A cellular small Cell near the Indianapolis Metropolitan museum.
Small-cell in Indianapolis Indiana
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.
Once we assembled this we need a router for the Internet and DHCP. We chose a RouterBoard hexS
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.
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/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.
Testing with Google Sas and Federated SAS. Band 42 and 48 testing.
Small cell stealth deployment painted to blend in with downtown Indianapolis.
In this article, I am going to talk about how WISPs can monetize their networks in the ever-growing hype of 5G. Whether you think 5G is hype, or overblown from a technical aspect, you need to embrace the 5G wave of hype and use it to your advantage.
Many WISPs should be familiar with 5G in terms of how small cells work from a technical, physical, and a philosophical viewpoint. This knowledge is important, as outlined in Small Cells and hybrid networks for WISPs: Part 1, as well as making your network attractive for Network as a Service (NaaS).
Wireless Service providers, especially ones with active community ties, have a unique advantage over the larger providers such as Verizon and AT&T when it comes to small cells. Many of the local WISPs have the contacts to be able to put up small cell infrastructure in their coverage areas. The provider does not have to own any licensed cellular spectrum to do this. Many WISPs can make a business model with unlicensed (2.4 and 5GHZ) and CBRS band. The big benefit of this is if these providers build this infrastructure in mind of selling space to the larger carriers, then it can be a huge benefit. The local ISP is now selling its infrastructure. Many ISPs would rather have one client paying $1000 a month and 10 clients paying $100 a month. With this, you can do both.
How do you do this? In an upcoming podcast, I am going to talk with Tolly Marcus from Airpacket about how WISPs can “up their game” to design and engineer their networks to be in-line with what the larger carriers’ design. This mindset will focus on the thinking processes ISPs need to start implementing into their own networks.
One of the things the local provider can start looking at is small cell poles. Companies like Wytec International are implementing the next-generation of smart poles. These poles tie cellular, CBRS, wifi, iOT, and other technologies in an unobtrusive design. The photo below is from this month’s edition of AGL Magazine.
By looking at this pole we can see the many compartments inside. Cities like this design as it covers ugly wires and just kind of blends in. So, what does this have to do with the WISP? If a WISP were to design and engineer these to take into account the designs the carriers mentioned earlier require then the network can be sold as a service to them. Many factors and things need to be met, but it is doable. Again, the WISP does not have to operate in the Cellular bands in order to put up the pole infrastructure.
WISP puts up these throughout the town or city they can leave options for a carrier or multiple carriers to add their equipment into existing infrastructure. The local ISP is selling capacity on a purpose-built network they have control over instead of the large carrier rolling over them. The addition of small cells also opens up additional opportunities for the local ISP which otherwise might go to a 5G carrier.Some of the opportunities to the local ISP can be •Cellular Small Cells
•Digital Signage and displays
•Informational Kiosks These services are just a few of the ones an ISP with local connections can provide many services needed while selling to carriers who are already deploying small cells. In closing, if you are an ISP, especially a WISP use the 5G hype to further your business instead of trying to fight it. Adapt what you need to your business model to help provide the next generation of services. Don’t get hung up on semantics.
Small cell in Chicago
The never-ending goal of any Wireless Internet Service Provider (WISP) is how to get ever-increasing levels of bandwidth to clients. The always increasing demands, by customers, on WISPs, and ISPs, in general, are becoming an everyday problem for many operators. Building a business model on unlicensed spectrum can be a shaky foundation. Interference and changing rules are just a few things which can influence how a WISP deploys services to a customer. Before we get into this, let’s take a step back and look at how many WISPs have been deploying services up until recently.
The “historical” WISP deployment has been to find the tallest structure around and locate some access points on it. From there they try and reach out as far as they can to pick up customers. This distance to the customer may be 3 miles, 5 miles, or even further depending on terrain. When an AP gets too full, you typically add a new one and make sure your antennas don’t overlap as much. In the past installing customers at these distances has been fine for the 3, 5 and maybe even 10 meg packages which have been sold over the years. However, the modern definition of broadband by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is 25 megabyte25 Megabits download by 3 Megabits upload. A good number of households are “getting by” with far less, but these customers need access to faster connections.
One way to meet this demand is to take a playbook from the cellular carriers. Small cells, or Micropops as many refer to them as can be a tremendous tool in your toolbox. For this series, I am going to refer to what I am talking about as a small cell and not a micro pop. Why am I making this distinction? Small cells are something folks familiar with cellular operators understand. This distinction may seem like such a small difference to you and me, but for the banker, or the city planner this could be a critical thing. Many times you only have a small opening to present your case for deploying services to a neighborhood or other area. This opening could be a twenty-minute meeting on a busy Monday or at a town hall meeting with 10 other things on the agenda. Why not use terms which everyone is familiar with.
One way to increase data rates and modulation to clients is to decrease the distance they are from the Access Point (AP) and the number of clients on the AP. Cleaner clients on an AP make for a better performing access point. The fewer obstructions you have to go through and even the less air you have to go through allows you to increase modulation to your clients on the AP. If the clients are closer to the AP, they experience less interference. Imagine how many fewer things your AP hears if it is limited to a one-mile radius as opposed to a five-mile radius
So imagine your typical suburban neighborhood. This may be a collection of houses in a subdivision within a 1-3 mile radius.
Due to houses, terrain, and trees, you may not be able to service these homes with the needed 25meg downloads they are expecting from the historical setup I mentioned above. The tower is just too far awa and is going through too many things to scale to customer demand.
This problem is where the neighborhood small-cell can come in and solve. Due to land and Home Owner Association (HOA) policies putting up the typical WISP tower is not feasible. Many homeowners do not want industrial things cluttering up their views, even if it means delivering the high-speed internet they are wanting. Towers can bring down property value. In our photo above, several poles or small towers ranging from 40-80 feet would be inconspicuous enough to blend in with the neighborhood.
Each of these poles may service as many as 20-30 homes. This small customer count per AP keeps the customer count on the AP low, so you are not oversubscribing the Access Points, and also allows each customer to have the max signal to their nearest AP. Due to customers reliance on speed test servers, being able to provide what you sell is critical. If you are selling 200 meg packages, then the customer should be able to run a 200 meg speed test. In an earlier article, I talk about the problems with speed test servers, but your customers want to get what they expect.
So now that we know why small cells are essential to a WISP, our next articles in this series will focus on the technical aspects of small cell, integrating them into your existing infrastructure, and showing deploying them is not really that scary, hard or expensive.
Justin Miller and I were asked to give an impromptu discussion on 60GHZ at Mum USA 2019. Just has a very urban deployment of Mikrotik 60GHZ. We talk about some use cases and even drag some audience members in.