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Advice on wireless access in rural area using satellite internet

Hey community, 

 

I'm work at a rural non-profit and trying to help improve the current internet conditions within the work area. I was pointed to Ubiqiti products via our satellite internet provider (Unlimitedville.com - a broker for Verizon 4G LTE), so I'm here asking questions as I'm doing my best to research the best options for our needs. 

 

Due to us being in a rural, middle-of-nowhere area, we don't have too many resources for a consultant to come out. I have an IT colleague that is willing to help, but will be out of the area for the next few weeks and was hoping to compile as much information for him as I can to expedite this process. 

 

Here is our parameters:

 

- Router: Mofi SIM4 Cellular Router

- Office Building (labeled green in photo) requiring internet, ~5-10 people at most needing to connect. 

- Camp area (yellow) with small kitchen building, accessible for casual campers.

- Work Shop / Group Work Space (red and green) located in the second building (west), requiring access points for users. 

- The RED work shop is inhabited by a printing company requiring internet for their office and communications. 

 

Additional requirements, talking points, questions:

- Ethernet connection for VOIP phone in office (green) may be needed. [can these phones be connected to a computer that is connecting via wifi? This would eliminate the need to need to connect a phone to the router or network switch). 

- Ethernet connection available in print shop for business operations (1-2 computers). 

- Buildings / area is not networked/hardlined with ethernet cables. 

- I don't know capabilities/power with cellular/satellite wifi, but what solutions could be available to us? Difference between mesh access points // industrial strength wifi signal booster // other?

- What is the best location to set up the router (based on Ubiquiti products needed) to either send signals to multiple locations and/or push a wifi signal to a large area, such as this?

- Could we beam a wifi signal from a central point (mofi router) to, for example, the print shop, and convert to pull a network switch for ethernet connections? Can that be done the same for the office?

 

- Distance between Building 1 and Building 2 is ~ 500'. 

- Campsite and Kitchen (yellow) is in between both buildings. 

- Some of the walls in Building 2 (work shop and group work space) are cement. 

 

 

Happy to provide any and all information needed for this project. I appreciate and thank you all in advance. I understand that this process will require more knowledge and help - and we're certainly planning on those expenses for someone to help set up and install. Just hoping for some advice or direction so I can better wrap my head around this project. 

 

 

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Re: Advice on wireless access in rural area using satellite internet

[ Edited ]

What is the Internet speed that is available to you? Also, is there a need for fast data transfer between & within the three areas (fast = faster than the probably slow Internet)?

 

Your best option is to connect the three areas with three NanoBeam (using airMax, not WiFi but a more efficient proprietary version of it). At each of the three areas you can then set up UniFi access points to serve the WiFi.

 

Many VoIP phones have two Ethernet jacks and some also have WiFi on-board or support it with USB WiFi dongles. So you could probably do this the other way around and connect the computer to the phone. But yes, if configured correctly then also connecting a phone to a computer is possible - but in this case you may consider to use a USB handset instead and run the phone as a software on the PC. It all comes down to the question if you need to be able to use the phone when the PC is not up and running. Having said all this I personally prefer wireless DECT handsets in most cases so that phones do not depend on PCs and their WiFi/Internet connection.

 

Yes, you can install an Ethernet switch in the print shop that is connected to the NanoBeam.

 

Here is one way to do it:

- 3x "NanoBeam 5AC Gen2" (alternatively slower/cheaper: "NanoBeam M5") in point-to-multipoint configuration (PtMP), one each in office, kitchen and workshop

- office: 1x switch US-8 (or US-8 60W with PoE for UniFi AP, or US-16-150W with PoE for both NanoBeam and UniFi AP) and 1x UniFi UAP-AC-LR access point (maybe more APs if there are many walls/rooms)

- camping/kitchen: 1x UniFi UAP-AC-M-Pro outdoor access point, cabled to the NanoBeam

- workshop: 1x UniFi switch (see above), 2x UAP-AC-Lite for both rooms (concrete wall in between)

 

New Member
Posts: 10
Registered: ‎02-18-2018

Re: Advice on wireless access in rural area using satellite internet

Hey, 

 

Thank you for the response. Good question on internet speed. Support chat from the broker informed me that we'd get "great speeds" (whatever that means) if we are relatively close to the antenna/tower. According to antennasearch.com, there is a Verizon antenna in Line of Sight from us - roughly .35 of a mile away. 

