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w1spfanatic

join:2013-01-11
Screven, GA

WISP Startup

First off, let me introduce myself. The name is Charles and I currently live in rural South Georgia. My passion for wireless communications has always been strong but 3 years ago I subscribed to a local WiMax provider (who tanked due to defaulting on a RUS loan) and the WISP bug bit me! Since then, I have gained an AAS ( Networking ), spent over a year in a small enterprise networking position, read and studied numerous blogs, forums, and white papers on the WISP topic ranging from hardware to software, and everything in between. I am currently studying to get my CCENT and CWTS certifications so I have an understanding of the technology and what ingredients are needed for the recipe.

So, with that being said I moved out to this rural area (Screven,GA) and decided to give Windstream DSL a shot before going with a VSAT connection. Well, to my dismay the DSL is not much better than the most horrible connection I have ever had. Yes, even worse than my 52kbps dial-up I had growing up as a child. This has led me to take on this challenge of providing an affordable broadband connection not just for my neighbors and other residents but for myself.

After doing some research,the previous WISP (Mainstreet Broadband) who defaulted on the RUS loan, closed shop and left ALL equipment intact at the city's water tower. They were using the 900Mhz band but I have chose to go the 2.4Ghz route. Most CPEs that I have seen installed around the area I'm sure can receive signal by going with the 2.4 band. The local fiber provider has quoted me at a decent price for a leased line since there is no construction involved. But, I still have a few questions and I was hoping someone generous would be willing to shed some light onto these "bumps" in the road for me.

I understand how the fiber comes in, gets terminated then hits the router, and from theere goes PoE up the tower to feed the antenna, but, don't I need a PC located there also with my network management software etc. ? Any input on routers used would be appreciated also. Preferably on a tight budget hardware. I've looked into Mikrotik, but I would like to get some experienced opinions.

The estimated client base starting off will be 10 to 15 max with the ability to grow so I don't need enterprise level or anything to support 1,000s of clients yet. This is basically a good "getting the feet wet" project with the potential to grow.

Thanks in advance!

Charles B.



Inssomniak
The Glitch
Premium
join:2005-04-06
Cayuga, ON
kudos:2

Lol, try growing up with 1200, 2400 and 9600 baud speeds and BBSs before anyone even heard of the Internet

Ok Ill start. Yes it will bite you big once you start. And (in my case) may completely consume you.

Yea you will need a router at where your fiber comes in, and possibly any other hardware you need (switches, power backups, etc) You can do bandwidth management with most router software (look at mikrotik hardware/software, its good and geared towards WISPs and small ISPs) or have a separate box for it.

As for the 900 vs 2.4ghz yes if they were using 900, getting some subs at 2.4 where their 900mhz equipment is mounted might be hard but maybe they did some LOS installs with it anyways?. Perhaps you can reuse/restart the 900mhz deployment? Add in 2.4ghz or other frequencies later. It should get you started.

There is tons more, and I as well as anyone here can go on for weeks and months about the WISP world. If you have kids or a wife, or a social life I would recommend kissing them good bye before you commit

Cheers!
--
OptionsDSL Wireless Internet
»www.optionsdsl.ca


jcremin

join:2009-12-22
Siren, WI
kudos:2
reply to w1spfanatic

said by w1spfanatic:

don't I need a PC located there also with my network management software etc. ?

You don't necessarily need a PC at all. The only PC based "server" that I have is my email/web site server, which is in a datacenter on the opposite side of the state as I'm in and doesn't do anything for my actual network.

I run all my stuff through a Mikrotik Routerboard (using PPPoE and Userman for authentication). Low power consumption, no moving parts to fail, inexpensive to replace. I wouldn't run a PC server for anything unless I had such a large customer base that the routerboard hardware couldn't handle it, and even then there are some pretty powerful routerboards out there.

I did setup a radius server when I first started, running on an old computer, but it was a bad environment for a computer (damp, cold, etc) and a power outage would cause the PC to drain the battery backup quickly. A routerboard can take as little as 5 watts or less, which makes is very nice for long runtimes on batteries.

said by w1spfanatic:

Any input on routers used would be appreciated also. Preferably on a tight budget hardware. I've looked into Mikrotik, but I would like to get some experienced opinions.

I recommend Mikrotik all the way. Very powerful for the price. A steeper learning curve than some basic routers, but they can do just about anything you are going to want to throw at them. And again, they are dirt cheap compared to other routers like Cisco or Juniper.

w1spfanatic

join:2013-01-11
Screven, GA
reply to w1spfanatic

Thanks for the input guys! It is MUCH appreciated!

I've done issued my farewell to my wife, but my son will be the problem lol. He'll understand as time goes.

As far as using the existing 900Mhz , that will be a challenge. It is currently property of the Feds. I've been trying to contact the person in charge of it to find out information on how to obtain the rights to strike that back up, but the safe goat would be lighting up my own 2.4 network.

And I have been looking at Mikrotik routerboards all morning and have picked a few good models.

This being my first choice.
RB2011L-INN »store.wisp-router.com/RB2011L-IN

As far as the web site & email server deal. I am new to that aspect of the game. I purchased the domain through GoDaddy and I'm deciding on a host and someone to assist me with all that.



WHT

join:2010-03-26
Rosston, TX
kudos:5

said by w1spfanatic:

I've done issued my farewell to my wife, but my son will be the problem lol. He'll understand as time goes.

Use wife for back office tech support and answering the phone.

Teach son how to use drill holes for cable entrance. Bring him t-shirts from out of town industry and tech shows.

