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Broadband Bucket Brigade - or How to get Broadband into the Trees.

by 2 weeks ago

So what is a community to do when they're buried in the forest and all of their rooftop views look like this:

 

L1310462.JPG

 

900 Mhz to the tower 2 miles away? Worth a try, but no dice. The "magic" of licensed LTE on 3.65? Took it for a test drive and couldn't find a link anywhere behind these trees with it.

 

This rural community had no provider of interent other than satellite, so they were very motivated to find a solution. More than a year of testing and experimenting yielded no usable results, and we were about ready to give up.

 

Then the new Ubiquti horns came out. What we discovered was that the horns were able achieve 8x modulation between houses by going underneath the tree canopy. Here is a ground level view from one house looking towards the neighboring house:

 

L1310424.JPG

 

Still not line of sight - heck you can't even see the other house through all those trees. Experimenting with the horns revealed that they were able to find a path through all those tree trunks and establish links between houses that were just like line of sight links. Other UBNT radios were also finding paths, but only with precision locating and aiming on both ends - something the horns didn't require. And being 5 Ghz spectrum means there would be enough channels available to actually do some relaying, unlike 2.4 or 900.

 

So the small community came together and all agreed to relay signals from house to house so they could get off of satellite.

 

The first order of business was finding a location for a gen2 Powerbeam with line of sight to the tower. This would serve as one of the backhauls for the broadband brigade. The edge of the treeline on one property did the trick. An anchored tripod with everything painted brown like the trees:

 

L1310438.JPG

 

Power for the backhaul comes from an EP-R6 about 250 feet deep into the trees - also painted brown to camoflage it's presence. Direct-burial cable was buried from here to the backhaul dish:

 

L1310433.JPG

 

Direct-burial cable also goes from this mid-forest relay to the first house in the brigade, which is also where this EP-R6 is getting it's power. We also have the first horn in the brigade - and here is what that horn sees:

 

L1310434.JPG

 

Yikes, but with the assistance of a higher-gain 30 degree horn on the other end this link is a solid 8x with about 140 Mbps of capacity on a 20 Mhz channel. Here is the view from the other end:

 

L1310465.JPG

 

Doesn't look to me like it would work, but it's holding a steady 8x no problem. Here is the ground-level view of the 30 degree horn - doesn't really stand out that much from the ground:

 

L1310439.JPG

 

 

From the other side of the house a cute little fascia mount makes the link to the next house:

 

L1310466.JPG

 

A soffit-mounted horn picks it up at the next house:

 

L1310468.JPG

 

And on it goes until the brigade reaches the last house, where 300 foot of fencing gives us barely enough cable run to come out of the trees and mount a second backhaul dish:

 

L1310430.JPG

 

In all there are a dozen houses participating in the broadband brigade. Each house has 2 radios to relay the bridge from one neighbor to the next, and those radios are powered by an EP-R6 at each house which also provides each house's routed connection onto the bridge. A backhaul dish on each end makes it tolerant of losing any single house in the bridgade, at which point the brigade will require adjustment if the break in the brigade will be permanent for some reason. 

 

The bridge has an end-to-end capacity of 140 Mbps which is shared by all of the participants. Each house (as the relay point) adds about 1 ms of latency, so the longest distance to exiting the bridge is only about 12 ms max - still orders of magnitude better than satellite. Each house was also given a UPS battery to prevent power outages from disrupting connectivity to downstream neighbors.

 

140 Mbps of shared bandwidth with latencies in the low double digits makes this little forested community very happy. Thank you to Ubiquiti for making this possible!

 

Comments
by
2 weeks ago

Great solution @FuzzyDice !    I've also noticed that low under the tree branches is usually best.   

by
2 weeks ago

Great solution but for the distance and the maintenance and more bandwidth you should really consider burying 2 miles of fiber and using a GPON system, no messing with UPS and power from the neighbors

by
2 weeks ago

Trees have roots - burying a couple miles of fiber in the forest would be a nightmare. Even the few hundred feet of cable we buried only went in a few inches deep because of the tree roots.

 

At one point we even considered stringing fiber up in the trees, but that just seemed like a bad idea for a lot of reasons.

by
2 weeks ago
Having installed a lot of fiber, I think FuzzyDices solution made a lot of sense here. Certainly cheaper and quicker than fiber.
Fiber would have a longer life but this was a good,inovating solution.
by
2 weeks ago

Great problem solving here. What a way to bring a community together. Have you noticed any substantial degradation due to wet foliage?

by
2 weeks ago

@amilian Try to run a trencher through all those trees... The roots of the trees will make it a terrible and painful job...

@FuzzyDice made a quick and fast solution. Great job!

by
2 weeks ago

Back form my fiber laying days, you take a small maxxy sneaker to run the cable like normal, and when you get to the trees, you chain it to your truck (or a mainline plow sitting around) and give it an extra tug Man Wink I still ended up digging and cutting lots of roots though... This is definitely a great alternative. Multiple daisy chains does threaten reliable uptime, but when all else fails, you made it work. Kudos.

by
2 weeks ago

Very nice, and it shows that you can indeed go through relatively short distances of trees etc. even with 5GHz.   And shooting under the canopy is a great way to do it - most RF attenuation is from the water + organic material in the leaves/needles.

Jim

by
2 weeks ago

If the path which you to cross is private property with little traffic, you could put an aerial messenger straight on the forrest ground.

 

We have done this many times.  Good aerials are so solid they'll last forever.  Over time vegetation will just grow over.  Even the odd ATV running over wouldn't break it as it will just burry the cable a bit deeper.  Heck we even had these cables on bare asphalt with tens of cars and trucks running over them after a pole broke off.

 

Only problem could be when somebody puts on a bonfire above.

 

by
2 weeks ago

You used the PowerBeam on the houses due to the tighter beamwidth, yes?

 

From my understanding, the PB and NB are pretty much the same except the 10 degree vs 30 degree beamwidth, right?

 

Have you run a speedtest between the AP-AP? Do you have a screeshot of the first AP to the one that broadcasts to teh houses? Interested in seeing what kind of signal stats you get cutting through that much wood. 

 

I have a similar situation with a campsite.