 

That said, it is pretty straightforward- simple internet access for the office, visiting campers, group work area, and print shop. The print shop, using a cloud storage system, would require most the ability to download/upload files when needed - but there generally not huge files. I would assume that something like a hosted event (wedding, fundraiser, community gathering) with +20/40/100 people may affect the network's load (all dependent on the provider's speed) the most. No data being transferred between areas on the campus.

 

From a work perspective, the office (flagship building) and the print shop would be proprietary with being able to access internet. Could you prioritize access points however you need? In addition, I presume guest campers would be tempted to throttle the service if wanting to connect to streaming video in the camp area. Could we limit/monitor those as well, if we are pressed for speed?

 

Are you asking what access point needs the fastest data transfer for the reason of where the MOFI Cellular router is located?

 

I've attached two more images -- one of the aerial view between the campus (airport) and the antenna (~2000') and another of a street view of the antenna and the campus in site, just down the way.  Is it important to where the reciever/MOFI Router is relative to the antenna and line of sight?

 

I really appreciation the advice so far. Next step is to jump into the rabbit hole for these products and educate myself on them!


I'm assuming the VOIP phone is more of a stationary phone used for all hours of the day (and night when campers arrive) - so you may be right that it isn't worth having it connect through a computer. Something wireless could work best, so that it functions similarly to a landline without the issue of hardlining in. On the otherhand, depending on where the router is relative to the phone, it could be hardlined directly in from there (or a switch we want to install). 

 

Any further advice would be appreciated. 

 

Thanks thanks thanks!

 

Campus.JPG
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Re: Advice on wireless access in rural area using satellite internet

[ Edited ]

Your 4G/LTE router will certainly appreciate a more or less unobstructed line of sight to the tower, yes.

The Internet speed matters for the choice of NanoBeam 5AC vs. NanoBeam M5, so an actual value/number would be useful.

 

Do not understimate the file sizes and transfers a print shop needs. At a wedding, on the other hand, people are usually not much interested in heavy Internet surfing, they have other business to follow.

 

Yes, bandwidth limits can be applied, and per AP you can configure either up to 4 or up to 8 SSIDs (distinct WiFi networks) that follow each their own speed rules. You would want to use VLANs for this, which is very easy to configure in conjunction with UniFi switches. Does the 4G router support VLANs and priorities by itself? If yes then you are set, else you could consider to also get an ER-X or ER-X-SFP router so that you can do traffic shaping with "Advanced Queue" (but be aware that this requires some networking skills and is not integrated with UniFi).

 

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Re: Advice on wireless access in rural area using satellite internet

Hm. Okay. I'll see if I can get a value/number, but per the customer support chat, they mentioned it wouldn't be possible to get a reading until something is installed. Currently, the office has a Verizon Jetpack - so is it worth running a speed test via that? Or something else to test the connection? That jetpack runs on the same service we'd use, we'd just swap the Jetpack for the MOFI Router they set us up with.

 

Luckily, I've been closely working with the print shop and their operations. Most files are under 10 MB (usually 1-5 MB) with the occasional 10-25 MB file needing to be downloaded from Google Drive. Minimal times throughout the day, as of now, at least. 

 

VLANs: I'll reach out to MOFI regarding that. I linked the product above, but nothing notes that. 

 

Regarding line of site - we are limited to the cellular router provided by our service provider, here, with suggested antennas, here, added for better connectivity. Is this the piece of equipment needed to be in line of site, or does Ubiquti offer a reciever I could use outside on the roof / pole to run down to the router?

