LTE components

What is what in the following diagram when it comes to LTE components
eNodeB -Evolved Node B
This is the main component that allows users to connect to the network.

MME – Mobility Management Entity.
The MME is responsible for initiating paging and authentication of the mobile device. MME retains location information at the tracking area level for each user and then selects the appropriate gateway during the initial registration process.

S-GW-Serving Gateway
The S-GW is responsible for keeping track of devices when they move between eNobeB’s. This is typically not an extra piece of hardware just a function of the EPC

P-GW
This is what connects the LTE network to the Capital I Internet. This also is typically not an extra piece of hardware just a function of the EPC

 

Other terms
The S1 interface is described in the 3GPP TS 36.410 specification.

The X2 interface provides connectivity between two or more eNodeBs.

 

Learning, Certifications and the WISP

One of the most asked questions which come up in the xISP world is “How do I learn this stuff?”.   Depending on who you ask this could be a lengthy answer or a simple one-sentence answer.  Before we answer the question, let’s dive into why the answer is complicated.

In many enterprise environments, there is usually pretty standard deployment of networking hardware.  Typically this is from a certain vendor.  There are many factors involved. in why this is.  The first is the total Cost of Ownership (TCO).  It almost always costs less to support one product than to support multiples.  Things like staff training are usually a big factor.  If you are running Cisco it’s cheaper to train and keep updated on just Cisco rather than Cisco and another vendor.

Another factor involved is the economies of scale.  Buying all your gear from a certain vendor allows you to leverage buying power. Quantity discounts in other words.  You can commit to buying a product over time or all at once.

So, to answer this question in simple terms.  If your network runs Mikrotik, go to a Mikrotik training course.  If you run Ubiquiti go to a Ubiquiti training class.

Now that the simple question has been answered, let’s move on to the complicated, and typically the real world answer and scenario.  Many of our xISP clients have gear from several vendors deployed.  They may have several different kinds of Wireless systems, a switch solution, a router solution, and different pieces in-between.  So where does a person start?

I recommend the following path. You can tweak this a little based on your learning style, skill level, and the gear you want to learn.

1. Start with the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) certification in Routing and Switching (R&S).  There are a ton of ways to study for this certification.   There are Bootcamps (not a huge fan of these for learning), iPhone and Android Apps (again these are more focused on getting the cert), online, books, and even youtube videos. Through the process of

studying for this certification, you will learn many things that will carry over to any vendor.  Things like subnetting, differences between broadcast and collision domains, and even some IPV6 in the newest tracks.  During the course of studying you will learn, and then reinforce that through practice tests and such.  Don’t necessarily focus on the goal of passing the test, focus on the content of the material.  I used to work with a guy who went into every test with the goal of passing at 100%.  This meant he had to know the material. CompTIA is a side path to the Cisco CCNA.  For reasons explained later, COMPTIA Network+ doesn’t necessarily work into my plan, especially when it comes to #3. I would recommend COMPTIA if you have never taken a certification test before.

2. Once you have the CCNA under your belt, take a course in a vendor you will be working

the most with.  At the end of this article, I am going to add links to some of the popular vendor certifications and then 3rd party folks who teach classes. One of the advantages of a 3rd party teacher is they are able to apply this to your real-world needs. If you are running Mikrotik, take a class in that. Let the certification be a by-product of that class.

3.Once you have completed #1 and #2 under your belt go back to Cisco for their Cisco Certifed Design Associate (CCDA). This is a very crucial step those on a learning path overlook.  Think of your networking knowledge as your end goal is to be able to build a house.  Steps one and two have given you general knowledge, you can now use tools, do some basic configuration.  But you can’t build a house without knowing what is involved in designing foundations,  what materials you need to use, how to compact the soil, etc.  Network design is no different. These are not things you can read in a manual on how to use the tool.  They also are not tool-specific.   Some of the things in the Cisco CCDA will be specific to Cisco, but overall it is a general learning track.  Just follow my philosophy in relationship to #1. Focus on the material.

