MTIN announces new plans effective October 31 2018

Due to several opportunities, MTIN is moving toward collapsed support plan style.  We will only be offering a contract support model and best effort service.


Contract Support

Customers purchase a minimum 5 hour block for $445. Rates are billed as follows.

Normal Business Hours (8am-5pm EST time)                           $89 per hour
Late night & Weekend support                                                 $125 per hour

Contract customers will use a minimum of 1 hour a month for remote monitoring services, firmware, and other notifications, as well as any general maintenance tasks in order to keep documentation and other aspects of the network up to date for our technicians.   Remote Backups, security audits, and other services which MTIN hosts for the customer can be included in the one-hour minimum.

The goal with contract customers is to build a long-term relationship in order to help their networks grow and thrive.  By being engaged with the customer on a regular basis we are able to provide better service and have a better handle on customer needs. As networks become more and more complicated having a consultant who has is more a partner than a hired gun is becoming valuable to an operator.

Tier II emergency response times for Tier II customers.
Normal working hours (3 hour maximum)
Late night and weekend (5 hour maximum)


Best Effort Plan

Customers pay as they go for best effort support.  Support is available on a best effort service and first come first serve.

Normal Business Hours (8am-5pm EST time)                           $119 per hour
Late night & Weekend support                                                 $145 per hour

Policy details

1. Late night and Weekend is defined as. 9PM-9AM EST MONDAY-FRIDAY & 7PM EST FRIDAY -9AM Monday. Contract Customers can schedule maintenance windows and such at a discounted rate ahead of time.

2. All customers who don’t have pre-purchased time will be served on a best effort service. Priority will be given to contract customers, and then “walk-in” customers.

3. All times stated are maximum times for response. Depending on workload, times are typically much less.

4. Contact MTIN for details on this new plan.

From the archives – Evolution of a network guy part 4

In 2006 I was hired on part-time for Purdue University. My days would consist of mornings on Campus at Purdue doing I.T. support for the Agronomy Department and afternoons, evenings, and weekends doing support and build-outs for NDWave.  We were in the mode of dumping everything back into the company to get to a solid sustainable position.  I didn’t really want to go back to desktop support, but the benefits and part-time position helped to pay off bills we had accumulated with MTIN.   Purdue allowed me to meet Donnie Payne.  Donnie is an infectious personality sort of person.  Just being around him motivates you to do things.  Purdue allowed me to work with Mac OSX Xserves, cutting-edge Linux servers, and special projects.  One of the coolest projects I worked on included remote sensor trailers.  We had servers, remote reboots, and had to deal with how to get connectivity out in BFE.  Several sites had cellular or satellite uplinks. I was able to apply my ISP knowledge to this project.

NDWave exposed us to lots of rockstars in the ISP industry.  JohnnyO and his crew helping with removing feedhorns from a tower is something I will never forget. Sitting outside a hotel with him cooking dinner.  Guys like Chuck Hogg, who helped the industry in several ways and is just a plain cool cat.  The work alone has opened up friendships which were well worth any long days. Guys like Jay Panozzo, who are not directly connected with the WISP industry, but have their parts.  Jay owns Midamerica Towers and is a Man among men.  Jay sets the bar for the tower professional.

I continued to dedicate time to Purdue and Ndwave until April 2008.  One month before Omnicity took over management of the NDWave network I became a full time employee. Omnicity started out good, but quickly went downhill after a year for me.  With all the lawsuits in place that is about all I will say about that.

After being separated form Omnicity I continued to keep my head above water with steady consulting from companies I had helped over the past couple of years. Kenny Johnson at Mooreland ISP and Scott Reed at NewWays were two of my best customers. I truly understood what it was like to be the one the buck stops with.  When you have a tower outage at 1AM. the customer does not care except they have no Internet.  Early morning climbs to repair Aps in the dead of winter were not uncommon.  That is part of what it takes.  Being a former owner really helped me connect with what these guys are going through.

