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 (Open Wireless Router) and OLSR (Optimized Link State Routing protocol). 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 several bands. Check the AREDN® website for the latest information.
- Many devices have an integrated dual-polarity MIMO antenna which helps to leverage multipath propagation. AREDN® has always supported and recommended using MIMO hardware, since these devices typically outperform single chain radios when used as mesh nodes.
- 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 to 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 hardware information is a manufacturer’s datasheet, usually available for download from the manufacturer’s website. Currently AREDN® supports dozens of 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 a high-gain antenna.
See the Network Design Guide for more information about constructing robust mesh networks.