critical applications across a city? What are you nuts?
Written By Rory Conaway (President and CEO of Triad Wireless)
This is Chapter 27 of Rory Conaway’s “Tales From The Towers” seriesabout 2.4GHz for PTP Mission Critical applications across a city? What are you nuts? If you have not yet done so, read Chapter 26: Everything old is New Again.
We all know that politicians are bought and sold long before they ever get to Washington. Just to get there means that every special interest on both sides of the aisle have already staked their claim on a representative’s soul. When someone pays for every facet of our life, you owe them dearly which makes most votes predestined on any particular topic a formality more than a surprise. That’s one of the reasons that votes concerning Television frequency reallocation such a conundrum for me on which side to support.
It seems like the longer I wait to write these, the further I get behind with all the news in the broadband industry. Between AT&T trying to relive its glory days of a total monopoly of the wireless telecommunications market and the government finally figuring out that CenturyLink was smarter than they were, it’s been interesting times. It is hilarious to watch CenturyLink completely corrupt the concept behind the RUS and then surprise the industry with a massive takeover move. If Cox and Comcast hadn’t thrown it in the face of the RUS, the RUS would still be feeding money through the various shell companies CenturyLink used to hide their activities. I wonder how many more proposals from CenturyLink subsidiaries are stilling pending on the desks of the RUS and what they plan to do about them. It’s been strangely quiet over there.
Being a small company with a wide variety of technical needs that vary from project to project, I use a lot of contractors. For example, I couldn’t bend a pipe without more dents than a Honda in a hailstorm. However, WISP operations and many different types of projects like video surveillance, access control, or even VoIP projects means that I had to bring in other people with special skills that I don’t have. However, a recent event in being the sub-contractor on a project with EarthCam has made me rethink how I’m going to treat my contractors in the future.
April 13, 2011 at 10:25 AM by Error! Hyperlink reference not valid.
WISPs are starting to get a little recognition with Obama's new initiative to provide more funding and loans for Rural Broadband. He announced a new initiative to take back more bandwidth below 1GHz and auction it off. Then he came up with the brilliant idea to use those funds to pay for a real public safety infrastructure. The timing of that was about a week after Chapter 21. I'm not saying Obama is a big fan of "Tales from the Towers" and that he would plagiarize other people ideas like extending the Patriot Act or keeping Guantanamo Bay open, but, okay I am saying... Everybody has to have their fantasies.
When Wireless Broadband was on everyone’s lips 8 years ago, we all thought we would be able to use our laptops everywhere. About the same time that Earthlink and Metro-Fi realized you can’t make “Free” pay off for their investors, 3G started moving in to fill the void. Then YouTube came along, pushed 3G to the ground and said, “I spit in the face of your puny bandwidth (insert Austrian Accent Here).” 3G then said, “Oh yea, my big brother, 4G, is coming and he will take care of you. You will be sorry.” YouTube said, “BTW, meet my friends, Hulu and NetFlix”. 4G took one look at these guys and said, “I’ll fight you guys but you have to have one hand tied behind your back, both legs tied together, and we are only going to fight for 10 minutes. After that I win and you have to go home”.
Tales from the Towers, Chapter 21: Let’s do it for the children
January 30, 2011 at 8:20 PM by Rory Conaway
I get a lot of calls from people interested in starting a WISP. Since I look at each deployment as a challenge both technically and financially, it’s very interesting to me to hear the scenarios and the expectations. On the other hand, I’m also involved in several industry blogs centered on different products, and I have had the opportunity to listen to many experts with years of experience describe their methodology and philosophy behind their designs. What’s most fascinating is that the modern WISP operator has developed into the medical equivalent of the general practitioner or the proverbial jack-of-all-trades which has resulted in many successful deployments. Keep in mind that most profitable WISPS are built around PTMP design instead of a municipal mesh model. I’m hoping Guerilla WiFi can change the model.
Tales from the Towers Chapter 20: Can’t we just all get along?
