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AREDN-A High-Speed

Data Network
A thorough discussion of a high-speed multimedia
network for public service applications.

sion speeds, become overwhelmed the AREDN firmware, entering the sta-
with increasing traffic and message tion call sign and an administrative
size. These services are the compelling password, and then pointing the node's
case for the Amateur Radio Emergency antenna towards an existing network
Data Network (AREDN). 1 node in the infrastructure. The AREDN
firmware senses the existing network
and automatically configures the node.
Implementing a high-speed network
Within a few seconds, the node is
infrastructure can eliminate congestion.
operating as part of the mesh and is
The network also provides the opportu-
ready to deliver pre-established data
nity for additional digital services, such
services. The deployed ham can then
as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)
decide to attach the node to a standard
telephony, chat rooms, and image/
Wi-Fi access point for users to access
video-based damage assessments and
those services. This technology is
described in a paper published in the
AREDN is a software development ARRL and TAPR 34th Digital Commu-
project that repurposes commercially nications Conference in 2015.2
available wireless internet service pro-
There are several approaches to con-
vider (WISP) radio routers to operate
structing a network based on
under the grant of our Amateur Radio AREDN. The term "mesh" is generally
licenses in the amateur microwave
associated with this technology. It
bands. The AREDN development team
implies many nodes scattered about
[Andre Hansen, K6AH, photo] publishes its work under the Free Soft-
with multiple data paths between
ware Foundation's General Public
nodes. While this would result in a
License (GPLv3 license).
highly reliable network, it would also
Andre Hansen, K6AH Multiple devices, called nodes, sepa- be expensive to deploy, and leave you
rated by as much as 50 miles, work dependent on nodes and operators out-
Traditional manual means of message
together to form a high-speed mesh side of your direct control. A more
passing are being quickly replaced by
network with data rates up tol44 Mbps. structured approach that defines a
digital transmissions. The paper-based
They provide a transmission control preferred data path is most often rec-
general message form ICS-2 13 has
protocol/internet protocol (TCP/IP) ommended. Over time, as more and
given way to the Winlink electronic
medium for applications that one would more hams become involved, the net-
ICS-213 form. In current "best prac-
typically use on an intranet or the Inter- work evolves into the structure of a
tice," the form is conveyed through
net. AREDN is not intended to be a mesh.
digital techniques, such as AX.25
packet, HF PACTOR, WINMOR, and, general internet access alternative.
Because these systems operate in the
when available, the Internet, rather The primary objective of the AREDN microwave spectrum, they generally
than verbally over VHF/UHF radio. project is to empower the typical ham require a line-of-sight path between
These digital technologies are gener- to deploy as part of the network by nodes for a link to be established. This
ally sufficient for text-based messages, acquiring a relatively inexpensive is accomplished by elevating nodes on
but because of their limited transmis- commercial router device, installing hills, towers, buildings, water tanks,
36 June 2017 ARRL, the national association for Amateur Radio"" www.arrl.org
and so on. Let us take a mountainous
terrain as an example, and look at how
to design an AREDN network.
Deploying an AREDN Network
in Mountainous Terrain
Hills and mountains present an obsta-
cle for the longer-distance links. One
obvious solution is to utilize the verti-
cal dimension for the longer links.
Think of them as repeater sites. These
high-ground locations are also well
suited for propagating network cover-
age to lower-lying users. Remaining
are just those users who do not have a
direct line of sight to the high-ground
sites. They will require a relay. We
have just defined three node types (see
Figure 1): High-ground or "backbone"
Deployed node
nodes or sites, "relay" nodes, and user
or "deployed" nodes.
They all use the same technology and User
AREDN software, but clearly serve dif-
ferent roles in the network. Let's look Figure 1 -A n.etwork.comprises backbone nodes, relay nodes, and deployed nodes. Deployed
in detail. nodes communicate with relay nodes, as shown, or directly with backbone nodes.

Fixed Backbone Node

Backbone nodes are permanent instal-
lations that extend the mesh to the quency coordination with other ham
extreme ends of the planned coverage interests and commercial tenants. RF
area. For reliability, I prefer to build shielding can be required to mitigate
them on the least congested band - interference from other nearby trans-
3.4 GHz - and optimize them for data mitters. Weather will often dictate the
throughput with high-gain dish anten- use of radomes - weatherproof struc-
nas spanning distances of 50 miles or tures that protect microwave/radar
more. Additional collocated nodes (see antennas. If you are lucky, you will
Figure 2) employ sector antennas find a ham with a mountain cabin and
designed specifically to distribute the a clear view of the planned coverage
mesh downward across 120 horizontal area, and a willingness to host your
by 9 vertical coverage patterns and a site. Commercial towers will likely
built-in 4 down tilt, maximizing the require professional climbers and
downstream accessibility to lower installers, and must conform to com-
nodes. mercial installation standards.

