Selecting Radio Hardware

The amateur radio community has recognized the benefits of using inexpensive commercial WISP radios to create AREDN® networks. Each of these devices come with the vendor’s firmware pre-installed, but by following a few simple steps this firmware can be replaced with an AREDN® firmware image. Several open source software features have been adapted and enhanced to create the AREDN® firmware, including OpenWRT and OLSR. The AREDN® team builds specific firmware images tailored to each type or version of radio, and the current list of supported devices is found on the AREDN® website in the Supported Platform Matrix.

When selecting a device for your AREDN® hardware there are several things to consider in your decision.

  • Radios should be purchased for the specific frequency band on which they will operate. Currently AREDN® supports devices which operate in the 900 MHz, 2.4 GHz, 3.4 GHz, and 5.8 GHz bands.
  • Many devices come with an integrated dual-polarity MIMO antenna which helps to mitigate multipath propagation issues.
  • Radios can be purchased separately from the antenna, so it is possible to have more than one antenna option for a radio in order to optimize AREDN® nodes for varying deployment conditions.
  • Costs of devices range from $50 to several hundred dollars for a complete node, so there are many options even for the budget-conscious operator.
  • Some older or lower cost devices have a limited amount of onboard memory, but firmware images continue grow in size and functionality. Consider purchasing a device with more memory over one with less memory.
  • Check the maximum power output of the device, since some devices have lower power capabilities.

One of the best sources of detailed device information is a manufacturer’s datasheet, usually available for download from the manufacturer’s website. Currently AREDN® supports over fifty device models from manufacturers including GL-iNET, Mikrotik, TP-LINK, and Ubiquiti Networks.

If you are just getting started with AREDN® you can easily begin with one of the low-cost devices that comes with an integrated antenna and a PoE unit. If you are expanding your AREDN® network with more sophisticated equipment, you may choose a standalone radio attached to any of several kinds of high-gain antennas.

Note

See the Network Design Guide for more information about constructing robust mesh networks.