Setting up our Broadband-Hamnet node
Every Saturday morning from 9am until around noon, the Hurst Amateur Radio Club meets for tech-talk and all-around live ragchew at the Hurst EOC, which is located at Hurst Fire Station#2 in Hurst, Texas. This is a fun time to get together and talk shop on anything related to Amateur Radio. Usually there isn’t a scheduled format, we’ll just pick a topic at random and share ideas, information, and answers to questions.
Today’s topic was the Broadband Hamnet. I posted about this topic the other day for the first time. I also purchased a Linksys WRT54GS router on eBay this week, which arrived in the mail yesterday, so I was able to bring it with me to flash the firmware and get it ready for the Broadband Hamnet.
In short, this is a wireless network that is separate from the standard Wi-Fi network used by the public. With certain routers you can change frequencies that the router uses, which fall inline with ham-usable frequencies, and setup a sub-network to communicate only with other hams. From what I understand there is an entire network already covering Dallas-Fort Worth, with nodes setup on towers and buildings that any Wi-Fi router, after modification, can connect to, and allow the operator to use this network for communications with other hams. They have a great “getting started” page here.
I’m now officially online at my QTH in Grapevine, but I wasn’t able to find any other nodes in my area. Of course I only have the stock antennas on the back of the router, inside my home. So its time to find some external antennas and a setup the router outside.
This, of course, poses some challenges since these routers aren’t really made to be weatherproof. The coax line between the router and the antenna can’t be more than a few inches (there is probably a formula, but I don’t know what it is). So you basically have to mount the router right next to the antenna. There are enclosures that will house the router and a power source, and are weather-proof, and mountable onto a mast or tower. Listed below are some links I have found for doing all of this. I’ll probably change or update this list before the project comes to fruition, but for now, here is the build-list I am planning:
- A WRT54GS router. There is the version with the most memory, according to this hardware list.
- An Enclosure. I found a Multilink RNI-3620 Outdoor Residential Enclosure (Cable Box) on eBay. Under $24 with free shipping, and it comes with mounting hardware.
- A couple of Antennas. The WRT54 routers have dual antennas on the back, which are movable, and connect via a plug called RP-TNC. Finding the correct connector shouldn’t be too much of problem, but pay attention to this. The cool thing about having dual antennas is that I can connect both a directional yagi or dish type antenna and point directly to another node, and also an omni-directional antenna which should listen and talk to anything within a certain distance. Titan Wireless is a good place to find 2.4GHz antennas for base mounting.
- A power source. You can use PoE or you can run an outdoor, weatherproof extension cord up to the router and connect the power directly. This will depend on where I decide to mount the enclosure. At this point in time I am thinking about mounting it to the top of my chimney on my 2-story house. This will be about 30 feet in the air. I could run an extension cord from the chimney, down the side of the house, and into the garage.
Are these routers on amateur radio frequencies? 13cm overlap?
Peter, you have to flash them with the firmware from the Broadband Hamnet website. To my understanding, our ham frequencies are shared with some of the WIFI frequencies, so yes, they are on our spectrum.
Be careful with heat buildup when using a weatherproof enclosure.
Great to here you are on the air. I have my node running in the garage right now while I do some testing. I was messing with my other node, and set it as a MESH gateway. I’m not quite sure what I may have done, but I can no longer log into that node. Hopefully I can get the node working again by tomorrow afternoon. In the mean time, I will have the other node up and running on the pole by the evening of the 27th. I hope you can pick it up that night. 73
Kent, have you hard-reset that one you can’t login to? I had the same issue with a node and hitting the reset button “fixed” it.
I bought a 2nd router this week and hopefully it will arrive in the mail within another day or 2. I’m going to be scoping a spot on the top of the house to mount one of these with a couple of external antennas that I haven’t bought yet.