Participating disaster agencies access Antenna alignment is critical, and

the backbone via fixed nodes with higher antenna gains translate to a need
high-gain antennas. These agencies for more precise alignment. Just two or
make routine use of the network during three degrees can make the difference
simulated emergency drills. between good and marginal links. This
needs careful planning, installation, and
Backbone nodes are often collocated testing. Sector antennas are more for-
with ham repeater sites. These typi- giving, but you will want spotter nodes
cally call for robust installations, already set up at the coverage extremes Figure 2 - A 3.4 GHz downlink from a back-
bone node uses a 120 sector antenna.
requiring a fair bit of planning and fre- to align in both azimuth and elevation. [Andre Hansen, K6AH, photo)

QST - Devoted entirely to Amateur Radio www.arrl.org June 2017 37

backbone node or a relay node. The kit have a segment of the band all to them-
also contains a Wi-Fi router to provide selves. Explore the use of that segment
network access for the local on-site with other hams.
devices, such as laptops and cell
There are no commercial users of the
phones. At a 200 - 300 mA draw per
3.4 GHz band in the US. You do need
device, a 12 V de deep-cycle RV or
to be concerned about military radar in
marine battery will power these nodes
rare cases. Remember that coordina-
for several days.
tion doesn't always mean finding
Implementation Tips another frequency. In at least one
I advise using propagation prediction instance, AREDN interference with a
software, such as Radio Mobile, in ham moonbounce (EME) contest was
planning the deployment of the core mitigated by a commitment to shut
nodes to avoid the hassle and expense down interfering nodes of the AREDN
of experimentation. 3 The tool is network during the hours of the annual
explained in more detail in the ARRL contest.
and TAPR 34th Digital Communica- While full coordination with ham spec-
tions Coriference paper. Sufficient pro- trum committees may not be necessary,
ficiency with this tool will enable you making node frequency and location
to explore the variables of band, node- information available is probably wise.
model receiver sensitivity, node-model Thus, in case of interference, others
power output, and antenna gain can research the possibility that it is
options. one of your nodes.
A few basic principles to keep in mind
Microwave Link Principles
when laying out an AREDN network
Microwaves travel by line-of-sight
Figure 3 - This relay node shows a gain are collocation of nodes, coordination
antenna pointed to a backbone node and communications, so they need to see
another pointed to a deployed node at a shel- with other users, microwave link prin-
the other end of the link. The path must
ter site. [Andre Hansen, K6AH, photo] ciples, and environmental conditions.
be clear in an ellipse between the trans-
Collocation of Nodes mitter and receiver, called the Fresnel
Collocated nodes can interfere with zone. The size of that ellipse is deter-
Relay Node
each other. You can mitigate against mined by the frequency and link dis-
Relay nodes (see Figure 3) are either
this by choosing different bands for tance. Any obstruction in the Fresnel
pre-constructed in anticipation of
inbound and outbound data. You can zone tends to cause the multipath
where deployed nodes will be required
also connect all collocated nodes interference.
in a disaster, or installed as necessary
together via ethemet device-to-device The 900 MHz band is somewhat more
to support ham-deployed nodes. In
(DtD) linking to ensure inter-node data tolerant of propagation through light
either case, they form reachable collec-
does not use the RF path between vegetation than the higher frequency
tion points for surrounding deployed
nodes. If you must use the same band, bands. If you use 900 MHz channels,
nodes and have the required line of
then select frequencies that don' t over- consider also using a narrower band-
sight and higher-gain antenna to reach
lap. For example, if you are using width, such as 5 MHz, because the
a backbone node. Sector antennas
10 MHz bandwidth channels, select entire band is just 25 MHz wide in the
again can ascertain broad downstream
adjacent frequencies at least 10 MHz US band plan.
apart. Use shielding such as RF
Ham-Deployed Node Armor.4 Place the nodes as far apart as Environmental Conditions
Ham-deployed nodes are carried by physically possible. You might need radomes to protect
deployed radio amateurs to served- antennas from snow and ice. You
Coordination with Other Users
agency disaster sites - such as shel- might also need static surge suppres-
Coordinate with other ham users as sors to protect the node and other col-
ters, trauma centers, and transportation
well as collocated commercial inter- located equipment. Wiring should use
centers - that require the pre-estab-
ests. Commercial interests are heavy ruggedized CAT5/6 ethemet cable.
lished data services. The "go-kit" gen-
users of the 5 GHz band. However, in Finally, rely on a professional/certified
erally comprises a 2.4 GHz node with
the US and many other countries, hams tower climber.
a high-gain antenna pointed up to a
38 June 2017 ARRL, the national association for Amateur Radio www.arrl.org
Node Setup and Configuration
Downloading and installing AREDN
software is documented on the AREDN AB..E,~
web pages.5, 6 Once the software is
K6AH-Sleepinglndian-East mesh status
installed, use the node Help page at
to complete the configuration. Local Hosts Se rvices Current Ne ighbors LQ NLQ TxMbps Services

