LigoWave APC Button First view

Ligowave has recently launched a small form factor 802.11N radio. This is one of the growing number of devices designed for the SOHO and small and medium enterprise installs. You can read the full data sheet here. https://www.ligowave.com/public/downloads/APC%20button.pdf

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One of the first things I do with a unit like this is login and look at the existing firmware.  My unit came with Version 5.95 and the latest available was 7.02.  Since this is a new platform for me, I can’t speak to the in the firmware, other than what I saw on the surface.

I noticed some cool things about this unit, which some other vendors are lacking at the moment

Spectrum Analyzer
The spectrum analyzer under tools loaded very quickly.  No complicated Java or slow load times.  The following is a screenshot from it sitting on my desk.

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Site Survery
Just like the spectrum scan the site survey was quick and trouble-free. It picked up everything I expected it to see. It is very handy to just pop into a unit and see what it sees.

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SNMP and SMTP traps
Something that is very handy for the small office or small deployment was under services…System alerts. You can have the device send an e-mail or SNMP trap based upon some things most folks would really like to know about. For example, if the noise floor gets greater than a certain DB it will let you know.  Pretty cool

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These have a street price in the $40-50 range. This has just been a quick overlook.  I hope to get into some real world uses of these in the near future for a followup to this.

Why every ISP should be deploying hAP Lite to customers

So Mikrotik has a very cheap hAP Lite coming out.   This is a 4 port, 2.4 b/g/n router/access point which retails for $21.95. Baltic networks has pre-orders for $18.95.

Why should you deploy this little gem and how? We have found over the years routers account for more than half of the support issues. In some networks this number is closer to 80-90%. Whether it be a substandard router, one with out of date firmware, or poor placement by the customer.

Deployment of the hAP lite can be approached in one of two ways.  Both ways accomplish the same goal for the ISP. That goal is to have a device to test from that closely duplicates what the customer would see. Sure you can run tests from most modern wireless CPE, but it’s not the same as running tests m the customer side of the POE.

Many ISPs are offering a managed router service to their customers.  Some charge a nominal monthly fee, while others include it in the service.  This is a pretty straightforward thing.  The customer DMARC becomes the wireless router.  The ISP sets it up, does firmware updates, and generally takes care of it should there be issues.  The managed router can be an additional revenue stream in addition to providing a better customer experience.  Having a solid router that has been professionally setup by the ISP is a huge benefit to both the provider and the customer.  We will get into this a little later.

Second option lends itself better to a product such as the hAP lite. With the relative cheap cost you can install one as a “modem” if the customer chooses their own router option.  The actual method of setup can vary depending on your network philosophy.  You can simply bridge all the ports together and pass the data through like a switch.  The only difference is you add a “management ip” to the bridge interface on your network. This way you can reach it.  Another popular method, especially if you are running PPPoE or other radius methods, is to make the “modem” the PPPoE client.  This removes some of the burden from the wireless CPE onto something a little more powerful.   There are definite design considerations and cons for this setup.  We will go into those in a future article. But for now let’s just assume the hAP is just a managed switch you can access.

So what are the benefits of adding one of these cheap devices?
-You can run pings and traceroutes from the device.  This is helpful if a customer says they can’t reach a certain web-site.
-Capacity is becoming a larger and larger issue in the connected home.  iPads, gaming consoles, tvs, and even appliances are all sharing bandwidth.  If you are managing the customer router you can see the number of connected devices and do things like Torch to see what they are doing. If a customer calls and says its slow, being able to tell them that little Billy is downloading 4 megs a second on a device called “Billy’s xbox” can help a customer. It could also lead to an upsell.
-Wireless issues are another huge benefit.  If the customer bought their own router and stuck it in the basement and now their internet is slow you have a couple of tricks to troubleshoot without a truck roll.  If the hAP is in bridge mode simply enable the wireless, setup an SSID for the customer to test with and away you go.  This could uncover issues in the house, issues with their router, or it might even point to a problem on your side.
-Physical issues and ID10T errors can be quickly diagnosed.  If you can’t reach your device it’s either off or a cabling issue.  If you can reach the hAP and the port has errors it could be cabling or POE.

These are just a few benefits you can gleam from sticking a $20 Mikrotik device on your customer side network. It becomes a troubleshooting tool, which makes it money back if it saves you a single truck roll. The implementation is not as important as having a tool closer to the customer.  There several vendoars you can order the hAP lite from.  Baltic Networks is close to me so they are my go-to.  http://www.balticnetworks.com/mikrotik-hap-lite-tc-2-4ghz-indoor-access-point-tower-case-built-in-1-5dbi-antenna.html .

This isn’t practical for business and Enterprise customers, but you should already be deploying a router which has these features anyway right? 🙂

Getting the most out of your climbs

I have been wanting to write this article for awhile. When the topic is fresh in my mind I am usually too tired from a day of climbing. By the time things get around the lessons learned have escaped me. So, after a day of being in the sun on a 150 foot monopole I figured I would share some best practices.  These are aimed toward the WISP who wants to maximize their climbs.

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1.Tighten sector brackets on the ground and other bolts.  If it is holding it to the sector tighten it. The idea is the climber wants to be able to position the antenna against the mounting pole as easily as possible without needing extra hands.  Sometimes having both hands free is a challenge.  If you want to adjust downtilt on the ground the following links can help speed up the process. This is not necessary nor is it a requirement.  It just is one less thing to do in the air. Some helpful Links:

Proxim Downtilt Calculator

Wisp-Router downtilt calculator

I am planning on another blog article about downtilt calculations and my thoughts. We will go into this in a future post.

