10 Gig SpeedTest server Intel Nuc

Recently a client testing their 5G solution came to me asking for a solution to testing speed from their CBRS/5G/802.11ax clients.  One of the requirements was it had to support greater than 1 gig speedtests as close to the devices as possible. This particular client has a small cell device which has room for a small form factor PC. The challenge was finding a small PC that could handle a 10 gig port.

In steps my buddy John from Columbus.  John is up on hardware more than I am.  After some talks, we settled on the following two pieces of hardware.

https://www.amazon.com/NUC8i7BEH-Quad-Core-i7-8559U-Bluetooth-Thunderbolt/dp/B07JJPF8MV/

https://www.amazon.com/Sonnet-Technologies-Thunderbolt-10GBASE-T-SOLO10G-TB3/dp/B07BZRK8R8/

Intel Nuc, Sonnet 10 Gig adaptor, Mikrotik HexS

Once we assembled this we need a router for the Internet and DHCP. We chose a RouterBoard hexS
https://www.ispsupplies.com/MikroTik-RouterBOARD-RB760iGS

As a not both of these will run off DC power.  The Nuc comes with a 19Volt power supply so if you are running Pure DC you may want to drop from, say a 24volt battery bank to 19 volt with a Meanwell converter.

The Software
Proxmox was installed on the Nuc.  Nothing crazy about this. Just make sure the thunderbolt adaptor is plugged in during install.  For our purposes, we are just using the 10 gig adaptor.  Proxmox recognizes the adaptor without a hiccup.

In some earlier blog posts I wrote about the self-hosted speedtests.
https://blog.j2sw.com/networking/self-hosted-speed-test/
https://blog.j2sw.com/xisp/self-hosted-speedtest/ (Patreon Subscription Required)

I installed the self-hosted speedtest under a Centos Minimal Install. Everything was put on a 172.16.x.x network.  This was done in order to prevent any conflicts with various types of Internet the Mikrotik may be plugged into.  By default, port 1 is set up to be a DHCP client.  In our setup, the Internet is the bottleneck, but we are not testing the Internet.  We are testing clients on the 5g/CBRS/802.11ax network. Our 10 gig port on the nuc will be plugged into a 10 gig switch at the small cell, and not into our routerboard.  The routerboard is just there to hand out DHCP and allow Internet access, if available.

 

 

 

 

WISPAPALOOZA 2019 News and tidbits

WISPAPALOOZA 2019 is rapidly approaching October 14th-18th 2019.  I will be attending in several capacities.

FD-IX will have a booth with Athereal, Ascilis Telecom (booth 135).  Come by and say hi. We have some giveaways as well as a comfy spot for a chat.

I will be speaking and moderating a few panels.
I will be moderating
The Little Things
Wednesday – Oct 16, 2019
09:15 – 10:15am

I will be a speaker on

IPv6 – How and When?
Thursday – Oct 17, 2019
03:00 – 04:00pmHow to deploy IPv6 and when? (include ipv4 conservation here?

Some Vendors to check out

Services
Acilis Telecom
Atheral– Atheral is building customer-centric white-label and wholesale cloud solutions for Internet Service Providers
Divi Networks
Towercoverage.com – Quickly Create RF Propagation Maps for Anywhere in the World!
ToweroneInc – Climbing and personal safety

Distributors
CTI Connect
ISPSupplies – Distributor

Equipment
ALG – High-performance antennas
Alpha Wireless – designs and manufactures antenna solutions
Cambium Networks – Wireless equipment manufacturer. ePMP, PMP, and other equipment.

Some things to do
Cambium Open House – Monday, October 14th

 

Helpful web-sites for ISPs Part 1

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Interesting topic on discontinued gear

So an interesting topic came up on Facebook tonight that got me to thinking. As WISPs grow and evolve, what are your thoughts on hoarding gear you have been using for years when it becomes discontinued? We will examine some ideas as to why this isn’t necessarily all a technical problem. It’s also a philosophical thing with the WISP owner/management.