K6AH-Sleepinglodian-East.local.mesh K6AH-OTH local mesh 86% 100%

Aligning, Testing, Remote Nodes ETX Services
K6AH . SARFDN- PA?GD! J3 local mp5h
64% 60%

and Managing Links K6AH- Naoo$tatjonMJ !oral me<;h 1.26

KAH-Slcegoolajjan-Welj{ local me5b ( dtd) 1 00% 100%

The higher the antenna gain, the more K6AH-AjrBO!!IPr local rne<;h
W6RDX- AP.local.mesh
1.26 N3J?N- O!H local me5h
N31ZN- NTP.loc.al.me'5h
56% 96%

critical is its alignment with the far end w6RDX-Mesh-Test .local.mesh

1<6AH-AirGateway.local.m e s h
N6f0-RM-$W !gm! mesh
KG6HSQ- GATEWAY.loca l.mesh
76% 85%

of the link. AREDN software includes N6f0-RMSW- SG local mesh

N31ZN-OTH-5-8 local mesh
1.9 4 Previous Neighbors Whe n
Kl6HOy. t unnel !rul mesh 2.26
tools to maximize the link perfor- KMH. 5ARFQN. pA3GQ! 23 local mesh 2 .44
KfiAH. 5ABFQN-pABBQI lorn! mesh 2.S4
mance. The "Realtime Signal to KG6HSO- SG 2 local me:;h 2 .63 ~
K6AHSAREDN-OTBBPA kica.1 mesh 3 .54
Noise" chart computes and displays the J(6Al1 5ARFQNITTJGDI B local mesh 3.64
k6 a h otsw.local.mesh
signal and noise in dBm each second. k6ah otpi .local.mesh
KfiAt1-SABfQN-O!JGD! 33 local mesh 3.64
The spread between the curves is the W6QAQ-ffif kirnl me5h 4.30
WGOAR-WTN local mesh 4 .40
signal-to-noise ratio (SNR). Moving W60AR5GHZ IQtal mesh 4 .4 0
4 .40
the antenna back and forth followed by
Figure 4 - The Mesh Status screen lists immediately adjacent neighbor nodes (right column)
up and down will quickly identify the and their respective link-rate data throughputs. It also illustrates nodes beyond the neighbors
maximum SNR alignment. (left column).

An SNR of 15 dB or greater is gener-

ally good enough to pass data rates of supplied by an ethemet cable utilizing technology, which non-MIMO devices
10 - 20 Mbps. The AREDN node will power over ethernet (PoE) technology. cannot match.
attempt using one of the IEEE 802.11
protocols to maximize the data Several nodes may be connected back- Broader Distribution Nodes
throughput. The resulting link rate to-back using DtD linking. The routing The Ubiquiti Rocket is a general pur-
throughput is calculated and displayed protocol uses the ethemet interfaces to pose MIMO radio that can be mated
on the "Mesh Status" page in the move data between these collocated with a variety of antenna choices,
"TxMbps" column, as shown in Fig- DtD nodes. including sector antennas with 90 and
ure 4. Another page displays a 48- Desktop Nodes
120 wide patterns.
hour SNR archive, which is useful in
Desktop nodes, such as airRouter and Long-Haul Nodes
understanding transient interference
airRouter-HP from Ubiquiti Networks, Longer-haul devices require the extra
are very handy. They are the equivalent gain achieved with dish reflectors.
General Comments of a Ubiquiti Networks Bullet and an
ethemet switch, combined. Deployment Challenges
MIMO (multiple-input, multiple-out-
One of the most challenging aspects of
put) is a form of spatial multiplexing General Purpose Nodes a mesh implementation is inter-con-
that transmits the node data across two
These are a mix of MIMO devices, necting mesh islands that have formed
independent signals from different
such as the Ubiquiti NanoStation and in the more easily meshed areas. With-
antennas on the same channel by
NanoStation Loco, and non-MIMO out a complete mesh network, it is dif-
exploiting multipath propagation and
devices, such as the Ubiquiti airGrid, ficult to justify the expense and effort
polarization diversity. When MIMO is
Bullet, and PicoStation. Hams seem to of building out network services, such
employed on both ends of a link, either
like the airGrid, which matches as e-mail, VoIP telephony, and web-
the link rate or the SNR can increase
impressions of what a microwave dish based utilities, which are needed to
- whichever results in the highest
should look like, and the Bullet, which demonstrate the network to prospective
overall data rate. AREDN-supported
can be attached to your antenna via an emergency communications clients. It
devices are a mix of both MIMO and
N-type connector. However, the may also be difficult to justify the
non-MIMO types.
NanoStation, which routinely makes expense of acquiring strategic high-
The AREDN devices require from 10.8 15-mile spans, may be a better choice. ground locations necessary to connect
to 24 V de (measured at the device), There is much to gain from MIMO the mesh islands.