 

Cheers

 

 

 

 

 

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Re: Advice on wireless access in rural area using satellite internet

It is not super important, but yes, a rought speed test with the Jetpack, ideally performed a few times during different times of day, would provide a sufficient indiciation of what is to be expected.

 

You could look for outdoor LTE antennas and keep the LTE router itself indoors - but maybe that is fine tuning for later. Ubiquiti does not have any LTE routers in their product portfolio.

 

Indeed there is no mention of VLAN support for the MOFI.

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Re: Advice on wireless access in rural area using satellite internet

As of speed tests with a Jetpack, it looks as if it's 19.2 mbps download, 11.0 mbps upload. 

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Re: Advice on wireless access in rural area using satellite internet

[ Edited ]

Ok, so if you want to save a few bucks you can go for the cheaper NanoBeam M5. In comparison, the NanoBeam 5AC Gen2 can give you up to 4x the speed of the M5 (M5: around 80 Mbit/s, counting up and down combined) and is more "future proof".

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Re: Advice on wireless access in rural area using satellite internet

Thanks for that. Yes - there's been talks within the last year about getting high speed internet out there. It would be sourced at the local high school with the primary foucs that it could be then driven out to our campus/airport facility where we can serve as an ISP for the small town (215 homes). I assume that the conundrum of spreading wireless internet throughout the buildings and camp area on the airport space can be utilized through UBNT products, whether that may be through a cellular device, or future high speed internet plans. 

 

Now, it's just up to the group to decide if it's more feasible to go with Gen2 with the anticipation that high speed internet can be a near upgrade. 

 

With that, I've shimmied through a few articles, UBNT's K8, and discussions on what this SEC subpeona really means for the company. I assume it's too early to know what this really means, but there's now a concerning thought regarding these products, support, and "future proofing" our wireless solution in year/years beyond. 

 

Appreciate all your advice, I cannot thank you enough. 

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Re: Advice on wireless access in rural area using satellite internet

The UBNT pricing is too good, there simply is no comparable alternative in this range. The products work with today's firmware. I see no real risk - this is about WiFi hardware, not about buying stock.

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Re: Advice on wireless access in rural area using satellite internet

Thank you. 

 

I don't have the expertise on setting up a system like this. I'm not in IT and don't believe it's a task I can take on myself. Because we're rural, can this be done off site (i.e. I can install products and setup, but controller and connectivity can be done by someone else via wireless connection)? Any suggestions, if so?

 

Appreciate all the help. If I took better photos / videos of the location and buildings, would you be able to confirm a little more on suggested products?

 

Thanks!!

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Re: Advice on wireless access in rural area using satellite internet


Here is one way to do it:

- 3x "NanoBeam 5AC Gen2" (alternatively slower/cheaper: "NanoBeam M5") in point-to-multipoint configuration (PtMP), one each in office, kitchen and workshop

- office: 1x switch US-8 (or US-8 60W with PoE for UniFi AP, or US-16-150W with PoE for both NanoBeam and UniFi AP) and 1x UniFi UAP-AC-LR access point (maybe more APs if there are many walls/rooms)

- camping/kitchen: 1x UniFi UAP-AC-M-Pro outdoor access point, cabled to the NanoBeam

- workshop: 1x UniFi switch (see above), 2x UAP-AC-Lite for both rooms (concrete wall in between)


The above still holds. Add the external/outdoor 4G antennas if you like.

 

Setting up the NanoBeams is pretty straight forward and does not require special knowledge, and for any remaining questions there is the airMax forum here right next to this UniFi forum. Note that the "NanoBeam 5AC Gen2" is a bit easier to configure because for the first 15 minutes after power up it also (next to the web UI) offers its own tiny WiFi access point that you can be used for configuration together with an iOS/Android app.

