AREDN Testing in Salem-Field Testing Progress Report for February 2019

Brett Popovich KG7GDB

Hi Mesh members,

I would like to report that Salem and Keizer members Mike, Dan, and Curtis have purchased some Ubiquity-based AREDN radio stations and begun field testing on 5.8 Ghz. I have been helping with the tests as well.

Here are our results for the month of February:
1) Stock AirOS Ubiquity AirGrid M5  dish radios can connect Point to Point at 35 Km from the WA7ABU repeater to a house in the South Salem hills (Near 600 foot elevation) over a distance of 35 km (21.7 miles) with a signal strength of -73 dBm. This is value predicted by the Ubiquity uLink mapping tool
->Lesson learned: long range contacts on Part 15 devices and frequencies are possible, but should be better.

2) Following Mike's lead, Dan and Curtis have acquired Rocket M5 and Nanostation M5 radios and successfully flashed and configured the AREDN firmware on at least 6 radios. Mike and Dan have roof mast-mounted radios at their homes 20-25 feet up.
->Lesson learned: a separate specific firmware file needs to be downloaded and installed for each of the AREDN tested models. Some models of radios have more of a track record. New models are being added since 12-2018. Be careful which firmware is installed and don't purchase a new model which doesn't have AREDN firmware available already.

3) Neighborhood testing from a distance of 1 km with a Nanostation M5, and an AirGrid M5 on a mast connected briefly on one day, but was not successful the next week. We wondered whether the radios was working on the ham band channel 177, and continued testing using the part 15 channel 145 with a 20 Mhz bandwidth.
-> Lessons learned:
*the radios must always specify a channel, bandwidth, and a distance in the software setup.
*PCs must use DHCP in order to connect and use a direct ethernet cable to make that connection. Once those parameters are set, radios should automatically connect, and were shown to do so at close range. (This is different from the stock AirOS software provided by Ubiquity, which has the ability to auto-select channel and bandwidth)
*The specific settings for AREDN are not the same as Ubiquity AirOS, and even browser addresses are different.
*Close range connections are possible even off axis (behind the antenna). It is better to make the connection at close range, then move away to do the site survey.
*The Ubiquity Link tool predicted a strong connection at this range, but was wrong. Probably ground clutter interference is to blame, because this is not a line of sight test.
*The AREDN firmware can survey signal strength using a real time chart of S/N once the connection is made to another AREDN station.

5) A Rocket M5 can be attached to small unidirectional monopole antenna, and used in a vehicle. The radio gets power from a 24V P.O.E. adapter with a 120V plug. The car inverter can power this radio, but loses power when the car is restarted. The antennas work better outside the vehicle at the roofline or higher. The maximum range obtained was about 2 blocks away and varied a great deal, and was easily lost.
->Lesson learned:
*the vehicle roofline mount is not high enough to clear the houses and trees.
*We need to remember the basic rule of line of site and try to find a way to raise our mobile or portable radio higher. Further testing is needed.

6) A second Rocket M5 + sector120 was installed by Curtis using a home made car receiver hitch mounted mast. Initial tests with the Nanostation M5 on a portable mast in the vehicle yielded very high signal (+57 dBm) at a range of about 50 feet. The nanostation M5 connected easily with the sector a block away behind houses, but the signal was -60 dBm (still very usable). The nanostation can still receive usable signal at +/- 45 degrees azimuth at that range.
->Lessons learned: increasing the mast height improves the signal used in a mobile setting. Any tilting or turning of the Nanostation antenna while the pole is handled changes signal strength, so a solid, adjustable mast with tilt is needed.

7) The latest tests used Rocket and Nanostation radios licensed for the USA. We were able to successfully use Channel 177 (in the hamband at 5.885 Mhz) at 10 Mhz. An international version is not needed. This is different from the HamWAN system which requires an international Mikrotik radio to tune the ham band.

We are making progress and connections using AREDN, and have fixed three stations, and one mobile/portable station operating. 

Let the group know if you are interested in field testing. We need to find good locations and make some links!

Thanks to Mike, Dan and Curtis for supplying the equipment, vehicles, and labor to conduct our tests.