Hardware choices for my short-term goals


#1

I’ve read a lot on this, and thought about it, but want to share and collect input on my situation here.

I’m working with a few individuals who share the goal of a decentralized internet. This includes people of the labels anarchist, libertarian, maker, landlord, property manager, nerd, roofer, etc. I fall into all those categories. I’m not the most knowledgeable in my group on networking, but I’m not an idiot. Main thing is I’m willing to dedicate more time to this than others can now.

My current project is that I have a commercial space with 3 apartments above. I currently manage the network at the commercial space. Basically its 3 access points, not much else going on. The access points and the main router are all TP-Link devices running OpenWRT but won’t run Althea. The apartments mooch off the wifi, but the connection sucks. They want better service. The building owner wants me to wire the building with ethernet. I want to install a mast on the roof to make connections to at least two other buildings in town, the one I live in (owner sign off already) and the local makerspace (very interested). I have dozens of other building owners interested. I’m trying to figure out which hardware would best fit this scenario (multiple clients inside a building wanting wired connections, antenna mast on roof for making connections to other nodes).

In addition to all that… my long term goals for this project is that I get various infrastructure stakeholders to join an althea sub-dao and to sell network access. I’d also like to see us offer a free community network of sorts, and a paid one. For instance Xfinity sells home wifi routers that have an ssid for Xfinity customers to connect through. I’d like that, plus a throttled free option (to at least facilitate financial transactions).

Thanks for any input.


#2

sounds like you have a pretty good location to start a network.

The only thing you haven’t mentioned is some kind of backhaul, depending on the building and how urban the area is you can probably get a business internet connection with resale allowed in the contract although the exact price ranges widely depending on the region and other factors. @Deborah knows a lot more about that so I’ll leave it to her.

What you really need hardware wise is an old desktop or server to act as a gateway (or a new one, but it doesn’t need to be fast, even 4 year old desktops scream with Althea, it does need room for Ethernet port expander cards though) and then 3 gl-b1300’s for the apartment clients. Thanks to the mesh routing you can chain those apartment units however you want or just build a building lan with a switch.

As for the mast you’ll need a non-penetrating roof mount and then equipment depends on the exact distance you need the signal to go and what speed you want. It sounds like your in a urban area so I’d suggest 60ghz tech like the MicroTik wireless wire.

Yeah that’s built into the system, too hard to bootstrap when you can’t send transactions to pay for your internet to send transactions.


#3

Thank ttk2,

We’re looking at getting a business line. The person I’m working with at the makerspace (which has a business line and roof in sight of mine) is an employee at one of the big tech firms in town; I’m thinking those buildings are lit and they might want to donate some bandwidth. They already have towers on some of the buildings and its line-of-sight to most the buildings I’m working with (beyond this first building I’ve got a few dozen others that are interested, all multi-family). Its urban in a nice river valley, which makes for a lot of line-of-sight options.

Depending on the wind, mast height, equipment profile, etc. one might consider a metal or cement patio umbrella stand instead of those expensive metal and cinder block non-penetrating mounts. I’ve seen them with parabolic dish antennas in high winds and not move (SoCal). Here in New England we get very high winds sometimes, even a small tower I’d at least add guy wires here. https://www.homedepot.com/b/Outdoors-Patio-Furniture-Patio-Umbrellas-Patio-Umbrella-Stands-Bases/N-5yc1vZbx65?catStyle=ShowProducts&storeSelection=6175,6177,6845,6957,1255


#4

Hi,

Sounds like the beginning of a very exciting project!
I have a few questions-

Is this building line of sight to the other two you would like to hook up? Would it be the central point that the other buildings would connect to, or would it be more of a hop-to-hop between buildings?
There are two (kinda) basic types of antennas to choose from - a sector antenna for point-to-multi-point and a point-to-point type antenna.

Awesome! Would you prefer to start building in such a way that it could be expanded on easily, or start with less expensive hardware and build more incrementally? One way to start planning is to use the tools available with google earth. I’d be happy to get on a call some time and show you the ropes, if you would like.

As far as the mount, there are a lot of options depending on the antennas and what the roof looks like. @ttk2’s suggestion of the non-penetrating mount is probably the most flexible choice for most scenarios.

I look forward to continuing this discussion!
Deborah


#5

Oh, and what speeds are you hoping to achieve in this network? That’s the other factor in choosing gear.


#6

I’ve used Earth’s viewshed and it appears I might have some tree tops in the way. Not sure, haven’t sighted it out yet in person. I could do that once we have more of a plan. It also rains and snows a lot in this area. Those buildings are 1,250 meters apart. Most other interested party’s buildings are 100 - 600 meters apart.

I’m not sure which would be the best central point. Probably the building with the apartments for now, but that would change in the future. It will probably depend on what our connection possibilities are in each building, whichever is faster or cheaper, lets us resell, etc.

I’m more inclined to go with better hardware upfront.

I’ve also marked various interesting buildings and interested parties in my kml.


#7

It seems like you have gathered lots of interest! I find the elevation profile tool in Google Earth to be useful - https://startyourownisp.com/posts/guide-to-google-earth/

A basic Point-to-Multi-Point setup will have a sector type antenna (like the Ubiquiti Prismstation https://www.ubnt.com/airmax/prismstation-ac/) that other antennas connect/bridge with (like the Ubiquiti litebeams https://www.ubnt.com/airmax/litebeam-ac/).

For shorter links or point to point, you might try the Mikrotik 60Ghz antennas. (https://mikrotik.com/product/wireless_wire_dish).

Hopefully this gives you a starting point. You can also plan a link budget using link.ubnt.com.


#8

I’m working on putting this PC together. Is the EdgeRouterX not a good candidate here?

Wouldn’t chaining the B1300 routers mean more hops for those further down the chain? meaning Apt 1 pays for two more hops than Apt 2 which pays for one more hops than Apt 3.


#9

erx works great up to 100mbps, desktops can do 5-10gbit. If you’re fine with that speed to start out with you can use an ERX instead.

yes that would be the case, but per hop prices are pretty reasonable, the gateway usually has the largest fee because of the backhaul costs. If you can reduce hops you should but if you can’t you shouldn’t worry about it.


#10

Got it, so still at the speed noted in the router thread. No improvements as of yet. Are the mentioned perf increases still considered possible and are they being pursued or no?


#11

possible, haven’t had time to pursue them. 100% of our current focus is getting payments working, stable, and in production.