 

As soon as you have an Internet connection with your PC you can share it via TeamViewer or a similar tool with anyone you would like to help you with setting up UniFi with the help of the free controller software. Also here the basic setup can be done by iOS/Android app which is very easy to do. Anyway, UniFi is not particularly difficult to configure.

 

This requires a decision (but can also be added later): Is it sufficient to a) set an individual bandwidth limit per user type on WiFi (types are: camping, office, workshop), or do you need to b) set collective bandwidth limits per wireless network (SSID)? While a) is simple, the requirement of b) implies that you install an additional router like the EdgeRouter ER-X or ER-X-SFP that I have mentioned (the simpler UniFi USG will not do this). You will have to rely on external expertise to configure that EdgeRouter.

 

Regarding additional info: You could provide floor plans for 1. office and 2. the workshop building plus one or two photos to estimate the effect of walls. Indicate the possible positions of WiFi APs and the location of the users.

 

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Re: Advice on wireless access in rural area using satellite internet

UB40, thanks for all that. I've compiled some more information to see if this may help (or confirm) your suggestions.


This link has floor plans of the Flagship // Warehouse as well as aerial plans of the site. See the comments in the photo album explaining the location of each image. I took pictures around the buildings to show the exterior. The Flagship building is an L shape - so the photos may not link as easily. Wanted to include the hallway photos just to show interior. Walls are standard wood frame with a plaster on the inside. The speedtests with the Jetpack show connections between multiple distances/rooms, which is good. I'm thinking we don't need more 

 

Album: https://imgur.com/a/BvH28

 

I'm going to start compiling these products in an excel sheet and map together some budget. Within the next year, this facility will have a contract with the local school that is getting high speed internet to funnel a direct connection to the it. I'm thinking when that is the case, we can ditch the cellular router and tie into the school's internet (a project the professionals will handle)- using virtually the same equipment to distribute the wifi. I'm erring towards the newer models to accommodate for the higher internet speeds. 

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Re: Advice on wireless access in rural area using satellite internet

[ Edited ]

The floorplan of the flagship building requires 3, maybe 4 APs to cover all rooms. I'd start with 3x AC-LR and add an AC-Lite or AC-IW should there be a hole that needs to be filled.

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Re: Advice on wireless access in rural area using satellite internet

I'm constructing a budget sheet and identifying the needs based on you suggestions. Thanks for all of this. At this point, I don't think it's important to monitor bandwith outside of A) per user type, keeping as simple as we can. 

 

A few more questions: you're suggesting to run UAP-AC-LR throughout the Flagship office 'L' building, and if needed, add in an AC-Lite or AC-IW. In addition, you're proposing AC-Lites for the warehouse, but not UAP-AC-LR. Why? When would you suggest to use AC-LR Long Range over a Lite? Is it a deterrence if AC-LR is used in the warehouse too in both the Design Room and Print Shop? At this point, if it's a moot point between the AC-LR and AC-Lite for performance, and it's just a matter of cost, I'd consider purchasing a 5-pack of AC-LR and use 3x for office, 2x for warehouse. Would that make sense?

 

Also, may be a noobie question, but do all of these AC-LR and/or AC-Lites need to be cabled in, or can you create the mesh network wirelessly? I think that is my last hurdle to understanding this setup. For the Camp/Kitchen, I'd be cabling a UAP-AC-M-PRO to the NanoBeam; that makes sense. However, if we're looking at installing 3x AC-LRs in the office, do they all need to be wired connections from the switch/wireless router? Same applies to the warehouse. As I'm writing this out, I'm assuming these are what the switches for - to hardline everything in?

 

Next step is to build out the networking schematics and assess where the proper placements will be. 

 

Thanks!