Things were slow so I was able to re-group some.  I did not mess with much technology except when I had to.  I took a step back and concentrated on the activities I enjoyed.  I stepped up collecting G.I. Joe figures visited more friends, and generally did non-tech related things.  This in itself expanded those I call friends.  My mind and soul needed that healing.  Then a funny thing happened.  I started writing this blog, becoming active on mailing lists again, and generally became interested in the technology again.  I started gaining more and more consulting clients and working with more and more networks.  Ubiquiti was just starting to come on the scene, Mikrotik was a mature platform, and prices were starting to come down on gear.  I remember sitting around 3 years ago thinking I needed to step up what I am doing.  It took me up until then to realize I had enough experience and stuff running around in my head to be an expert. I have watched so-called experts screw up even the simplest things.

In the past couple of years, things have really blossomed in the Industry and I have had the pleasure of being a part of some of it.  When you look back on this there are certain key points where you take leaps and bounds.    Once I was able to step back and further enjoy things that next leap up was taken. This allowed me to open new pathways of thinking too.  My confidence soared, my shyness subsided, and life got better.  I attribute this to those who have influenced my life, and the experiences we have shared.

Stripping wireless gear off a 120 foot tower in Chicago with Mike Hammett is one of my fondest memories.  The work was hard and long, but having the comrade in arms with you to do it make up for it.   There is a bond that is formed which last a lifetime.  Mike is one of those guys you want to see succeed.  I am fortunate to have been in a position on a couple of occasions to help him when it would have been a paid for him to hire it out.

This brings us to present day…

Continued in part 5 (the conclusion I promise)

From the archives – Evolution of a network guy part 3

One night I am sitting in my office wondering what is next for MTIN and I get a call from Steve Narducci in Anderson, Indiana.  Steve has this idea he wants to start an ISP.  I call up one of my good friends Chris Orr.  Chris and I had become good friends out of a chance meeting of him stopping by the office for some thermal Paste.  I instantly knew Chris was of the same kind of mold I was.  Chris had been hanging out at the office and helping with MTIN for sometime now.  Chris is the best *NIX engineer I have ever seen.  So I call Chris and ask if he wants to make a little money and so something enjoyable.  I think it took Chris awhile to realize I don’t let much hold me back and life is all about going for opportunities or creating ones.

Early one Saturday morning in 2006 Chris, Amber, and I head to Anderson Indiana to hang the first Access Points for what would become ndwave.com.  We had been prepping for this for months.  T1 line had been ordered, servers built, and equipment ordered and delivered.  Little did any of us know we were on the verge of something great.   Through a small team we were able to grow to over 1,000 customers under 2 years.  Working with NDWave was one of the first times I had the complete package.  I had the freedom to shape a growing network and the financial backing to do it. I was as unrestricted as I could get.  I felt like I had finally arrived into what I was supposed to be doing.  We were working hard and long hours, but it was fun.  There is an old saying that goes something like “If you find a profession you truly love, you will never have to work another day in your life”.

During this time I really was able to get to Know Rick Harnish.  Rick is the Marlon Brando of the the Wireless ISP world.  Rick was eager to share what he knew and help everyone around him grow.  Having someone like Rick to have conversations with was a huge asset.  He was a major pipeline to the innovation and direction other WISPs were going.  Plus Rick is just a plain cool guy.

NDWave really established my credibility in the ISP world. I had been looking for that recognition for quite awhile. Folks like Michael Pelsor,  & Debbie Seal would be added to the “family”.  These are folks who I consider friends to this day.  It was like TCTC all over again.  We were on the leading edge of this Wireless ISP wave.  The technology was becoming easier to use and more affordable.  This meant the average person could now afford reliable service delivered via Wireless.   We were growing into areas where there was no broadband.  It was kind of like the Wild West gold rush.  There were weeks NDWave was putting up 3-4 towers.  I was getting to work with Mikrotik, Cisco, Tranzeo, and some other manufacturers.  Life was good.  We had a fiber feed, rack space at a Premier data center, and got to play with other cool toys.

Then Omnicity comes along and things change yet again….

