Firstly, a few basics!
Before you can connect to the CAN, you need to figure out if you’ve got Line of Sight (LoS) to one of our Access Point Nodes. LoS means that you should be able to physically see the other node you’re attempting to connect to, which helps you get a strong and stable connection.
Now, we don’t expect everyone to jump onto their roof with a pair of binoculars and look for a pole that could be 20KMs+ away… so we’ve written a handy tool to help you find a suitable node! Our NodeDB allows you to input the details of your location, which our software then uses to show you a line of sight profile to nearby nodes – like this one we prepared earlier:
As you can see, this line represents the level of the ground along the path between the two nodes. The red “blob” is the path that the radio waves take between the two points. Note that the radio wave itself isn’t completely flat, but it expands out toward the centre – this “blob” is called the Fresnel Zone. To ensure optimal performance you need to ensure that at least 70% of the Fresnel Zone is un-obstructed. If the Fresnel is obstructed, the signal waves can bounce and collide into each other, causing signal loss.
It’s also worth noting that the elevation profile does not take into consideration trees or buildings, which may cause issues when you’re establishing your link.
So, I’ve found an AP Node… now what?
Awesome! Now you need to figure out what radio gear you’re going to use on your node. Most of our nodes use equipment from Ubiquiti Networks, so that’s what we’ll focus on for the purposes of this guide.
- Short Links, < 10 kilometres
- At this range we’d recommend the NanoStation M5 or the NanoBeam M5-16. The NanoStation has a smaller footprint, making it more suitable for mounting on a TV mast or un-braced J-Pole, but the NanoBeam offers a better radio and will have better throughput.
- Medium Range Links, 10-25 kilometers
- Now things are getting a bit more serious. At this range you’re going to want a radio with a higher power output. For a simple single unit solution, look at the NanoBeam M5-400. If wind loading is an issue, you can fit a plastic cover called a radome. Ubiquiti make one for the NanoBeam (the part number is NBE-RAD-400) and they’re well worth the investment to keep your loading down.
- Long Range Links, 35 kilometres and up
- If you’ve got a long link, you’re going to need a radio/antenna solution with at least 25dBi of gain. The PowerBridge M5 has 26dBi of gain and has a proven track record of doing solid, long range links. It’s costly, but the best solution we’ve found to date. If your budget is a little lower and you’re happy to have a non-integrated radio/antenna, you can couple a Rocket M5 to a Lanbowan 28dBi Grid antenna (with appropriate antenna connectors). This is a little more complicated because they’re separate units you need to purchase and hook up together, but they offer great bang for your buck.
- Other Equipment
You’ll also need to have a suitable router to connect to the CAN, and ensure your radio is connected with an appropriately shielded cable. While it costs a little more than regular cable, failing to use shielded cable can result in damage to your radio during an electrical storm – which won’t be covered by the warranty!
Where can I get the gear from?
Depending on the type of hardware you’re looking to purchase, your best bets are either City Technology, or Duxtel. If you’re local to Perth, Tang Computers can save you some money on shipping, depending on the item.
But what if I’m still not sure?
No worries! One of the best parts of being a WACAN member is… well, talking to other WACAN members! If you’re stuck choosing radios, or if you need a hand configuring your network, you can always hit up some of our experts either on our Forums or on Discord. We’re happy to help!