December 22, 2010 at 8:18 AM by Rory Conaway
I think it’s time to set the municipal alarm and wake the industry back up. Between Verizon and Sprint, I can’t figure out whose marketing department is worse. I do know these companies keep supporting more reasons to push WiFi. The technical divisions of these companies finally deploy high-speed mobile broadband but they promptly shoot themselves in the foot by either limiting users to 5GB per month or throttling to 256Kbps which is slower than EV-DO. I can’t even in good conscience beat up AT&T since everyone else, including Consumer Reports, is already doing that. I think it’s more of an admission that 4G is overhyped and oversold. Apparently getting bandwidth to the tower is a lot harder than getting bandwidth from the tower to the user. It doesn’t matter how much horsepower the car has if you can’t get gas in the engine. I think I will keep my unlimited bandwidth EV-DO card a few more months until Clearwire shows up in our city with an investor in tow. Right now I’m not even sure that a 12-month contract has any value with them.
Tuesday, 15 March 2016 06:07
Tales From the Towers Chapter 19: Catch a Wave-Guide and You are Sitting on Top of the World
November 29, 2010 at 2:51 PM by Rory Conaway
The Beach Boys are going to hate me for this but I’ve been waiting for years to use that line. I also wanted to title it, “Look Ma, no mesh” but I should have used that one several articles ago. It’s not that I have anything against mesh as there is an application for almost every technology. At this point in the industry and the economy, however, it’s time to get past a word very few non-technical people understand and the excessive associated cost of it. Anyway, this article is about wave-guide antennas so let’s get back to that.
Tuesday, 15 March 2016 06:07
Tales from the Towers, Chapter 18: More details on deploying large scale Wi-Fi networks
November 22, 2010 at 4:54 PM by Rory Conaway
In this installment of Tales from the Towers, Rory Conaway dives into the technical details of deploying a large scale municipal Wi-Fi network with explanations on using beam-forming equipment.
Based on some of the emails I’m getting, the biggest complaint is not enough details in my articles and without them, it’s difficult to implement the idea. Fair enough, I’m definitely guilty of that. In my defense, please understand that I want to have a personal life. As most WISP’s can attest, if I had to put down every single detail on every single project or idea, I would be writing from here to Kingdom come. Except for the six guys on the planet like me that think they ought to make a movie out of every article in EETimes (I think a lower noise figure on a 741 OP-Amp makes a compelling plot line), most of you would be canceling your Ambien prescriptions. The reality is that the details only matter to technical people and those are embedded in white papers. I’ve written a couple but I can’t sit still long enough to finish dinner, let alone do a 20-page technical document. My wife says that if I had put as much time into my homework as I have in these articles, I would have my Masters Degree by now. Of course, if University of Phoenix would give me real life credit for standing in a man-lift, hanging antennas 80 feet in the air, I would have received a Doctorate without ever having attended class.
Tales from the Towers, Chapter 17: Who Needs White Space?
November 2, 2010 at 9:53 AM by Rory Conaway
This article explains why the “White Space” (300 to 400 MHz frequencies) may not be ideal for wireless ISPs (WISPs) operating in cities. It focuses on how WISPs can build a network using the 900 MHz frequency band instead with the new beam-forming equipment.
It’s time to step up our game. There is no problem generating massive bandwidth from an access point (AP) location. We have done that. What we haven’t figured out yet is how to leap over tall trees in a single bound or walk through brick walls. If you are willing to add in another 20Mhz of super-powerful, wall-penetrating, obstruction busting, tree smashing signal, then we have solved the problem.
Tuesday, 15 March 2016 06:05
Tales from the Towers, Chapter 16: Setting up large scale wireless video surveillance
October 17, 2010 at 5:13 PM by Rory Conaway
This is not a how-to article on setting up a home video surveillance network since even my neighbor, the non-technical guy, installed his own video surveillance system. Most of us have an understanding of how an IP-based video surveillance network works. What we want to cover is why all this phenomenal bandwidth we are creating takes video surveillance to another level and why that may or may not be a good thing — and how to apply this to a large scale city video surveillance network.