Once you have all of this under your belt look into pulling in pieces of other knowledge. Understanding what is going on is key to your success.  If you understand what goes on with an IP packet, learning tools like Wireshark will be easier.  As you progress let things grow organically from this point.  Adding equipment in from a Vendor? Update your knowledge or press the new vendor for training options.  Branch out into some other areas , such as security, to add to your overall understanding.

WISP Based Traning Folks.
These companies and individuals provide WISP based training. Some of it is vendor focused. Some are not.  My advice is to ask questions. See if they are a fit for what your goals are.
-Connectivity Engineer
Butch Evans
Dennis Burgess
Rick Frey
Steve Discher
Baltic Networks

Vendor Certification Pages
Ubiquiti
Mikrotik
Cisco
Juniper
CWNA
CompTIA

If you provide training let me know and I will add you to this list.

How I.T. folks can get rid of clutter

Let’s face it, every I.T. person has at least one.

The dreaded box of cables.  Many of us have more than one. Over the years, in the guise of organization I have ended up with several of these boxes.  They were in categories. Power supplies, monitor cables, ethernet, etc. We have all been in a situation where we needed a cable at 3AM or in a pinch when a buddy calls needing a firewire cable.

 

 

 

 

So what is a geek to do?
Let’s talk about how to get organized and get rid of those boxes of cables and other I.T. related stuff. It’s all about baby steps and a process. There is an ingrained fear in all I.T. people where the mind thinks, “I may need that someday”. this fear can be paralyzing for some and ignored by others. This fear is still here, though. I have broken this process into two stages.  In the first stage, I call a quick and dirty stage.  These first four steps are designed not to take very long, but immediately give you more space. Don’t spend time worrying about what to keep, except for duplicates I talk about in Step 3. The goal is to find out what you have, classify it, weed out, and gain space by uniformity.

Stage1
Step 1 – Preparation

Find all your boxes. Get them in one location. Invite some buddies over, turn on some music, or whatever it takes to keep yourself motivated for the task at hand.  I sort better when I have someone to pass the time with, even if they don’t know what they are sorting.  Get yourself some sorting boxes.  I started sorting with cardboard boxes because they were easy to get my hands on and were free.

Step 2 – Classification
If you have your boxes already organized into things like power cables, monitor cables, computer parts,etc. then you can skip this step.  If not your goal in this step is to take your boxes and quickly sort into categories.  Don’t worry about getting too granular with this process.   You will find a natural fit depending on what you have.

Step 3 – Weeding out
Once you have things into classification boxes, take each box one at a time and empty it out. Anything more than one of anything, throw the duplicates in a box of their own.  If this gives you too much anxiety save two.  Feel yourself wanting to save more than two of the same thing? Yo Don’t need more than two.  If it’s something that is broken through it in a special “To-Do” box.  We will talk about this later. Anything you have more than two of sell, give away or donate.

Step 4 – Uniformity
At this stage, you should have several smaller boxes with one thing, maybe a second, of everything you have sorted.  The rest is in one big box or smaller categorized boxes. Go out and buy yourself plastic totes for storage to replace your cardboard boxes. We aren’t done so don’t think “I could have told you all of this dummy”.

Storing things in plastic totes helps in many ways.  First, it saves space by making things uniform.  Uniform totes stack better than boxes of varying sizes. Secondly, it preserves the things inside from water damage, bugs, and other environmental influences.  Thirdly, plastic totes are reusable for other projects.

Up until now, this is all pretty common sense.  Many of you may have done some of this already.  Now comes the beauty.

Stage 2
Step 1 – First month
After a month of having these neatly organized totes pull out your “To-Do” box Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is it worth fixing?
  • Do I need to fix it?
  • Do I really need it?
  • Will I use it in the next month? If the answer is “I don’t know” then it’s a no.

