The West Mountain Mesh Test
I will try to start this from the beginning. Last Year (2015) I took a little bit of gear up to the tower site on West Mountain (Utah County Utah) to do some range testing with HSMM-Mesh / BroadbandHamnet. I hooked up my Linksys node with a 4 watt bidirectional amplifier to a 9dbi omni on the roof of my Tahoe, and I packed up everything I had to test with. My home node consisted of a Linksys wrt54G with broadbandHamnet firmware, on my mast at about 15 feet. The node had been removed from its box and placed inside of a water tight TV Cable/Telephone box. no amplifier, just a 24Dbi grid dish antenna aimed roughly at the tower sight.
Among the gear I took with me was a Linksys wrt54G, a Ubiquiti M2 High Power, a cheap ebay Yagi, a grid dish antenna, and a cheap panel antenna. The testing did not give the best results, The only combo that worked for any of the testing was the bullet M2 High Power with the grid dish antenna. I was able to connect to my home node and use the internet gateway that I had set up. the link was slow, but it did work. Knowing what I know now, it was probably around 3-4mbps. My home node was about 7 miles away, and the link quality was around 70-80 percent. I blame this on the fact that My mast was not guyed very securely at that point, and I believe the wind was blowing things around a little on both ends.
I tried several different things to link with other stations, but never could connect. The closest I got to connecting is that I could see the IP address of one of WE7AA's nodes. I could actually get 100% link Quality, but here is the weird part, He could not see my node at all, and the IP would never resolve to a call sign, and never showed any services. There were a few other stations that I could get around 50% link quality, but same thing, they never saw my node, and I never resolved the IP address of the node to a call sign.
At this point, I knew something wasn't right, so we started looking into what could be happening. This is what we came up with between Mike WE7AA, and Myself. My home node was horizontally polarized. I was using an identical grid antenna on both sides for the test, and my home node WE7AA was running dual polarity panel antennas
we quickly came to the conclusion that there were a few thing playing into the results. Where I was horizontally polarized on my home node, I tested horizontally from West Mountain when trying to connect to my node. Most home wifi is vertically polarized, by my node being horizontally polarized, I dropped my noise floor by over 20db. The reason that We7AA could never see my node is because being Vertically polarized, my signal could punch through all of the wifi signals. We were also testing on ch 1 which is a heavily used wifi channel, so there was a great deal of noise in the valley, and I just could cut through it. This we believe is also why the IP would never resolve for my when I had 100% link quality with WA7AA, because both nodes could not see each other.
It worked out that I had a couple of hours to spare on Sunday (5-22-2016) I Spent the Saturday before getting all of my Ubiquiti Gear flashed over to AREDN Firmware. There are a few reasons for switching to AREDN from BroadbandHamnet. One of the biggest reason is that by switching to AREDN, we now have the option to down to channel -2. Channel -2 is outside of the unlicensed wifi range, so that was the first step in eliminating noise. The second part was run Horizontal polarization for the 20db isolation. This may not be totally necessary now on channel -2, but we will check that out on the next test. Now that I have given you the background info, lets get to the good part.
During the test, I took several screen shots of the mesh link page. Pay attention to the link quality, but even more important, pay attention to the MBPs. You will notice that out of everything tested, the Nanostation always had the highest datarate. This first screen shot is from west mountain pointed at WE7AA (around 15 miles away) in American Fork with a Ubiquiti bullet M2 HighPower and a grid dish antenna. Mike WE7AA loaned me a spare Ubiquiti bullet M2 HP to test with, so even though the node is labeled WE7AA AmFork4, this is from the West Mountain test node.
This next screenshot is with the dish pointed towards Springville and still using the bullet M2 High power. Note that the connection was completely lost. I estimate I moved the antenna by close to 40 degrees.
It wasn't much of a surprise that by aiming the grid dish about 40 degrees off from the WE7AA node completely lost connection. but here is where we were surpised, and remember to look at the datarate here. this next screenshot is with the ubiquiti NanoStation M2 about 2 feet off of the ground on the mast aimed at WE7AA in American Fork.
Here I am using the bulletHP and a cheap chinees/ebay 120 degree sector antenna. The panel is Horizontaly polarized, and I think it was around 16db gain. I am aimed in the same direction as the last screenshot, just a different radio/antenna.
This next screen shot is the nanostation M2 pointed at the Point of the Mountain, this around 40 degrees off of WE7AA
The next screen shot is the bullet m2 HP and sector antenna pointed at The Point of the mountain, This is the same test as the one above, but with different radio/antenna
The next screen shot is the Nanostation M2 pointed at The Point of the mountain, This is the same test as the one above, but with different radio/antenna
The next screen shot is the Nanostation M2 pointed at Spanish Fork Canyon, I did not get a screenshot of the Bullet/sector on this test because there was no connection at all on the bullet, and panel.
This last set of screenshots were taken with the 2 test units faceing 180 degrees from WE7AA. This first screen shot is of the NanoStation.
This screenshots is with the bullet and sector faceing 180 degrees from WE7AA.
I dont have screen shots from Mikes end, but after the testing, we were discussing our findings, and he noted that on his end he only saw around 15 mbps data rate on the bullet, but speeds on the Nanostation hit 39mbps. I have not had a chance to test with a nanobridge, or a rocket, but hopefully will be able to in the future. as far as what we have been able to test. The Ubiquiti Nanostation looks to be the winner. I am trying to pick up a nanostation M5 to test out on 5ghz soon. once that is done, more info will be posted.
So as with most weekends, we wanted to test a couple more things. I headed to west Mountain and Mike (WE7AA) headed up to the point of the mountain. at this point we are about 21 miles apart, and we are both lower than the peak that we could be on. We both setup with our Ubiquiti Nanostation M2s, and within seconds, the nodes had linked with 100% link quality. after about 10 seconds of moving the node around, I had the datarate up to 39.6. After making that connection, and Mike being up out of the valley, yet still being in a shopping mall parking lot, and a few houseing subdevelopments around hime, we decided to switch over to ch 1 to see what would happen.
It wasn't much of a surprise, on ch 1, once again, Me being up on the mountain, miles away from any wifi signals, I could get the IP address from the WE7AA mobile node, and also his home node that he had earlier changed to ch 1, but they would never resolve to the node name. On the other end, he could not see my signal from my node. we believe the reason for this is because I have no interfearence where I am at, so seeing his node is easier because it I am not getting hammered with wifi signals. Mike could not see my node because there are too many wifi signals around and my signal cant cut thru the noise. This test was at 800mw of power, so I have ordered an adapter that will let me put an 8 watt bilinear amplifier inline with my node. at that point, I may be able to cut through the noise and make a connection, but the adaper is a few weeks out, so that test will have to wait.
So we have easily connected at 20+ miles, and ch -2 is the key. The next test I will do is the difference between horizontal and vertical polarization. It would be nice if vertical polarization will work on ch -2 away from wifi, as this would alow for easy use of omni antennas to distribute a signal round a several block radius, and running mobile nodes would be simplified.