A long time ago, video surveillance cameras used terms such as CIF (352×288 pixel resolution) and 4CIF (702×576). Computers used resolutions like VGA (640×480) and SVGA (1024×768). The common denominator in all pf these is the 4×3 screen ratio. Movie makers marched to their own drums with 16:9 ratios until the standard today is the 1080 level (1920×1080).
Tales from the Towers, Chapter 15: Thinking is Cheaper than Doing
October 4, 2010 at 8:56 PM by Rory Conaway
I said we would figure out how to compete with cable and it’s time to put up or shut up. I’m not writing the entire business plan here and I’m going to leave some key pieces out to protect some of what I’m working on, but the basic concept is here and it’s solid. We will put it all together later but let’s just think it through first and add some more tools.
Tuesday, 15 March 2016 06:04
Tales from the Towers, Chapter 14: How to Make Money as a Wireless ISP
September 21, 2010 at 4:53 PM by Rory Conaway
I have received calls from many people who want to start a wireless ISP (WISP) business, whether using a mesh/muni model or a point to multipoint (PTMP) system. Although I believe there is no better time than now, that doesn’t mean it’s easy, but I hope to prove that it’s financially feasible everywhere. Competing against satellite or cellular services like EVDO, WiMax, or even LTE is a no-brainer in areas that have no wireline services. I’ll cover the new Sprint/Clearwire LTE service just announced for Phoenix in another article. There are also other services like VoIP that can be provided, but for the beginning of this analysis, I will cover Internet services only.
A WISP can serve three types of geographical areas:
Tuesday, 15 March 2016 06:03
Tales From the Towers Chapter 13: Interference Is Not Just a Hockey Penalty
September 1, 2010 at 7:26 AM by Rory Conaway
Unlicensed frequencies mean that interference is a way of life in most major cities. The question is what to do when all the frequencies you plan on using or even radios that are in operation start having errors. I just came from an installation like that. In addition, then I was asked to design an expansion to the system. One of the clues was that interference is a problem is when things work for a couple weeks and packet errors in the log jump from nothing to tens of thousands.
By default, most of us set up our networks with 20MHz wide channels. That’s the default for 2.4GHz WiFi and usually the default for most 5.8GHz deployments. However, what happens when we do a site survey and 500 APs show up on the list? If the design is already deployed, your options are limited. You basically have three:
Tuesday, 15 March 2016 06:02
Tales From the Towers Chapter 13: My mom is making me clean my room
August 16, 2010 at 9:05 AM by Rory Conaway
This is the twelfth chapter in a series by Rory Conaway called Tales From the Towers about deploying and managing large scale Wi-Fi networks.
I have all these random thoughts hanging out there from the various articles so I thought it time to tidy them up before continuing on to some new ones. Let’s start with what’s really old is sometimes new again. Various ideas antenna and radio designs have been coming to me as I have been writing these articles so I thought I would share a few of them.
For those of you who are too young to have missed the Golden era of Ham and CB radio era, I have some interesting news for you. Many of the ideas that WiFi AP manufacturers have come up with are similar to some CB radio antenna systems from 35 years ago. It’s really funny to see how these ideas are implemented in WiFi with new capabilities. I’m not saying that antennas haven’t shown any innovation since then but… Of course, could you imagine a 36’ aluminum stock horizontal polarity wave-guide antenna? I would have had to sink 10’ concrete blocks into the ground to keep my garage from blowing over.
Tuesday, 15 March 2016 06:02
Tales from the Towers, Chapter 11: You Can’t Fit a Square Peg Into a Round Hole
August 2, 2010 at 9:08 AM by Rory Conaway
My attention deficit disorder is going nuts so I’m going to veer off Triadland a little bit more. We have defined a reference low-cost system and we clearly discussed the fact it’s definitely not the best system for a public safety mobile environment. So I’m going to call this article the prequel. How do we determine what equipment to use or in other words, what is the best system? Actually, most of them have some unique value depending on the application.
