Mesh network in Hervey Bay

There are the beginnings of a mesh network in Hervey Bay…

Initially, we are trying to set up a reasonably fast data stream to the River Heads repeater site, VK4RHB. How fast is yet to be seen, perhaps 30Mbs, if we are lucky?

This will allow remote monitoring of the repeater, add a level of security with a web cam and allow the Echolink hardware to be placed at the site.

This mesh network uses firmware put together by BBHN and AREDN. There is a lot of information at both links, I won’t attempt to go into it here except to say these guys have taken the hard work out of getting on air.

The hardware is very easy to acquire in Australia, I have purchased hardware from Ubiquiti Shop Australia, they seemed to process the order quickly.  I did notice City Technology after I made my purchase, these guys seemed to offer the same kit but cheaper, its always the way!  Alternatively your favourite on-line store may have some second-hand Linksys equipment, however there is particular hardware versions that must be avoided, see the firmware links above.

The firmware is then flashed to the hardware, some personalisation is required; and off you go, better read the instruction before you try, do it wrong and your new hardware will make a nice paperweight!  Don’t let me put you off, it is not hard, just needs to be done right.

Once a node is created, provided it is in RF range of another unit, it will join to it and form a mesh network. This network is self-discovering and self-healing, perhaps this would make a good movie plot, something about sky-net and Terminators!

Well I did say it was a beginning, see the map.

At the moment, 02/2017, there is a node at Wondunna (VK4YOI QTH) it is a 15dBi vertical (Omni).   A quick survey shows  it can be joined across Wondunna (south of airport), from elevated locations at Parklands Estate.

Previously a direction arrangement from VK4YOI QTH could be received using an 8m mast, through the wooded area near the intersection of Maddever Rd and River Heads Road.

 

Yeah, but what can I do with it? Well I am glad you asked…

There is a gateway currently available; it allows the mesh access the internet. Anything you can do on the web, you should be able to do over the mesh!

There is also an ability to connect islands of RF to each other, a ‘tunnel’ server is currently running.

A VoIP server has been set up using ‘Asterisk’ running on a ‘Raspberry Pi’ and is available to users on the mesh. You can connect your mobile phone, using a ‘soft-phone’ app (like Zoiper), to your home WiFi access point (AP) and call others that are also on the mesh. Perhaps you have an old VoIP phone that you could press into service.

Web cams, video conferencing, perhaps using it as an uplink to a DTV transmitter at the repeater site. What if our club meetings were broadcast (vision and audio), allowing all the members to attend?

Provided there is an RF link to your QTH, the mesh does not need your ISP to provide a connection (except the gateway).

This is just the tip of the iceberg, have a look in the internet at what else people are doing.

And yes, it is amateur radio, just at 2.4GHz or 5.8GHz! And all this at a reasonable speed, maybe faster than your current ISP!

 

I hear you ask, is it legal…

Well, currently the mesh is for use by hobbyists, using off the shelf equipment that any member of the public can buy and use.

There are no additional amplifiers, nor high gain antennas (except for the antenna the kit comes with), the frequencies used are under an ACMA class license – just the same as your current WiFi AP at home.

Some firmware allows access to the amateur allocation in the 13cm band, but it is not currently being used here (perhaps there may be a need in the future) it is all in the ‘public park’, as it were.

I believe there is no reason why anyone (Amateur license or otherwise) could not join! Of course if the mesh is moved out of the ‘public park’ that is a different story.  I am happy to be shown if this is not correct.

 

What is different to my AP at home…

The trick is in the firmware that allows the mesh network to self-heal and self-discover.  Also the mesh is not a ‘spoke and wheel’ configuration (like your AP at home), but each node talks to all nodes to which it has an RF path, and routes the data itself.

Enjoy!