Don’t try to fix it at this point. Don’t test it.  Just ask yourself the above questions. If you can’t honestly answer the questions put it back in the box.

Step 2 – 3 months
After 3 months if you have not touched anything in your To-Do box pull it back out. This time ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I need to send this somewhere to get fixed?
  • What do I need to do in order to fix this?
  • Is it worth fixing?

At this point, you have not used it in three months.  This should give you an indication of how important and necessary it is to you.  If it has sat for three months it most likely sits for another three months.  Do something with it.  If you can’t put it back in the box.

Step 3 – 6 months
Spend another afternoon or set aside time to go through all of your totes. Ask yourself the following questions

  • Have I needed one of these in the past 6 months?
  • Has something replaced this?
  • How much are these on Amazon, at Best Buy, or somewhere similar?

At this point, anything you have not touched in six months needs to go into long term storage, be sold, or given away. Those are your three options. Long term storage should be your last option because if you follow these steps, it will be just another set of totes you have to go through in six months. After six months of sitting in long term storage it is probably out of date in the I.T. world.  If not, it should be sold if any value is left.

Within six months, the human mind should be able to rationalize all of the things you really need to get rid of.  By re-visiting these boxes a few times, you are re-enforcing the decision to get rid of things. The reason you are saving it is in your mind, so you need the above steps to convince that part of your psyche to let go.

Rational and my experiences
I tell myself I am a collector, not a hoarder.  Anyone who knows me knows I have a huge Gi Joe collection

Part of my Gi Joe collection

Over the years, I have amassed duplicates of figures.  The same has happened with computer parts, old networking equipment, cables, and all kinds of things.  It got to the point I had boxes stacked full of anything and everything. It got to the point it was overwhelming and did not know where to start.  At one point, I probably had over 200 boxes of “stuff” in various cubby holes, garages, shelves, closets, and anywhere I could stuff boxes. If I wanted to work on something, my typical day involved moving boxes around so that I could find stuff or get to the room or tools.

One day I just started going through and classifying stuff.  I started out with totes of stuff to sell, trash bags of stuff I had no idea why I was keeping, and totes of stuff I wanted to keep.  This helped but was not enough. I had space, but it was still a lot of work to do anything. This is when I started the above process.  At first, it’s hard.  You think you need everything or will need everything. Many of the things I was storing I had bought on clearance or in a deal.

This should not be a goal. This is something to get away from.

As you go through this process, you will find the boxes are getting smaller and more granular. A great example is all the mobile phone accessories I had. I took all of that and there it into one tote as I was sorting. I did not worry about what it was as long as it dealt with a cellular phone. One I got to the end of my sorting, and I figured I had found all the phone accessories I had, I took a deeper dive.

The first thing I did was weed out all my old phone cases, Nokia chargers, and ancient gear. This old gear is stuff no one wants. Anything that could be recycled went to a recycled box. The rest is trash. This useless stuff amounted to about thirty percent of my tote. Next up, I came across Android cables. These were mainly mini and micro USB. I did not want to throw any of these away, so I put them all in a smaller tote that was just mini and micro USB cables.

Next up was my iPhone accessories. Everyone in my house uses an iPhone. Charge cables are things that break, and you always need one. What I did was make sure each car had an accessory outlet charger and at least two charge cables. Many times we would be driving down the road, and two people need to charge their phones. Every one of my cars had previously been outfitted with at least a dual USB outlet charger. Any extra charge cables went into a smaller see-through tote and stored in my office.

Finally, all of the accessories such as headphones, Bluetooth, etc. were looked at. I kept us each a pair of headphones and put everything else in a tote of stuff to sell. I had no use for this stuff and no reason to keep it.

There are tons of books and programs on how to get organized. This system has what has been working for me. I went from 200 totes a year ago to around 50 today. I am still weeding out and de-cluttering, but it isn’t paralyzing as it used to me.