Thoughts on carrier redundnacy

Recently there have been discussions on some lists about carrier redundancy.  I figured I would sum up some thoughts and add my own,

In today’s world of consolidation, takeovers, and cost saving measures carrier redundancy is something one should pursue with due diligence.  Below are some questions to know about your existing provider and any future providers. If you know this you can compare the differences between two providers.  By knowing the answer to these questions you can add two carriers which will complement each other.

1.Where does my circuit go when it leaves my equipment? Look at this from a regional perspective.  Where does it travel in the city? Where does it travel to the next city?

2.Does the provider’s lines share conduit with other providers?  They might not know this, but if you have two providers you can compare routes.  If they are in the same conduit or in separate conduit in the same trench that might not be ideal.  A backhoe could take both out. Do they share space inside the path with other carriers as well? If so, this could cause issues with contract disputes, not paying bills, and other business-related functions.  Imagine if carrier A is sharing conduit with Carrier B. Carrier A goes out of business and holds the conduit contract.  Where does that leave Carrie rB?

3.Where is the entry point to the facility for the provider’s circuits? If both come into the same part of the building this could be a potential weak point.  Ideally one would enter from the north (or south or whatever) and the other would enter from a different direction.  Also, they would travel up different conduits on different sides of the building.  This way if something like a car crashes through the building may be one of them will be protected.

4.Does the provider farm any of your circuit out to a 3rd party?  This is good to know when problems arise and the finger pointing begins.

 

5.Use tools such as a “Looking Glass” to see if there are differences in routes.  If you have two backbone providers and they have very similar routes to reach the major sites (ie. Google, Yahoo, etc.) then you could open yourself up for problems with latency and packet loss should those paths become congested of fail.  Ideally, you want ProviderA to have different routes than ProviderB.  This way if something outside their network is causing issues it won’t have as big of an impact on your network.   Think of this as a road.  You might have two roads leaving your town, but you don’t want both of those roads taking the same path to get to the outside world.

 

Also look at this from your own equipment perspective. If you terminate all your circuits on a single router you are dependent on that router. Same goes for anything.  If everything comes in over the same ladder racks that are a point of failure.   If all your equipment is in the same room that is a point of failure.

Redundancy can be as diverse as you want to. It boils down to mitigating the risk.  If you know all the risks you can say “Yeah I am willing to bring my cross connects over a single ladder rack because the likely-hood of that rack failing is a risk I will take.”

 

Visit the MTIN Family of Blogs
www.mtin.net
www.indycolo.net
www.j2sw.com

Bandwidth and the WISP

This was an older article I had on my blog a few years ago.  Much of this applies still.

Bandwidth is a big hurdle most aspiring WISPs face. The reason is if high-speed alternatives were already in place, the need for a WISP would not be as great.  Sure there are business models in which the WISP can compete with other high-speed solutions. However, the bread and butter of a WISP is going into underserved areas.

You have several options for bringing a connection into your area to re-distribute to your customers. I will outline these and then go into further detail

-Leased Lines (Fractional, T-1, T3, etc.)
-Fiber Optic
-Wireless backhaul
-Cable
-DSL

Leased Lines are the most easily accessible across the United States. However, as more and more providers build fiber it is taking over as the preferred method of connectivity.  Fiber is more “future proof” than a T-Carrier circuit such as a T1 or T3.   Most phone companies can provide t1 service to almost anywhere. This is because T1 service uses the existing copper already at 99% of locations. If you have a phone line you can almost always get t1 service.  Once you go beyond T1 things get a little more complicated.  However, T1 has the ability to do bonding if the carrier and telco support it.  You essentially buy multiple T1s and combine them into a single “pipe”.  This requires the provider to support bonding as well as some special configuration on your routers.

Some questions you should ask your provider/telco.

1.Where is my circuit “homed out of”? This means where does the circuit terminate on the facility end.  You do not want this to be too far. If it is too far your reliability will suffer because you have more distance and equipment to go through.  This raises the likelihood of an equipment failure, backhoe digging something up, & utility poles falling.  The longer the distance also means the “loop charge” will most likely increase.   We will get to that in a moment.

2.There are several types of T1s for our purposes.  Some terms to familiarize oneself with are PRI, channelized, transport, and port fee.

