Why every ISP should be deploying hAP Lite to customers

This was originally posted at:
https://www.mtin.net/blog/why-every-isp-should-be-deploying-hap-lite-to-customers/

So Mikrotik has a very cheap hAP Lite coming out.   This is a 4 port, 2.4 b/g/n router/access point which retails for $21.95. Baltic networks have pre-orders for $18.95.

Why should you deploy this little gem and how? We have found over the years routers account for more than half of the support issues. In some networks, this number is closer to 80-90%. Whether it be a substandard router, one without of date firmware, or poor placement by the customer.

Deployment of the hAP lite can be approached in one of two ways.  Both ways accomplish the same goal for the ISP. That goal is to have a device to test from that closely duplicates what the customer would see. Sure you can run tests from most modern wireless CPE, but it’s not the same as running tests m the customer side of the POE.

Many ISPs are offering a managed router service to their customers.  Some charge a nominal monthly fee, while others include it in the service.  This is a pretty straightforward thing.  The customer DMARC becomes the wireless router.  The ISP sets it up, does firmware updates, and generally takes care of it should there be issues.  The managed router can be an additional revenue stream in addition to providing a better customer experience.  Having a solid router that has been professionally set up by the ISP is a huge benefit to both the provider and the customer.  We will get into this a little later.

The second option lends itself better to a product such as an hAP lite. With the relatively cheap cost you can install one as a “modem” if the customer chooses their own router option.  The actual method of setup can vary depending on your network philosophy.  You can simply bridge all the ports together and pass the data through like a switch.  The only difference is you add a “management ip” to the bridge interface on your network. This way you can reach it.  Another popular method, especially if you are running PPPoE or other radius methods, is to make the “modem” the PPPoE client.  This removes some of the burdens from the wireless CPE onto something a little more powerful.   There are definite design considerations and cons for this setup.  We will go into those in a future article. But for now, let’s just assume the hAP is just a managed switch you can access.

So what are the benefits of adding one of these cheap devices?
-You can run pings and traceroutes from the device.  This is helpful if a customer says they can’t reach a certain web-site.
-Capacity is becoming a larger and larger issue in the connected home.  iPads, gaming consoles, TVs, and even appliances are all sharing bandwidth.  If you are managing the customer router you can see the number of connected devices and do things like Torch to see what they are doing. If a customer calls and says its slow, being able to tell them that little Billy is downloading 4 megs a second on a device called “Billy’s Xbox” can help a customer. It could also lead to an upsell.
-Wireless issues are another huge benefit.  If the customer bought their own router and stuck it in the basement and now their internet is slow you have a couple of tricks to troubleshoot without a truck roll.  If the hAP is in bridge mode simply enable the wireless, set up an SSID for the customer to test with and away you go.  This could uncover issues in the house, issues with their router, or it might even point to a problem on your side.
-Physical issues and ID10T errors can be quickly diagnosed.  If you can’t reach your device it’s either off or a cabling issue.  If you can reach the hAP and the port has errors it could be cabling or POE.

These are just a few benefits you can glean from sticking a $20 Mikrotik device on your customer side network. It becomes a troubleshooting tool, which makes it money back if it saves you a single truck roll. The implementation is not as important as having a tool closer to the customer.  There are several vendors you can order the hAP lite from.  Baltic Networks is close to me so they are my go-to.  http://www.balticnetworks.com/mikrotik-hap-lite-tc-2-4ghz-indoor-access-point-tower-case-built-in-1-5dbi-antenna.html .

This isn’t practical for business and Enterprise customers, but you should already be deploying a router that has these features anyway right?

Podcast: Quick troubleshooting for ISP networks

Been a little bit so I wanted to do a short talk about troubleshooting in ISP networks. I see too many folks waste a lot of time when they should be starting qt the lower levels of the OSI model and working up.

Helpful web-sites for ISPs Part 1

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Corporate vs ISP networks for the ISP

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j2 Briefing: FCC news, Microsoft whitespace, polls

The j2 Podcast for August 29, 2019

Microsoft is pushing it’s Whitespace product as a solution to the Digital divide. This has been branded “Airband”
https://www.multichannel.com/news/microsoft-brands-rural-divide-national-crisis

The FCC
The commission unanimously voted to distribute more than $20 billion of Universal Service Fund subsidies over the next decade as part of the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund. It also adopted a long-awaited proposal to get more detailed information from broadband providers about where they offer service in order to improve the agency’s coverage maps.  <let’s hope this revamps the form 477 reportin>

iOt is showing it’s age
Amazon is killing off the gimicky Dash buttons.
https://www.engadget.com/2019/08/01/amazon-dash-buttons/

Verizon turns up 5G

In the ever-changing 5g race Verizon turns up 5G in Atlanta, Detroit, Indianapolis, Washington DC

New poll says the Internet is more important than Air conditioning while on vacation
https://www.swnsdigital.com/2019/08/majority-of-americans-would-rather-give-up-air-conditioning-than-have-no-internet-on-vacation/

Mobile Users double since 2013
The percentage of respondents who said their primary online access devices is mobile has effectively doubled since 2013, and many of those are using mobile as a substitute, rather than a complement, to wired broadband service.
https://www.multichannel.com/news/pew-mobile-broadband-users-double-since-2013

 

ISP vs Enterprise networks

I recently was hanging out with an ISP admin who moved over from the Enterprise world. After a few days with him, it rekindled the interest in writing this article. From a high level, a network is a network. Its job is to move bits to and fro. The goals of the network are where we start to see networks separate themselves. Let’s start with some simple goals of each system.

