MESH Hardware Requirements

Amateur Radio Digital Mesh networking utilizes off the shelf wireless equipment in combination with custom software to form a ham radio “Internet”, using both Part 97 and Part 15 frequencies in the 900 Mhz, 2.4, 3, and 5.8 GHz bands.

In most cases we recommend using the Ubiquiti “Nanostation” line of outdoor wireless equipment for use at the home QTH.   In Ventura County, we are adding  user access on 5 GHz user access in addition to 2 GHz .  Why?  Because the 5 GHz band has more available bandwidth for hams than 2 GHz, the band is quieter, and the equipment costs about the same.

As of this writing,  5 GHz user access is only available in Simi Valley, and on Sulphur and South Mountains.  Check with your local digital mesh guru for the most current recommendations on what to buy.   Even if you start out on 2 GHz and later transition to 5 GHz, it’s not money wasted.  Having both links available provides for some network redundancy during outages. 

The equipment isn’t expensive: each of the 2 and 5 GHz Ubiquiti Nanostations can be bought for about the price of two Chinese handie-talkies.

Ubiquiti Nanostation M2 & M5
Ubiquiti Nanostation M2 & M5

Requirements to get on the air:

  • A network node, either Ubiquiti Nanostation M2 or M5 (preferred if local user access is available).
    • Can be purchased on Amazon, or occasionally on EBay for a bit less.
    • Note – A power supply is included with each node.
    • Note – the use of older Ubiquiti gear (the Bullet and other non-MIMO equipment) is discouraged, due to their significantly lower throughput.
  • Outdoor-class Cat 5 Ethernet cable, length to suit.
    • Note: Ubiquiti recommends shielded cable but in our benign California environment, for a home installation it’s probably overkill.
    • If you’re comfortable with adding RJ45 plugs to raw cable then that’s the way to go, otherwise pre-terminated lengths can be purchased many places.
  • Computer dedicated to mesh networking (can be any old thing for starters)
  • Most importantly – line of sight is needed to one of the user access points.
    • See the guidelines tab  for the list of currently available access points in Ventura County.
    • Not sure if your QTH can make the haul to the nearest access point?  You can use HeyWhatsThat to help determine what can be seen from your QTH.

Getting started

Once you have your Nanostation in hand, the AREDN software has to be installed.   Follow the directions on the AREDN web site here.

NOTE – at this point in time AREDN is recommending using the Nightly Builds rather than the production release firmware, while Ubiquiti transitions to a new hardware design.   The nightly builds accommodate the new hardware and are simpler to install.

After it’s installed, configure it per the Ventura County standards here.

Last updated 6/24/2018