3. Ask your provider to spell out what type of t1 this is.  If you are buying the T1 from a backbone provider such as Qwest, Level3, and others they will typically bundle everything into one package. Ask them to break this down if they don’t.  You want to know what the Local loop charge is, what the port fee is, and what the bandwidth costs.  The local loop is typically what the telephone company charges to deliver the circuit from Point A (their equipment) to Point B (you).  If you are going with a 3rd party, and not the local telephone company, the provider typically becomes the central point of contact for the entire circuit.  This can add a level of complexity when issues arise.

The port fee is a charge normally passed on for connecting to the provider’s equipment.  Say you have a 48 port switch sitting in a CO-Location facility.   For each Ethernet cable you plug in from the telephone company they charge a fee either one-time and/or monthly.  This is just the way it is typically.  One of those “Because they can” charges.  The 3rd charge is the cost of the Internet bandwidth.  A T1 can handle 1.5 Megabits of bandwidth so the cost per Megabit is not as big of an issue because you are not buying in bulk.

4.Ask to see the Service Level Agreement (SLA). If you are unfamiliar with the terms have a consultant look this over.

5.Know where your DMARC location is. This is the spot where the provider’s responsibility ends and yours begins.

6.Ask if the provider can verify with the telco how long the next circuit would take to install. You don’t want to go to order a second circuit and find out the local telephone equipment does not have enough capacity.  This has happened to our clients on many occasions.  This can be a quick process or the telco can take months and months to get around to installing the needed equipment.

References:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demarcation_point

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T-carrier

ALG Antenna test vs Jirous dishes

The following are results from a series of tests of AGLcom’s parabolic dish antennas on an existing link that is 5.7 miles long. The link typically passes 80-90Mbs with a TX capacity of 140 Mbs and radios used are Ubiquiti AF5X operating at 5218 Mhz.  A full PDF with better Readability can be downloaded here..

The tests were taken in stages:

  1. 1)  The normal performance of the link was recorded.
  2. 2)  The 2′ dish at one end, B, was replaced with the AGLcom, C, dish and the link reestablished.The link performance was recorded.
  3. 3)  The 2′ dish at the other end, A, was replaced with the AGLcom, D, dish and the link reestablished. The link performance was recorded.
  4. 4)  The setting on the AF5xs were adjusted to optimize the link performance with data recorded.
  5. 5)  The 2′ dish, B was put back in the link and the performance was recorded.
  6. 6)  The ACLcom C was put back into place.

The tables below do not follow the test order as the third line of data was actually the last test performed.

Antennas:

A-Jirous JRC-29EX MIMO
B-Jirous JRC-29EX MIMO C-AGLcom – PS-6100-30-06-DP D-AGLcom – PS-6100-29-06-DP-UHP

Results:

Table 1 is the signal strength results of the various dishes on the link. The first line, A-B, is the original Jirous to Jirous. A is the first two columns of the link and are the A side and the last two columns are the B side on the link. What is of interest is that exchanging B to C in the second line brought the signal deviation between the channels to only 1db and 0 db as seen in Table 2. The third line was a result of replacing the horn on the A dish and optimizing the setting on the AF5X radios. This changed the signal by around 7db and improved the link capacity, Table 3. Clearly, the A dish had a problem with the original horn.

In the fourth line, D-B, the signal strength improved as well at the signal deviation on the two channels, Table 2 first two columns. This link was not optimized. The fifth line, D-C is both AGLcom dishes which improved the bandwidth, Table 3, and the signal deviations, Table 2. The final line, D-C, was the previous line optimized. The signal strengths moved closer together and the bandwidth improved.

Link Ch0 Ch1 Ch0 Ch1

  1. A-B  -73 -76
  2. A-C  -73 -74

A*-C -64 -66

  1. D-B  -63 -62
  2. D-C  -62 -62

D*-C -60 -60

-70 -74 -71 -71 -65 -66 -59 -59 -58 -58 -61 -61

Signal Strength (* optimized data) Table 1

Table 2 has four data columns, the first two being the measured results and the latter two being the measured difference from theory. The Jirous and AF5X calculators were used for the theory signals. Clearly the signal approached the theoritical limit with the optimization and with the change of dishes. The optimization improved the signal by ~9db for the link that we replaced the horn on the Jirous and by ~2db for the AGLcom link.