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Re: Advice on wireless access in rural area using satellite internet

[ Edited ]

In the L building there are a lot of walls and corners, that is why I suggest the AC-LR (basically this may turn out to be 4x Lite vs. 3x LR; more APs means more cable work but also better service). In the workshop building there is only one simple wall, from what I understood, and I would guess a single AP will do (but you know better). But of course the LR would also work there, and there can be an advantage is commonality so that you can keep a single AC-LR as spare for all indoor positions. The mounting plates for Lite and LR are different.

 

The 5-pack does not include the PoE injectors, that is why it is cheaper. This means you need a PoE switch to power the APs then, which in turn also means the APs must be wired. Yes, you can "wireless uplink" (WU) these APs, but it is recommended that you make an effort to wire them. As your uplink is already wireless you would be adding even more (unnecessary) latency by the way of WU. A single WU hop is ok, whereas two hops you should really avoid here.

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Re: Advice on wireless access in rural area using satellite internet

Cool. 

 

That all really helps. Say I end up using LRs for all locations - maybe 4 in the Flagship and 2 in the Warehouse. I'll need to cable the 4 in the flagship to something like the Unifi Switch 8 (150W) for the PoE (just learned with this is, thanks to you), which will be also cabled to the cellular MOFI router and the Nanobeam line that we will set up point to multipoint to the other to nanobeams in the other locations. 

 

If we're looking at needing multiple APs for the warehouse, it's suggested we'd need another PoE switch to cable the two APs we've already discussed.... (and/or in the future 1, 2, 3, 4 more if we're in need of expanding our internet through to the other end of the building). The Warehouse Switch will be cabled to the Nanobeam, too. 

 

The camp kitchen only requires AC-M-PRO and nothing else because it includes the PoE injector. 

 

Will avoid doing multiple hops. In this project, our Nanobeams point to multipoint are the 'hops', and any other wireless hops would cause latency issues. I think it's all making sense now...

 

As mentioned, I'll build out a schematics plan to upload. For now, here's a quick shot of how I can place the APs in the hallway, running down both ends. The center-corner room I've placed the HQ for all of this is a wash/supply room. Not hard to run the base from there. 

 

I'm forgetting to ask, but in this scenario, we can still use the MOFI router's wireless broadcasting, as well, yes? Or is that something that is disabled/overridden when using a UBNT system?

Flagship Schematic.JPG
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Re: Advice on wireless access in rural area using satellite internet

[ Edited ]

Yes, the MOFI WiFi can also be used next to the UniFi system, but of course the UniFi controller will then show its users as wired clients. The 4 APs are well placed, and if you do it like this you could go all AC-Lite in both buildings (instead of LRs) and save a few bucks.

 

Already the US 60W switch would suffice, provided there are no other PoE devices like cameras or VoIP phones that you want to power with it.

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Re: Advice on wireless access in rural area using satellite internet

Just to ensure it's clear, the nanobeams (or whatever airmax radios you choose) would be on their own SSID and channels completly independant of whatver wifi your Unifi AP's deliver to your clients.  WDS bridging is the key.  

 

Their sole job is to be the equivilent of a wireless ethernet cable.  They are completely transparent to the Unifi system - or anything else on your network.  Indeed once configured, unless they are damaged or moved  by roosting birds (!) they are pretty much set it and forget. 


Indeed, I set up a pair of nanostations (I got them long before the nanobeams were out) to link two buildings and put them on different IP addresses so they wouldn't be visable on the network.  The network was 192.168.1.x and I gave them 10.10.10.x addresses.  To get to them I just have to temporarily change my laptop's IP address to 10.10.10.x.  I logged into them for the first time in a few years over Christmas to update the firmware; it probably wasn't necessary but there were some security updates so it didn't hurt.  


If you understood that already, great.  It's something that wasn't clear the first time I started looking into this Man Happy

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Re: Advice on wireless access in rural area using satellite internet

Ha! Thanks for all this. I understand.. just not all of what you said just now made 100% complete sense. I'll work backwards in my readings/setup to make sure it all does. 


Appreciate it. Looking forward to help out someone like me in the future when all these questions get asked again. 

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