First off let us examine the whys you would hoard equipment. One big reason is that you have a significant investment in the gear you are using.  This gear has been proven to work, and you have deployed large amounts of it. As a company grows, the ability to introduce new gear into things facing the customer becomes a slower process. To use the analogy, the larger the company grows, the slower the ship turns.

Another reason is the amount of capital needed to migrate to new gear.  Many times when a product line gets discontinued, there is no clear replacement for it. The Facebook post which brought up this post involved the Mikrotik NetMetal 9s.  These are now discontinued by Mikrotik and have no replacement.  If a WISP were to migrate to something else there would be a significant cost in new access points, but more costly, would-be customer CPE. “But just put up the new gear alongside the old and migrate customers over,” you say. This brings us to the next point.

Frequency plays a big role in any migration path. In a perfect world, everyone has open channels and there is no interference. However, that is hardly the case in many scenarios.  This scenario is especially true of 900mhz.  You only have 902-928 MHz to deal with in the US FCC realm.  At 20 MHz wide this is only one non-overlapping channel.   If you put up another access point on 900mhz on top of your existing you will be interfering with yourself. Besides, the frequency may be the reason you are able to reach customers.

Finally, the pros of hoarding equipment are the soft costs of upgrading. Training, engineering, customer service, and possible re-work of some installs can add to the overall cost.  Anyone who has had to change the pins on a reverse polarity Subscriber Module knows the pain I am talking about.

The Cons

The biggest trap I see operators fall into is they horde equipment and then forget about i.  They have spares on the shelves, and enough to service customers. They fool themselves into a false sense of security and kind of wait for something to fall into their laps.  Then, it seems all of a sudden, something happens, and they are scrambling for a solution.  Sometimes this is a software update current equipment gets, but the older stuff does not. This could be some critical security vulnerability or new code to interface with a new system.  Either way, this equipment is stranded on a software island.

Next up is hardware failure.  As equipment gets old it, is more prone to failure.  A WISP may find their reserves depleted after a weekend of storms or bad luck. What may have been plentiful supplies a month ago is now an issue.

Lastly, the performance of the equipment is a big issue.  In today’s bandwidth-hungry consumer ISP radios are needing to perform better and deliver more bandwidth to the customer. Sometimes a manufacturer discontinues a product because they see the limitations of the band or the equipment. Sometimes the manufacturer sees operators are moving on to other ways of doing things. This could be newer frequencies or data algorithms. Usually, it boils down to the equipment was too expensive to make or wasn’t selling well enough.

So whats a WISP to do?

The number one thing a WISP needs to do is not fall into a rut of doing the same old same old for too long when it comes to equipment.  What worked five years ago, may work okay today, but will it work two years from now? Always have a strategy to dump your equipment if need be for something better.  Whether that strategy makes business sense is a different question. Sometimes the approach is to have money in the bank for when the right equipment comes along. Until then, it’s business as usual. Don’t let yourself keep saying you will figure it out tomorrow.

I believe that WISPs should have three lines of thinking.

  1. What am I doing in the immediate future to run my business?
  2. What am I doing in the next 18 months to keep my business competitive?
  3. What am I doing in the next 24-36 months to grow and keep up with customer demand?

If you have strategies for each of these then hoarding equipment is no big deal.  You have plans in place. Just don’t let yourself fall into a false sense of security. Always be learning about new rules, technologies, equipment, and methods.  As your business grows you can delegate this to others, so you don’t have to be in the thick of it and can concentrate on your business.  If you are that “techie” who is doing all of this, keep an open mind.  Don’t be the typical I.T. guy stuck in your ways. None of this is saying hoarding discontinued gear is wrong, just have a strategy.

#packetsdownrange

 

WISPs and Tower assets – LLC or what?