An enterprise network’s goal is to protect the end-users from outside threats and themselves while giving access to the things they need for their job. An enterprise admin deals with things like firewalls, file servers, software, and Domain controllers. Switches and routers are backend systems for the enterprise. A means to deliver the software to the end-user.

An ISP network’s goal is to give access to the Internet as a whole to its customers while protecting its infrastructure.  Access points, fiber ONTS, and backhauls are the things routinely dealt with by ISP admins. Servers and things are backend systems for the ISP. The servers become the support systems to deliver access to the customers.

The most significant difference between the two networks above is the Enterprise customers are given access to what they need for their job. If they need the Internet, it is routinely filtered for content, and non-work related sites are blocked. Admins of the Enterprise network follow the “block all and allow what is needed” approach. Sure, the Enterprise admin deals with things like WAN connections, switching, and sometimes even BGP but not in the same ways a Service provider does.

Typical corporate or enterprise network

In contrast, Service Provider networks should give unfettered access to the Internet and leave it up to the customer to decide what they should and should not restrict access. With ISP customers you are only dealing with Internet access and don’t necessarily know what the users are doing with the Internet “pipe”. You don’t have to worry about content filtering (unless that is an add-on or your business model), file shares (handled by corporate VPNs) and restricting access to things.

Typical ISP network

My oversimplified view is most ISPs mainly deal with layers 1-3 of the OSI model for their access networks, while Enterprise networks deal a lot with layers 4-7.  The software takes focus, and layers 1-3 are just necessary to make the software work.   In other words, the corporate network deals with the LAN more than the WAN and the ISP network deals with the WAN more than the LAN. As corporate networks grow these lines tend to blur a little.

If you are an ISP admin, your goal should not be blocking what users are doing. Your goal should be to give the user fast speed and the lowest latency possible while protecting your infrastructure from them and the outside world. I mentioned latency because of gaming and streaming. Every device the customer goes through it adds latency. Sometimes its fractions of a millisecond, but there is no free lunch. This speed hit is why firewalls have limited uses in the ISP world for access customers. Firewall options give you a myriad of choices when it comes to throughput and latency. These licensing options for things such as the number of concurrent connections, latency level pricing, and the sheer number of users supported. You pay for the more connections you need to run through the firewalls. What may be useful for a corporation of 500 users probably won’t support a 500 user ISP if everyone is routed through a firewall.

So what is someone to do with all this information? If you are an ISP, you should adopt and adapt the following guidelines for your business.

1. Don’t firewall your customers on your access network. Let them be responsible for that. If you are a managed service provider (MSP) then you have firewall services at the desktop and router level you can sell. If you are just an ISP you can sell a managed router service to help protect the customers and your infrastructure. However, don’t be heavy-handed as it will create more problems than it solves (see #2)

2. Things change so much in terms of how programs and apps utilize networks. Customer demand routinely drives service providers to adapt and change with the times. An ISP who restricts what their customers do gets left behind pretty quickly. In some instances, you even have laws about limiting access to content.

3. As technology evolves so does the use of your network.  Restricting customer access to the Internet via firewalls creates more support because you are routinely editing rules, troubleshooting, and upgrading firewall software.

I want to close with a little philosophy.  It’s not that firewalling an ISP network is a bad thing, it’s just not very efficient and cost-effective.  You need to keep buying more and more firewalls to keep up with demand.  Firewalls have their place in corporate environments. In my next article, I talk about how ISPs should be running both types of networks. Look for this coming soon.

j2 Podcast:5g hype, more bandwidth, preseem

Hi this is Justin, it’s Tuesday, July 30th, 2019 and this is the ISP news you need to know.  It’s been quite hot in my office so I haven’t been doing many recordings due to fans and such making it noisy in here.  here are some of the things you need to know.

Think 5G is all hype?
The 5G providers are touting how 5G will bridge the digital divide and folks are paying attention.
https://www.digitaltrends.com/web/31-percent-us-households-no-broadband-internet/

Another reason your customers need more bandwidth
Google play store is now selling some Disney movies in 4k.
https://9to5google.com/2019/07/25/google-play-disney-4k/

FCC asks for more c-Band input
The FCC seeks more comments on C-band proposals for flexible use of the 3.7-4.2 GHz Band. Comments on all the further studies are due August 7 to Docket 18-122.   
https://insidetowers.com/cell-tower-news-fcc-asks-for-more-input-on-proposals-to-repurpose-c-band/

Preseem Netflix Video
The folks over at Preseem have a pretty informative video on Netflix.

Speeds and the next generation ISP

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SouthWest ISP regional meetup July 12, 2019

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2019-southwest-isp-regional-meetup-tickets-63089643823

This meeting is open to any and all Internet Service Providers in Texas, as well as anyone else willing to come to our Great State! You don’t have to be a WISPA member to attend. Come meet with fellow operators, see all the greatness of the Ericsson Headquarters, and hear topics from various knowledge experts.