2.For Wireless backhaul shots in the 0-7 mile range use google earth.  Draw a line between the two points and use two reference points to get in the neighborhood.  By looking at the below screenshot I know to align my path over the edge of the building almost at the base of the tower.  This helped me determine mounting location and get a pretty close aim. You can get fancy with compasses, GPS alignment devices, and other high-tech toys, but people are typically visual people.  Having a reference point is easier on the mind than having a number like 121 degrees off north.  Microwave shots are a different beast so don’t lump tight beamwidth licensed links into the above statement.

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3.Don’t get too hung up on labels.  Instead I like to color code things.  If I am putting up 3 sectors I will get some colored tape and label them with a blue piece, a red piece, and a green piece.   This way if the client wants to have a sector facing north We have the software labeled blue.  I can identify color and tell the ground crew I faced the blue sector north. Makes things easier in the high stress environment of being hundreds of feet in the air. The cellular companies have some standardized labeling of their sectors:

Alpha is the North FACING vertical antenna on the cell tower
Beta is the Southeast FACING vertical antenna on the cell tower
Gamma is the Southwest FACING vertical antenna on the cell tower

I would suggest come up with a SOP for all your tower deployments, but be flexible.  Due to the various mounting locations it’s not always prudent to cookie cutter a WISP deployment like the cellular folks do.  I have installed gear on towers where you have a small corner of a rooftop or grain facility.  Due to other things being up there, the fact you are trading service or paying very little, your mounting options may be limited.

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4.On a related note color code everything. If you use colored tape, make sure to match the ethernet cables going to the sectors.  This way it is easier to identify the cable going to the sector. This also helps in easier identification of where things are plugged in.

5.There are six phases of the a WISP deployment.
Stage one- assembly and staging
Stage two – Mounting radio equipment and antennas
Stage three – Connecting power and connectivity.
Stage four – Physical adjustment and tuning
Stage five – Testing and tweaking
Stage six – cleanup and zip up

Think about each of these.  This will be another future blog post.

6.Have a plan of action.  Have a flexible order of doing things. Be able to adjust this on the fly due to various factors.  Sometimes is makes sense to mount the sectors, backhauls, and any other boxes at the top.  Once you have them mounted then make the connections.  Other times it may make sense to run the cable when you mount the device.

7. Have a loadout of specific tools in a bucket or tool pouch.  I like to include the following:
Knife – Automatic or assisted opening
Crescent wrench
Super-88 Tape
Zip ties
Phillips Screwdriver
Flat Screwdriver
Slip Joint pliers
Other tools such as ratchet wrenches, different sized tools, power tools, etc. are handy, and can make life easier. However, the above tools will allow you to 90% of what you need to do to install or remove most WISP equipment.  The flat screwdriver can be used to pry things loose or for leverage.

8.If you can do it on the ground do it.  Terminating and testing cat-5 is easier on the ground than 150 feet in the air.

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9. Train the ground crew to think about how this affects someone on the tower.  Most of the time folks don’t have the luxury of platforms. So they are hanging off the tower in awkward positions.  Doing a pull with 3 sectors attached to a load line might seem like you are saving time, but it might make things complicated for the climber.  Sometimes, 3 pulls might make their life easier.  They only have to deal with one thing at a time.  They aren’t fighting trying to unhook multiple antennas or figuring out what is what.  This is where straps come in very handy. A strap allows a climber some extra flexibility to move things around and position them better.

10.Have a checklist of sorts.  This can be a running thing as you go along.  I routinely tell the ground crew to remind me to do this.  If you have someone writing this stuff down they can read it back to you before you come down.

There are a great variety of tools, tricks, and ways of putting stuff on the tower.  Many people have their own ways of doing things.  These are just some of the best practices I have come up with through experience. We could debate tape vs zip ties and other things for hours.  Please leave comments and some tips that make your life easier.

 

Bitlomat announces Passport

From the Bitlomat Page:
Bitlomat has developed Passport, an innovative point-to-multipoint TDM-derived protocol with the needs of large scale outdoor networks and wireless internet service providers (WISPs) in mind.

Passport resolves the hidden terminal issue that is the root cause of poor performance in many large scale wireless networks, and provides the network operator with the highest throughput and spectrum efficiency available on the market.

Passport implements an advanced medium access control protocol to allow for fine-grain configuration of the guaranteed bandwidth that each client should have in the network. A WISP can create different classes of traffic and users, providing different guaranteed throughput on the same wireless network based on the access level or SLA that each user has subscribed to.

Passport is available for free for all Bitlomat products and comes embedded in the Bitlomat firmare.
Read More here..

The news that really makes you want to check it out:
Not only does Passport offer major improvements in throughput, bandwidth, latency, etc. but it’s now available for download to be flashed on to your existing network!
Read More here..
http://bitlomat.com/affiliate-area/

ePMP Version 2.3.1 released

PDF Release notes can be found at http://community.cambiumnetworks.com/t5/ePMP-1000/New-ePMP-Release-2-3-1-now-available/m-p/37067#U37067

Highlights Include:
o RFC1213 supports standard interface MIBs. Items such as Ethernet interface Tx/Rx and
corresponding stats are now supported per the standard RFC. This allows users to utilize 3rd party monitoring tools that support RFC1213
Separate Management IP when SM is in NAT mode
o Separate Wireless Management IP will provide the ability to separate management traffic from user traffic when the SM is configured in NAT mode providing separate management access to the SM. This includes the ability to have a separate management interface when PPPoE is enabled on the SM.
ARP table display
o Displays all the ARP entries for interfaces present in the routing table
VoIP helper functionality under NAT
o When the SM is in NAT mode, ePMP inspects SDP packets and automatically creates appropriate

Bitlomat Photos

Some of you have been asking for some photos of the Bitlomat CPE in real life.

The last photo is side by side compared to a UBNT M5 Nano