QST - Devoted entirely to Amateur Radio www.arrl.org June2017 39

potential to serve over 18 million peo-
ple. Plans are being formulated to link
Ventura and Santa Barbara counties in
2017 and San Luis Obispo, Monterey,
San Benito, and Santa Clara counties
in 2018.
The software development team mem-
bers are Conrad Lara, KG6JEI; Joe
All users have access
Ayers, AE6XE; Darryl Quinn,
to the services K5DLQ; Randy Smith, WU2S; Trevor
Paskett, K7FPV, and Andre Hansen,
K6AH. The team was honored with the
ARRL Microwave Development
Award in 2014. You can meet them and
discuss your AREDN implementation
project on the AREDN Forums web
page, at www.aredn.org/forum.

Figure 5 - The three mesh islands can be bridged by internet tunnels. Although useful for 2www.tapr.org/pdf/DCC2015-AREDN-Project-
demonstrating a "complete" mesh, it is poor strategy for an emergency deployment because the
Internet is not likely to be available during a disaster. 3The Radio Mobile English language portal,
www.cplus.org/rmw/english1 .html.
5 Download from www.aredn.org/content/
AREDN provides an interim solution authorizations inherent in our Amateur software.
based on internet tunneling (see Figure Radio license grant. It is easy to con- 61nstall according to www.aredn.org/content/
5). This involves setting up an figure and is deployable by typical
encrypted tunnel between one tunnel hams without any knowledge of data
server-node and one tunnel client-node networking or the design of the mesh
in each of the other mesh islands. This to which a node is being connected. It
connects all participating mesh islands can be used to support a variety of Andre Hansen, K6AH , has been a ham for 46
years and holds an Amateur Extra class
together in the same network. You can internet-based services or to restore license. He is a member of ARRL, and a fre-
quent speaker at regional, national, and inter-
gain the benefits of having completed failed intranet-based agency services. national conferences. Andre works as an IT
the network and, at the same time, jus- Regulatory Compliance Consultant for Abbott
The AREDN project team provides Laboratories. He is also the project manager
tify the build-out of computerized ser- for the A REON project. He finds the A REON
support via its web page to emergency
vices for the users and demonstrate the project a nice blend of his professional expe-
communications and AUXCOM rience and Amateur Radio hobby. Andre
utility to prospective customers and spends much of his spare time working on
groups. Since this article was submit-
agencies. AREDN, but also enjoys VHF and HF mobile
ted, hams using techniques like those operation, and contesting. In 2013, Andre
While tunneling is an effective way to described in this article have deployed won first place in the Rover category of the
ARRL June VH F Contest. You can learn more
gain that critical mass, it is a poor strat- the final high-speed data communica- about Andre at www.aredn.org/bio/K6AH ,
and can reach him at k6ah @aredn.org.
egy for emergency and auxiliary com- tions links between southern California
munications (AUXCOM) deployment, counties in support of inter-county
and should be used on an interim basis Incident Command Systems' Memo- For updates to this article,
see the OST Feedback page at
for demonstrations. Tunnels will likely randums of Understanding (ICS www.arrl.org/feedback.
not be functional during a real disaster. MoUs). The federated AREDN imple-
mentations in San Diego, Riverside,
San Bernardino, Orange County, and
There are a variety of mesh network Los Angeles counties now cover more
systems today. AREDN is unique in than 16,000 square miles and have the
that it operates under Part 97 under the

40 June 2017 ARRL, the national association for Amateur Radio www.arrl.org