As a Wireless Internet Service Provider (WISP) grows, they tend to acquire some tower assets of their own.  Sometimes these are ones they build and sometimes these are towers they acquire from various sources. What is a WISP to do with these assets and, how should they treat them? In this article, I give you some options to consider. *DISCLAIMER* This article is not to be construed or viewed as actual legal advice.

One of the first business questions is how will owning a tower affect my current business? Will it cause your insurance rates to go up? Do I have liability concerns, especially if the tower is required to have lights according to FAA rules? Will I rent out space to other entities? All of these are valid questions and can affect how you structure these assets.

One of the everyday things a WISP can do when they build or acquire assets is to form an LLC for the tower side of things.  The question is do you form an LLC per tower or an overall LLC for your tower assets.  Let’s look at what forming an LLC will help you with before we get into the above question.

If you are a WISP, forming an LLC for your tower assets will most likely save your WISP operations from insurance penalties.  You may not have to carry extra business insurance or even have to switch carriers because your current insurer does not cover towers. Sure, you have to carry insurance for the LLC, but it can be a cut-down policy and causes things like workers compensation for the WISP side to rise. You are mainly concerned about the tower causing damage or damage to the tower.

Secondly, by having an LLC own and manage your assets, you have put yourself in a better position if you decide to sell your WISP operations.  On paper, your WISP is renting space and whatever from the Tower LLC.  If you have other forms of income from the tower you can decide whether to sell the tower or keep it. If the towers are separated from the WISP operations a sale of either side is much cleaner come sale time.  This is not to say you can’t sell the tower assets with the WISP operations, but it gives you more flexibility.

The last question is, should you form an LLC for each tower.  Some operators like this approach for several reasons.  The first is it allows one tower issue not to affect the other LLCs.  Should you come into legal problems with a tower, a properly set up and documented LLC will shield the members from potential personal liability.  With the ease of online LLC formation, it is easy enough to form an LLC for each tower asset. As mentioned earlier the separate LLCs give you more flexibility. Should you own some carrier-grade assets you have the potential to sell these to a larger tower aggregator without affecting your WISP operations. This is one way several of my clients have infused cash into their operations.

The downside is you now have more paperwork and filings to keep track of.  You have to keep up on LLC renewals, filings, and other paperwork. If you have processes or teams in place, this may not be an issue. Legally, you need to make sure you are not mixing the LLCs, which could cause you to lose the protection of the company.  It just depends on how savvy you are or if you have proper legal representation which is affordable.

At the very least I think it is very advantageous for the WISP to move any tower assets into at least one LLC. You are doing your business a favor.

RouterOS v7 limited beta

I did an overall video of the New Mikrotik RouterOS v7.

From Mikrotik forum: https://forum.mikrotik.com/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=152003

We have released a very limited test variant of RouterOS v7. Currently only available for ARM systems with a slightly limited feature set.

What is currently unlocked / available:

– Only available for ARM architecture
– Based on Kernel 4.14.131, which is currently the latest and most supported LTS version
– New CLI style, but compatible with the old one for compatibility
– New routing features, but see below
– OpenVPN UDP protocol support
– NTP client and server now in one, rewritten application
– removed individual packages, only bundle and extra packages will remain

Other features not yet public.

What is not available:

– BGP / MPLS disabled
– Extra packages
– Winbox does not show all features, use CLI for most functionality

DO NOT USE IT FOR ANYTHING IMPORTANT, THIS RELEASE IS STRICTLY FOR TESTING AND DOES CONTAIN BUGS

Download link: https://mt.lv/v7

Water tower install with mounting frame

We recently headed up a job for a client of installing some RF elements horns, Cambium ePMP, and Baicells LTE for a client.  One of the gems of this job was the frame the client designed for the job.  We can’t take credit for this. We just think it’s cool. Some of these pictures were taken during construction, thus post clean-up.

The frame is truly an example of how WISPs are stepping up their installs to become more standardized and carrier-grade. It costs some money but is worth it in the end.