Does this apply to everyone? Of course not. I have seen computer stores with the same power supply on their shelf for ten years. Sell the thing at a loss and use the space for something more productive because what happens is that one thing turns into ten, then twenty, and next thing you know, you are out of room.

Dual monitors.sure. five monitors..can you keep track

With all of the people working from home with the Covid-19 restrictions, I see the topic of multiple monitors come up quite often on Facebook discussions. If you are not a fan of having more than one monitor you need to listen to the following video. This is an excellent video on time management. If you want to skip to the dual monitor stuff it starts at 27:15

The question is how many monitors are too much? How much information can your brain focus on at any given time?  Studies have shown we are more focused on tasks if that is the only thing in front of us.  We make fewer mistakes if we are focusing on one, maybe two tasks. Having too much information can lead to lack of focus.

From a Facebook group

 

 

Just some food for thought.

The following is my monitor setup. I used to have four monitors. A year ago I bought a 32″ high-resolution monitor to replace two of my monitors.  You see a third in this photo.  I added this about three months ago because I found myself listening to YouTube videos and other media. Having a dedicated screen for this freed up much of my moving of windows. this screen also has a Roku box and a retorpi emulator for those times I need a break but can’t step away.

I like this setup for a couple of reasons. The first is it allows me to have what I am working on front and center.  Depending on what I am working on it may be on the laptop screen or the bigger screen.  Viso and programs with toolbars typically go on the large screen. e-mail, slack, and other things go on the other screen.  Most of my network monitoring tools either get dumped into a Slack channel or e-mail.  I have turned off any ding notifications. These are interruptions.

Where would more monitors be helpful?  If I wanted to have a dedicated monitor for some sort of monitoring tools such as Librenms dashboard, The Dude, or something similar.   As my career progresses I am investing more in redundancy and focused monitoring rather than watching ever little part of the network.  I schedule review time for this stuff. More on this in a later post.

 

Horvath Communications offers free tower co-lo

In an effort to alleviate the ramifications of COVID-19, Horvath Towers V will be offering free tower co-location to rural broadband service providers for a period of six months. 

“With so many families working and learning from home,” company President Jackie Horvath told Inside Towers, “the demand for wireless internet access has sky-rocketed. As such, we would like to partner with rural internet service providers to allow co-location on our tower assets on a temporary basis.”

Applications will be accepted between now and May 1. All inquiries are to be sent to ehorvath@horvathcommunications.com. As part of this program, the broadband provider will be responsible for the cost of installation and the equipment. The installation team must provide proper insurance before climbing the tower. 

https://www.horvathcommunications.com/ has a map with a site list

AirFiber 4.10 is out

Important notes
  • Please update far end of a link before the near end
  • Please refresh browser cache when logging into a v4.1.0 unit for the first time
  • UNMS cannot upgrade airFiber firmware loaded with pre-beta8 firmware (i.e. -beta7, etc.)
  • If you are upgrading from pre-v4.0 software, your password (after upgrade) will be the first 8 characters of your pre v4.0 password. If you chose to downgrade, please ensure that your password is no longer than 8 characters or you will be locked out of your unit.
Features
  • Added additional modulation rates (3x, 5x, 7x, 9x, 11x)
  • Improved throughput capacity (improved modulation performance)
  • Added support for UNMS
  • Added telemetry reporting (optional)
  • Changes to support Apple SSL certificate location rules
  • Updated default https certificates validity for 18 years
  • Added Paraguay and Swaziland country codes
  • Telnet Server port number now displayed on Services tab when using default number (23)
  • Added alert box when Receive Target Power is enabled
  • Build number now shown in system tab
  • Firmware version now displayed with product ID (i.e AF11 vs AF09)
  • Assorted web changes to colors, initial login screens, updated EULA
Improvements
  • Manual browser refresh not required when upgrading FROM 4.1.0
  • Updated SNMP MIB
Bugfixes
  • Detect and recover from OTA management traffic lockup
  • Detect and recover from user traffic lockup
  • Fixed issue where capacity graph showed 2x capacity when there was no GPS signal at the timing master
  • Fixed issue where GPS process would use 100% of the CPU
  • Fixed issue where RF link would repeatedly reset if Ethernet port was disabled
  • Addressed issue with moving (jittery) labels around signal strength graph
  • Corrected conducted power reading when using Receive Target Power
  • Fixed issue with Carrier Drop Operation where unit would not come back if Block Data After Pulse was enabled
  • Fixed issue where disabling Management VLAN after upgrade from pre v4.0 could corrupt networking configuration
  • Fixed SNMP reporting of frequency (SNMP now reports frequencies in MHz)
  • Fixed Static IP gateway address usage (was ignored if configured with v4.0.x)
  • Fixed GUI issue where deleting link name and pasting in a replacement would not work
Known issues
  • If you are upgrading from pre-v4.0 software, your password (after upgrade) will be the first 8 characters of your pre v4.0 password. If you chose to downgrade, please ensure that your password is no longer than 8 characters or you will be locked out of your unit.