Ok, that’s a copout and allows me to avoid the question. However, there is no easy answer. I’ll go through the process that I use when asked to design a system. Keep in mind there are way more variables than I can cover here. The other thing that is highly important is that you know as many products on the market. I’m not just talking about mesh products, but PTP products, PTMP products, mobile products, virtual IP software, VPN products, antenna designs, etc… In addition to reading and keeping data sheets from everybody, get your hands on and get as much field experience with as many manufacturers as possible.
Tuesday, 15 March 2016 06:01
Municipal wireless designs...
Tuesday, 15 March 2016 06:00
Now let’s talk about the real-world in deploying this type of system.
Realistically, light poles or traffic lights are the obvious deployment locations. They are usually spaced pretty optimally. The problem is they are either owned or operated by the local municipality or the local power company which in many cases, is overseen by a local governing board. Either way, the key word here is government.
Tuesday, 15 March 2016 06:00
Our network is pretty inexpensive...
Before we continue developing the system further,
it’s a good idea to discuss all the various antenna designs that go into a municipal design process. I’ve described one type of design with omni-directional antennas, although I use many different designs customized to the target client. It won’t meet all needs; no system will unless the budget is unlimited. It is being designed to be as flexible as possible, but there are specific technologies that may work better in some areas. Wireless hardware manufacturers have put forth various designs and optimized their hardware towards that goal. Budgets have sometimes dictated other designs such as “Tales from the Towers.” Due to new equipment that has been released, the numbers of potential designs that can be deployed have exploded.
Our system is installed and our credit card maxed out. Now, we have to either pay for it or figure out how it’s going to save what we invested in it. As an income based system, it’s pretty easy to figure out a direct correlation between expenses and revenue. If there is some kind of defined savings, we need to try and make that objective and measurable.
Let’s talk about the profit scenario. These are just the direct costs:
On the income side, you are going to have daily, weekly, and monthly clients. Let’s say you charge $5 per day, $15 per week, and $30 per month. It’s fairly easy to calculate your income/revenue to put a profitable scenario together. However, let’s go back to the original premise of a low cost system.
In the last article, access points were installed, WDS links set up for hopping, and we were ready to access the Internet. Although TriadLand is ready to rock, we now need to connect the users. First we need to connect the network to some type of Internet service and then come up with a way to authenticate people who want to use it. After that we will cover the details of system management and how to overcome them.
Monday, 14 March 2016 12:09
The low-budget Muni-wireless system is ready to be deployed.
We have identified the perfect one square mile area to be covered. The streetlights are 25’ tall and exactly 660 feet apart with full time electric power. There are no trees and the houses are 20’ tall and made of wood. Nobody in the area owns a microwave oven or any indoor WiFi routers. This will be known as TriadLand. It’s my make believe city. I get to name it. The goal for the first square mile is complete indoor coverage to a laptop. Let’s find out if that is realistic.
Monday, 14 March 2016 12:08
This is the third installment of my “Tales from the Towers” series of articles about deploying large scale Wi-Fi networks in unlicensed bands. The theme: share and share alike. Although we were going to discuss putting access points (APs) on the poles in this week’s article, an incident occurred last week that I think is worth discussing before we go any further. Always keep in mind that unlicensed bandwidth is a shared commodity. It’s also a good idea to have a good relationship with your competitors or anyone in the area that is using unlicensed bandwidth. Sometimes that’s a little hard to do, but it’s definitely in your best interest to try.
Monday, 14 March 2016 12:07
Continuing the discussion of the budget muni wireless network requires analyzing the front line component, the Access Point (AP). There are many variations of APs. They all have features and capabilities that provide enhancements in certain environments. Some of the APs break the practical limit of 20-30 users by using multiple radios in a single enclosure, proprietary polling systems (not compatible with other vendors), and advanced beam-forming techniques. However, the focus is from a budget standpoint and that means this design will start with a single 2.4 GHz radio with an omni-directional antenna. In later articles, I will cover upgrading the design to support more users and a larger coverage area. The beauty of this design is that it’s cheap to get in the game and scalable.
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