Link dSig dSig A-B 3 4 A-C 1 0 A*-C 2 1 D-B -1 0 D-C 0 0 D*-C 0 0

dSig dSig -16.5 -17.4 -17.0 -15.0 -8.0 -9.0 -13.3 -5.3 -7.0 -4.3 -5.0 -6.0

Signal strength variation from theory Table 2

The band width improvement was more obvious, Table 3, from 22 Mbs to 39 Mbs for the RX and 144 Mbs to 141 Mbs TX for the link with the horn replacement. The bandwidth improvement for the optimization of the AGLcom link was from 61Mbs to 66Mbs RX and from 211Mbs to 267Mbs for TX.

The bandwidth improvement from the original, optimized link to the AGLcom link is from 61Mbs RX to 67Mbs and from 210Mbs TX to 267Mbs. There is a clear improvement for the AGLcom link over the Jirous link.

Link BW-RX

  1. A-B  22.5
  2. A-C  39.0

A*-C 60.9

  1. D-B  61.4
  2. D-C  60.6

D*-C 66.6

BW-TX 144.6 141.4 210.0 211.0 215.0 267.6

Table 3

Conclusions:

The data supports a measurable improvement in both signal strength and bandwidth with the use of the AGLcom dishes. However, it is difficult to quantify the improvement. The Jirous dishes were identical whereas the AGLcom dishes were not. One of the jirous dishes was under performing initially but was repaired for the last tests. Additional testing is needed to provide accurate data analysis and performance comparison. The best performance tests would involve identical AGLcom dishes, ideally two links, one each of both types of dishes.

UBNT vs Cambium -The legal battle

The Recently, it was announced that Ubiquiti Networks Inc (UBNT) is suing Cambium over the Cambium Elevate.   This will be a long post, so sit back with your favorite beverage and read away.

Disclaimers. I have been in the ISP world since 1991. I cut my teeth on BBS systems and moved onto dial-up. I am also an independent Cambium certified consultant.  Read about the consultant program here... I also have clients who run a wide variety of UBNT products, and the last ISP we sold was 90 percent UBNT. We run some UBNT routers in MidWest-IX as well.  My father was an attorney for over 40 years. I grew up around attorneys, have regular conversations with friends who are attorneys, and was learning about the law from the time I was 10. Having said that, I am not an attorney. Nothing in here should be construed as an official legal opinion.

So let’s get some background on what has transpired with Cambium and their elevate software. Cambium came up with a way to load their software onto select UBNT wireless units and, after a reboot, had the cambium EPMP software active on them.

Why did this work?
UBNT Airmax radios use U-Boot loader. If you want to read all about it you can read the references at the bottom of this article under References. The thing to know is it is released under the GNU General Public License.

UBNT and Cambium EPMP both use “commodity” wifi chipsets.  This keeps the cost down and the software becomes the majority of the “special sauce” that makes them different.   This is in contrast to the UBNT Airfiber and Cambium 450 lines. These use custom made chipsets. This is is one reason those lines are more expensive.

By using an open source bootloader and commodity hardware Cambium was able to figure out how to load their own software onto the UBNT devices.   UBNT countered with modifying the bootloader to accept only signed software images. The only images that were recognized were ones signed by UBNT.  If you are interested in learning more about signed software go here: https://www.quora.com/What-does-signed-firmware-means

Cambium came up with instructions on how to downgrade and by-pass the ability to only load signed firmware onto the device.  The method I am aware of is downgrading the installed UBNT firmware to a certain version.

All in all the Elevate process turned the UBNT hardware into a device running Cambium’s software.