Official Page and Download links here

Justin’s WISPAMERICA list for younger WISPs

I struggled with a title for this post for a bit.  I am aiming this at those WISPs who have been in business a bit and are looking for those products to take them to the next level.  Maybe you started on a shoestring budget and need to “step up your game”. Maybe you were recommended a product and want to see what else is out there. I have compiled the following list of vendors at the WISPAMERICA 2020 show that you should spend some time talking with.  The following list is not all of the vendors to talk with by any means.  These are just some of the ones I would not miss and have some in-depth conversations with for those younger WISPs. Maybe you need a billing software, or better antennas, or automation.

In no particular order

LTE Vendors
Alpha Wireless
If you are doing LTE or small cells. Antenna manufacturer.

Blinq Networks
LTE equipment

Baicells
LTE equipment

Add on Services
Atheral LLC
Voice and unified communications.

Bicom Systems
Voice communications

DiviNetworks
Network monetization

Billing
Azotel
ISP and carrier billing

VISP
xISP billing

Distributors
ISP Supplies
Texas-based distributor of many lines

CtiConnect
Chicago area-based distributor of many lines

Wireless Gear
Cambium Networks
Wireless manufacturer of point-to-point and point-to-multipoint gear as well as in-building wireless

RF Elements
Makers of horns and other antennas to help mitigate noise.

Services
Tower Coverage
RF mapping and path analysis for wireless links

Training
Tower One Inc
Training and safety certification for your tower and climbing needs

This is not a complete list by any means.  These are companies I have first-hand knowledge of their product or service.  If you would like to see your company listed for the upcoming WISPAPALOOZA 2020 contact me, find me at the show, or become a sponsor of this blog.

Ultimate DD-WRT router guide

An interesting post about DD-WRT crossed my inbox awhile back.  Like most interesting things I saved it to look at later.

Custom firmware, such as DD-WRT makes the process easier, and provides you with a lot of additional options as well; thereby turning a standard $100 router into a super router that is suitable for any home or office.

With this DD-WRT router guide you’ll be increasing your wireless range, data transfer rates, creating NAS solutions, setting up a VPN Service, and so much more in no time at all. Some of these, you can even implement without having DD-WRT.

Don’t have the time to read all of this today? I’d recommend at least reading the introduction so you can find out what this “DD-WRT” business is all about.

https://proprivacy.com/vpn/guides/dd-wrt

MonoPrice CMR cable fails UL tests

After testing samples of Monoprice’s CMR (riser) cable, UL stated that the cable may pose a fire hazard and recommends that organizations discontinue using it. In a public notice, UL said Monoprice’s CMR cable “may pose a fire hazard … does not comply with UL’s safety standards and is not authorized to bear the UL mark for the United States or Canada.

https://www.cablinginstall.com/cable/article/14169147/ul-recommends-discontinuing-use-of-monoprice-cmr-cable

#packetsdownrange