Off-grid living isn’t for everyone, but it has gotten easier in recent years. Cheap solar panels and wind turbines let you generate your own power, and there are plenty of strategies to deal with fuel, water and sanitation. But the one thing many folks find hard to do without – high-speed internet access – has few options for the really remote homestead. [tlankford01] wants to fix that and is working on an open-source mesh network to provide high-speed internet access to off-grid communities.
But first he had to deal with a major problem. With high-speed access provided by a Clearwire wireless network, streaming content to his two flat-screen TVs wasn’t a problem. At least until Sprint bought Clearwire and shut down the service in early November. Another ISP covered his area, but his house lies in a depression out of line of sight of their tower. So he rigged up a bridge between the WiMAX network and his lab. The bridge sits on a hill in sight of the ISP’s tower 3.5 miles away. Solar panels, a charge controller and deep-cycle batteries power everything, and a wireless link down the hill rounds out the build.
This is obviously a temporary solution, and probably wouldn’t last long in winter weather. But it’s working for now, and more importantly it’s acting as proof of concept for a larger mesh system [tlankford01] has in mind. There are plenty of details on what that would look like on his project page (linked above), and it’s worth a look too if you’re interested in off-grid connectivity.
40 thoughts on “Quick Network Bridge Gets Off-grid Home Back Online”
Good thing I never got Clearwire.
Nice but I would ditch the wireless link to the house unless its really inconvenient to lay down some cheap fiber. Or build a mast near the house. Mainly due to complexity and also power use.
If you ran a data line you could also run power in the same buried conduit removing the need for batteries and a power source at the remote location…
PoE has quite a voltage drop over longer distances but it is really convenient and neat in on-grid scenarios.
Ethernet still has a 100m distance limit.
extra wires in a conduit /= POE
Oh yes, silly me
True, but the ubiquity equipment he is using will run at 10-48Vde could probably POE the power and wireless the data.
The copper required for this would cost more then the batt system…
What is cheap when you are buying ~1500m of fiber, and want at least 1Gbps, since 100Mbps never is enough? I’ve never found a good guide to laying down you won fiber.
Looks like under 1000ft to me based on the pic, if thats true, 300bux or less for some good singlemode, which could do 100 to 10,000mbps based on the devices used on either end…..
In my neck of the woods 4-stranded outdoor fiber is cheaper than outdoor CAT5e copper. 20% even!
I’m not saying his setup is bad but I don’t like wireless stationary short-hauls. Too many points of failure, more configuration, more rf noise.
True for a single end user, but I think he’s trying for proof of concept to provide connectivity between the bridge and a small, isolated community. You might be able to run fiber to a group of homesteads, but if they’re spread over a thousand acres, that might be prohibitive. Wireless for the “last 0.2 mile” makes more sense in that case.
AirMax is not WiMax. AirMax is a proprietary polling mac running on 802.11 from a company called Ubiquiti.
^^ What I came here to say.
Satellite internet. Dear god, do I hate it with a passion, but it’s still an option.
I don’t know his situation, but satellite net still isn’t available everywhere either.
Pretty much everywhere. If you got a sat parked in geo orbit, it covers a huge amount of land.
Unless you live at the geographic north or south pole, or in a deep valley with 120 foot big thick trees to the south of you Hughesnet is absolutely available to you.
The problem is you cant watch netflix, because you get 2gb-5gb of data per month for your $199 a month and you will hit that watching a couple of movies.
Which is really sad considering that my $35 a month cell phone plan includes 5gig a month.
I believe that RTC (Reat Time Comunications, http://www.rtc-vsat.com) will cover the lower 48 states.
Though it is an inferior option if the wireless provider’s network is properly run.
I had satellite Internet when it first came out, I had DirectWay / DirectPC it was awful, it would die all the time, and even when it was working the F.A.P / Fair Access Policy limited you to only 150MB every 4 hours, and I had so many problems with the system that I could not often use it when I needed, and DirectWay / DirectPC always blamed the problems on my end, and no amount of replacing hardware, cables, computers, or fresh installs of Windows would fix the problems.
I’ve had to do exactly what he has. The house was out of LOS from the tower so I had to erect a mast in one of my pastures that did have LOS then from there I was able to shoot to the house. Works great until you have a lightning strike…..
Ouch. Did you have any grounding on the tower? Just curious if burned right through it or if there was none at all.
Good reason to use fiber/wireless to link back from your tower – lightning safety.
Lightning strike is easy to prevent. heavy metal pole, top it with a metal fence post in a PLUS configuration and then about 12 sharp metal spikes, heavy nails will work welded to the fence pipes. lightning will nail that and travel down the pipe to your ground and skip your gear.
Lightning is not the biggest problem, it’s the static electricity build up from wind. and the spikes help drain that.
Been doing this for a company as long as I can remember.
Several of our high site’s use solar alone.
one client is a 145KM distance.
You are awesome! Wish I had your amazing talents!
Isn’t an internet connection kind of going against the idea of ‘off-the-grid’?
Not anymore than having electricity and running water. My cabin is off-grid, I live on solar and wind and haul my water in (for now) 300 gallons at a time. For now I use a 4G hotspot. Had a wireless ISP but at $65 a month for what amounted to dial up (IRL) I decided to dump it and go 4G.
There is no reason at all for having the pi in there, You can do that easily with two ubuquity devices and a crossover cable. In fact I have several of them in place except I use a cheap china wifi dish and use the micro ubuquity unit that I can remove the antenna and connect the china dish lead to it.
This doesn’t look like any sort of actual mesh networking to me?
The mesh is still in dude’s mind, this is “proof of concept”, and I suppose gives the guy some practice working with that sort of equipment.
I live off grid. I’ve had wireless Internet for over 3 years. Pay $29.95 a month for a -throttled- 2 meg link. Server transmitter is about 20 miles away and takes at least one more hop before it ties into backbone fiber that runs between Salt Lake City and Las Vegas. My link is rock solid, even through a white out blizzard. Has never gone down. Have a wire mesh antenna similar to those used on radio station STL links. Antenna is mounted to corner of a Connex box. Power consumption of entire system including modem and local WiFi hub is under 28 Watts.
I enjoyed the article so much I hit the tag “off grid”, expecting to find a plethora of ideas in action .
3 stories .
2 were from Caleb ( missed)
Thanks to the writer. Let’s see more
Glad you enjoyed it. I’ll do my best to fill up that off-grid tag. If not right now then when I make my off-grid move in a few years. Shhh… don’t tell my wife ;-)
Seems apropos: http://broadband-hamnet.org/
Looks like a pretty nice first crack at a self-sufficient mesh network. Would love to help make ideas like this spread in the developing world!
Does anyone know if this system is still operating? Or did it have to be updated over time. Solar in remote areas works great since the sun goes to work every day. But if the panels need dusting off every week and are located in a hard to clean location. – abe farag
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