The gray areas aka this is why we have attorneys
There are several arguable points in this lawsuit.  If you want to read articles on the Lawsuit
https://www.law360.com/articles/1071813/wireless-co-ubiquiti-says-rival-sells-hacking-firmware

Debate #1 – The Hardware
The term Software Defined Radio (SDR) has been around for quite some time now.  Basically, this is a radio with very little RF elements to it.  Ham radio has been using SDRs for quite some time now.  The idea is the manufacturer uses off the shelf components to build a single radio which can do various functions depending on what software is loaded.  It also allows features in the chipset to be activated and licensed should the programmer want to support them.  It’s interesting to note Wireless is not the only place this is happening. Software Defined Networking (SDN) is a growing thing, as well as a plethora of devices. A PC could be considered a software-defined device.  More on that later.

So an argument could be made the UBNT devices are a software defined radio.  they did not use custom chips.  They most certainly have a proprietary board layout, but that is not a criterion in an SDR. So if a customer buys a piece of hardware, should they be able to load whatever software they want on it?

An argument saying yes they should can be pulled from many areas.  This Verge Article (more in the reference at the bottom) says the Government ended the debate in 2015 giving consumers the ability to Jailbreak their phones and devices without legal penalties.  Before that is was briefly illegal to “Jailbreak” your phone.   This was mainly lead by Apple. The government said it was fair use to Jailbreak, but not carrier unlock your phone without permission.

Apple also went through this briefly when they switched to Intel processor chips.  People were figuring out ways to load Apple OSX onto Dells, HP, and other “PCs”. The debate was whether this was legal or not. The following article sums up why these “hackintosh” computers were shut down. By clicking on the “Agree” of the End User License Agreement (EULA) before installing OSX you agree to a great number of things.   The short of it was the user license of OSX says you can not install this on non-apple hardware.  However, it says nothing about installing non-Apple Operating systems on the hardware.  Apple knows it is commodity hardware.  If you want to buy a 2000 mac and put windows 10 on it, go ahead.  They even help you with an option called Bootcamp.

Our last example is the Linksys WRT54G and DD-WRT and its variants.  A quick history of the DD-WRT Controversy doesn’t revolve much around the loading of the software onto Linksys hardware, it involves the use of the GPL license by DD-WRT. There were some FCC concerns, but we will talk about those later.

So the questions to be argued for this point:
Q1.Is the UBNT device a software-defined Radio?
2. Does the user have the legal ability to load whatever software they want to on hardware they own?

Debate #2 – Was the UBNT firmware “hacked” as they allege?
There are lots of unknowns here.  Attorneys try to prove intent in arguments like this.
Did Cambium somehow reverse engineer the UBNT software, thus violating copyright laws?  At what point is the line crossed? Since UBNT used a bootloader free to everyone, was the simple act of loading new software onto the units a hack? From what I know, and I am not a programmer, is Cambium used the bootloader to overwrite the UBNT software and install their own.  How is this any different than installing Linux on a Dell PC? Computers have a bootloader called a BIOS. On a Wireless radio, where does the bootloader stop and the software start? To me, these are clearly defined. Bootloader and Image file.

If you boot up the UBNT unit out of the box without agreeing to the EULA have you violated the EULA? Can you be penalized for loading software onto a device you never had the opportunity to see and agree to anything? Did the simple act of taking it out of a box and booting it up via TFTP cause you to agree to something?

In a Brothers Wisp video on this topic, Justin Miller mentions some arguments on why this can be allowed.

Debate 3 – Did Cambium violate FCC rules?
If we believe the user has the ability to load software onto units they own it is the user, as well who developed the software to go on the device, to follow all laws then it is not up to UBNT to police this.  This is the job of the FCC, provided it is agreed that once the user buys the hardware it is theirs.  For this specific case, UBNT claims Cambium is violated allowed power limits by loading their software onto the UBNT device.   Also, is the new device an FCC certified system? Most likely not unless it is resubmitted to the FCC for testing, and any labels removed and new ones added.  However, this is not up to UBNT to enforce this. This is the job of the FCC.

