On Memorial Day, some skilled Amateur Radio Operators did some MESH testing using Linksys WRT54G routers (standard home type Wi-Fi router) running Broadband Hamnet, and also Commercial Ubiquiti Bullets running the standard Ubiquiti operating system load with some amazing results!
First Ed Sim(N7RTA) and Charles Gray (KE6QZU) made the trek up to the radio sites on Ensign Peak and set up several MESH test nodes to cover the valley below. The most successful was a WRT54G Linksys home router running Broadband Hamnet on Channel 1 of the 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi Band, fed into a one watt Renasis bi-directional amplifier, and then out to a 17dbi sector antenna (spec sheets attached). (On the map below, Ensign Peak is the little black radio tower symbol with the purple “X” by it.) Transmitting from there, they obtained the following results:
First Jerry (W0HU) and and Judy (W0ZTD) Spillman located at the Heritage Baptist Church located at 1502 Walnut drive just east of the Salt Lake City Airport reported up to 75% link quality at that location, with a clear line of sight to the Ensign Peak MESH node. They monitored signals there, and experimented with several configurations of the WRT54G Linksys routers running Broadband Hamnet, and with various antenna configurations. He was even able to wirelessly hop a signal inside the building to another router there, and connect to his computer inside!
Carlos Cardon (W7QL) was at Flat Iron Mesa in Sandy (about 8600 South and 1700 East) with a Linksys WRT54G router running on Broadband Hamnet, and fed into a 1 watt bi-directional amplifier, and then to a 24dbi gain parabolic antenna. He was able to pick up the signal from Ensign Peak with signal Quality at first ranging from 83% to 100% (see attached Word file with pictures of his MESH status). As the day went on, his received signal quality at that location degraded noticeably. He was not able to resolve the SSID being transmitted from Ensign, just the IP address, indicative of a signal level problem on one side of the link, probably a level imbalance. He also indicated, a not totally clear line of sight due to vegetation in the signal path, which will definitely effect the signal. But, if you see on the distance scale to the left of the map below, the distance was about 15 miles! On the way out, he found a spot to set up next time that has a clear line of sight, clear of vegetation.
At the same time, testing was being done at the SLCC (Salt Lake Community College) MESH hub site on top of the five floor Technology Building (the green antenna tower in the middle of the map at the top of the close cluster of three towers). At that site, a Ubiquiti Bullet HP running the standard Ubiquiti operating system is feeding into a HG2415U-PRO 15dbi Omni-directional antenna (specs attached). Using this Bullet belonging to Grant Gardner (KC7HOU), I believe a signal level record for Point to multipoint Wi-Fi in Utah may have been set! Linking from the node at SLCC to a site near the Taylorsville Food Pantry, a signal level of -24db with a Signal to noise ratio of 68db was recorded! (See the attached snapshot confirmation labeled “Taylorsville Food Pantry Levels”) In the typically understated words of the Magna Utah Storehouse ERC director, Joe Maughan (AA7J) – “that should be good enough!”
The equipment being used at the Taylorsville Food Pantry site was another Ubiquiti Bullet HP fed directly into a 24dbi gain parabolic antenna. Even though the distance was less than one mile, just try and get that kind of signal level in your own home sitting right next to your Wi-Fi router!
The SLCC site is up and running 24 hours a day, but remember, it is a regular Wifi 2.4GHz output on channel one (the SSID is KC7HOU-SLCC). Due to technical and monetary issues, it is not yet using the Broadband Hamnet SSID, and because of that, we are not yet able to link it to Ensign, but that is planned. In fact, we have a plan A and a plan B to make that happen!
More testing will be done in the future, and eventually, the Grand Plan is the map below – linking many more sites around the valley, with the ability for any Ham with the right MESH equipment to link in to the nearest site of this valley wide Ham Radio high speed private Internet with some simple equipment. This will allow Amateur Radio Operators to tap into it to send high speed data and link video and voice contacts around the valley.
In an emergency, when power, cell phones, landline phones, and regular Internet service is down, it could be a very valuable emergency resource.
Setting this system up is making progress, slow albeit. I was told very emphatically by a member of the state emergency staff, that this (Plan) would probably not be technically possible, and the equipment alone would cost close to $100,000! Ham Radio Operators tend to get things like this done for a heck of a lot less, as we simply do not have that kind of money, and most of us do not realize that it is “technically not possible”!
If you would like to be involved in this Grand Plan for a wireless private Ham high speed internet for the valley, please contact one of the Hams mentioned – we would be glad to have your help.
David T. Bauman
Magna Utah Bishop’s Storehouse
Emergency Response Communications