Is UBNT being a steward of the community to bring this to the attention of the FCC, thus saving UBNT from possible issues with the FCC? Maybe, but why not bring suit against any of these others?
Bitlomat
DD-WRT
HamNet

It’s interesting to note this page on HamNet

I am not a telecom attorney and I do not know the ins and outs.  From what little I know of being in the industry you have to have an FCC certified system with proper identification stickers.  I remember when UBNT had to send out stickers for units several years ago for DFS certification.  You were supposed to put them on all your upgraded radios to be compliant. By changing the software did Cambium no longer make it a certified system? Or, because they use the same chipset is it still legal in the eyes of the FCC?

Debate 4 – Collusion and the end user
This is the biggest bombshell out of this whole ordeal and actually makes my blood boil.  UBNT is suing Cambium of course.  They are also suing a distributor and an end-user ISP.   Cambium I can understand. UBNT is trying to protect their intellectual property and believe it was violated.  They have every right to do so.

The distributor I can understand the argument.  The distributor allegedly participated in distributing the “hacked” software. Not saying it’s right or wrong, but I can see why there would be the argument.

The most disturbing part of this an end-user ISP is named in the lawsuit.  UBNT is suing a customer who was using the UBNT product and then decided to switch to a competitors product.  In the case of elevate, the end-user ISP loaded the software onto their existing hardware.  If we go along with the idea of you own the hardware, UBNT is suing a customer who bought their hardware and loaded the elevate software on it.  This would be like Dell suing a school corporation for loading Linux onto new PCs they bought.

Many of the arguments you read are about you don’t own the software.  If you buy the hardware, and it has a GPL licensed bootloader and load your own software onto the device, what laws have you violated?

Imagine this scenario.  A user opens up a UBNT radio they bought.  They see it uses an Atheros chipset, like many other radios.  They write some code to talk to the hardware, all without ever looking at the software that came on the radio, boot up the unit via TFTP and load their own compiled image onto the hardware.  All the while they never have seen the UBNT software.  Did they violate any laws or user agreements?

This case and some others will help define who owns the hardware.  We know the company, in this case, UBNT, owns the software.  You have no legal standing to de-compile their intellectual property. That is cut and dry.  What isn’t, is if they are using the same hardware everyone else, the same bootloader, is that considered proprietary? If not, and you overwrite their software were you allowed to because you own the hardware. Is the GPL bootloader considered proprietary?  If we apply the analogy the bootloader is the same as the BIOS in the PC, no it is not proprietary.  The BIOS debate has already been solved in court. Many of the PC debates have been loading a company’s software onto other hardware, such as Apple Hackintosh Computers and not the other way around, such as this case. As we talked in point 1, in the PC world, Apple even gives you the tools to install other Operating systems.

If UBNT sticks code in that says the bootloader only recognizes signed images is that “hacking” to put your own software on? Is this any different than Jailbreaking an Iphone?

So what does this all mean?
Going forward I believe we will see EULA and licensing agreements change.  The hardware from a manufacturer will still be the property of the manufacturer, much like John Deere software.

The definition of what you own and have access to will change.

Proprietary bootloaders will take the place of Open Source bootloaders.

There will be a rise in manufacturers who make white box radios.  Will there be a long-term solution? Only time will tell.  We are seeing this trend in software-defined networking.

We will see more NDAs to end users about products.  I believe we will see fewer case studies on newer products.  End users will definitely be more tight-lipped about what they are doing.

So it will be interesting to see how this all plays out.  Will there be enough precedent in the hardware world to squash some of this? Or does UBNT have a case? Obviously, UBNT has a responsibility to their shareholders to vigorously defend their Intellectual property.  This case will help define where the commodity/open source items stop and where the intellectual property starts.

Where does this leave distributors? Do they want to continue carrying the Elevate product? Do they want to cut relationships with a manufacturer who has sued one of their own? The same goes for the end-user community.  Do WISPs want to do business with a company that could potentially sue them for using and talking about a competitor’s product? Do the end users own the hardware they buy? If so, how much freedom do they have? If you don’t own the product, imagine the accounting ramifications.

References
https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/xykkkd/why-american-farmers-are-hacking-their-tractors-with-ukrainian-firmware

https://wiki.openwrt.org/toh/ubiquiti/airmaxm

https://www.wired.com/2015/04/dmca-ownership-john-deere/

https://www.wired.com/2010/07/feds-ok-iphone-jailbreaking/
Feds okay iPhone Jailbreaking

https://superuser.com/questions/424892/is-bios-considered-an-os
Is the Bios an Operating System?

https://www.chromium.org/chromium-os
Google Chromium OS

The importance of phone numbers in a WISP

One of the things I see startup wisps do wrong is their use of phone numbers.  This is one of those details that is often overlooked but is critical. It’s critical not only for tracking but also for the sanity of everyone involved.  Let’s identify where many WISPs go wrong.

The typical startup wisp is a type A go-getter. This is what Entrepreneurs are by default.  Once they have a plan they jump head over heels in. Many may start with a simple phone number, but when they call a customer if they are on their way to do an install or something they end up using their phone number.  The problem is customers keep this cell phone.  If the office is closed they start texting or calling any number they have.  Some customers will be respectful of boundaries, but many will not.  If they are getting packet loss at 3 am they are calling and texting.  This problem compounds as you grow and you have multiple installers involved. You want customer issues tracked in some sort of ticket/CRM system. You also don’t want your employees ahev to answer customer texts or calls after hours if they aren’t being paid.  It’s one of the quickest ways for employees to get burnt out or say the incorrect things.

So how do you solve this? The simple buzzword answer is unified communications.  One of the easiest and cheapest is Google Voice. With Google Voice and others, you have a primary number. This is the number you give out to clients. They call this and it rings another phone or phones.  This can be an extension on the VOIP system it is a part of, another number, and/or cell phones.  Depending on the level of sophistication it can ring all the programmed numbers at once, or ring one, and move on to the next one. If no one answers it drops the caller into voice mail. With Google voice, the programmed numbers are all rang at once.

The inbound ringing is pretty standard.  The “trick” for the WISP is the outgoing calling. You want to be able to call a customer and have it come up as the main number’s caller ID, not your cell phone. Most PBX systems can be set up to do this with the extensions attached to them.  Cell phone calls are a little more complicated.  The way Google Voice solves this is through the use of forwarding numbers, You bring up the app, enter a number and it actually calls a different number.  Behind the scenes, it is using this forwarding number to “spoof” your number to the person you are calling.   Your phone is not calling the other party directly. Your phone calls this forwarding number behind the scenes and works it all out on the backend.

Other vendors have Apps which do similar functions. Asterisk has their DISA function.  Once you have these functions setup it boils down to training and processes.  Your installers need to remember to use the app or the function when calling customers.  As the company grows, a way to help this situation is for employees to not use personal cell phones.  If a company provides a cell phone the employee can customize voicemail, or even forward no answers to the help desk should a customer get the cell phone.

Hope this helps one of the glaring issues a startup faces.

Ac Wave 1 vs Wave 2

There has been much discussion on the performance of going from an N Series outdoor wireless system to AC.  Not all AC is created equal.  Right now there is AC Wave 1 and AC Wave 2.  Just about all the AC stuff currently in the pipeline for outdoor wireless is wave 1.  There is wave 2 indoor gear available, but for a WISP you are interested in the outdoor gear.

So what’s the difference?
For some reading about spatial streams, channel sizes, etc. look at this article https://info.hummingbirdnetworks.com/blog/80211ac-wave-2-vs-wave-1-difference

For the WISP folks who want the Cliff Notes version here are some key differences.

-Wave 1 uses 20,40,and 80 Mhz Channels.  Wave 2 can support 80 and 160mhz channels.  The 160mhz channel would be two 80mhz channels bonded together.

-Wave 1 can do 3 spatial streams.  Wave 2 does 4. This requires an additional antenna to take advantage of wave2.  This is a hardware upgrade from wave1 to wave 2.

-Wave 2 supports MU-MIMO. The AP can talk to 4 clients individually at once.  The client must also support this, which is a hardware upgrade from wave 1 to wave 2 on both the client and the AP.

The question to ask your vendors is what is the upgrade path if you are using existing AC gear.  If you are running AC currently you are most assuredly going to have to replace your AP radios and antennas.  Will your existing clients work with the new AC wave 2 aps? An important thing to ask.