A family that WISPs together...Stays together.


TomS_
Git-r-done
Premium,MVM
join:2002-07-19
London, UK
kudos:5
reply to w1spfanatic

Im going to throw a suggestion in here regarding email and web hosting, so I dont really know what to expect, but ...

Ive been thinking some times I would like to start my own WISP, and if I did, what would I do to reduce administrative burden and cost?

The first thing I thought about was email. Email can be paiiinful, especially when you start receiving lots of spam, dealing with blacklists etc.

So my suggestion is: dont offer email to your customers unless they absolutely must have an email address on your domain, and if they do, charge for it.

The reasoning behind this idea is quite simple: with the likes of gmail, yahoo, hotmail, and the many others, why burden yourself trying to run your own email service? If customers want an email address, recommend they choose one of the freely available ones on the Internet - and thats if they dont have one already!

If the customer reeeaallly wants an email address on your domain, Ive often thought that I would set up a Google Apps account for my WISP to handle my own email, and you could simply sell them a gmail account through your GApps account at cost (I think they are about $50/year), but I'd need to check that is allowable in the T&C.

In the past many ISPs gave free email addresses simply as an official place to send electronic account correspondence and the fact you couldnt actually get free email accounts like you can now. I suppose theres also a little bit of advertising value. But IMO looking after your own email service is a cost and burden you could do without (me anyway, I would have more interesting things to be doing than running my mail server...)

I used to run an email server at home for my own personal use. I was always scared there would be a power outage that would blast away the disk, or the disk would just fail and I'd lose all my email. For personal use I now use GApps, which has amazing spam filtering (I used to also hate having to maintain the spam filtering software on my server), everything is backed up, and I dont have to worry about getting black listed.

Web hosting, well, you could host with GoDaddy (though I personally left them due to their support for SOPA), or find any other reputable host out there. Alternatively, rent a dedicated server or virtual server and run the website on there. The less things youve got to worry about, the more time youve got to concentrate on getting your WISP up and running.

</long spammy post>

The last suggestion I will make, please pretty please make sure everything you do is IPv6 ready or capable.


jcremin

join:2009-12-22
Siren, WI
kudos:2

said by TomS_:

So my suggestion is: dont offer email to your customers unless they absolutely must have an email address on your domain, and if they do, charge for it.

I'll second this. The only reason I run an email server is because I started doing web hosting BEFORE starting my WISP, so I essentially had free web hosting and email for my new business venture. But supporting email can quickly become more of a burden than it is worth. I can't tell you how many "how do I set up my email address on my new windows 8/android, IOS, blah blah blah device I got for christmas" calls I've gotten in the last few weeks. And dealing with constant spam isn't worth it.

I'm not against offering email accounts to customers because it can be convenient for those who are technically challenged (plus it helps keep a customer if they don't want to go through the pain of switching email accounts, but I don't really want THAT to be the reason they choose to be my customer). If you choose a good web hosting (I wouldn't consider godaddy.com to be very good) and they offer good spam filtering and a nice webmail platform, email can be a nice bonus, but as mentioned, free email accounts are really the standard today and out of about 250 accounts, I've only had maybe 50 sign up for addresses, and most of those were 3+ years ago. I rarely have someone choosing to sign up for an email account through my domain anymore, and that's fine with me.


Inssomniak
The Glitch
Premium
join:2005-04-06
Cayuga, ON
kudos:2

Yea +1 on the email service, Im with Jcremin, only reason I have it is because it existed before my WISP. And is a headache, but of course the cheapest way to do it is in house, same with web site.

After years of tuning we dont have problems with spam, unless a customers account gets compromised, but fairly easy rectified.
--
OptionsDSL Wireless Internet
»www.optionsdsl.ca


w1spfanatic

join:2013-01-11
Screven, GA

1 edit
reply to w1spfanatic

Man, I don't know where to begin to thank you guys for these suggestions. I have completely squashed the email idea now lol.

Here's my list of hardware so far.

(1) UBNT 2.4Ghz airMAX sector antenna 120 degree
(1) rocketM2 for the antenna (Not sure if I need this or not)
(1) Nanostation Loco2

and...

(1) Routerboard 2011LS

This will be fed with a 2/2 fiber connection to start with. I will be using this set-up to test around the area and see how the 2.4Ghz operates. If not up to par, then I'll just re-sell the equipment and try the 900Mhz. If everything goes well with the water tower (I will find out tomorrow, wish me luck), I will be trying the connection out at my house first which is almost 2 miles from it. The fresnel zone from LigoWave's LinkCalc looked promising, but we all know field testing is what proves.

Luckily, my landlord has enough open land to erect a tower in the future and has agreed to let me do it, free of charge. Pricey installation for fiber though and T1 lines run upwards of 1k/month out here though.

The current set-up I have planned seems to be a good start if I must say so. I have found a few web hosting companies and will be looking for a professional site builder soon. Any ideas on that would be greta also.

Have a good one guys/gals!


wirelessdog

join:2008-07-15
Queen Anne, MD
kudos:1
reply to w1spfanatic

Am I missing something here? I'm assuming you have access to the water tower no? If so, install a new 900mhz AP in place of the one owned by the Fed's and start reconnecting the old customers.

Chances are if they were RUS funded they used Motorola Canopy. A refurb 900mhz AP runs about $400



Inssomniak
The Glitch
Premium
join:2005-04-06
Cayuga, ON
kudos:2

said by wirelessdog:

Am I missing something here? I'm assuming you have access to the water tower no? If so, install a new 900mhz AP in place of the one owned by the Fed's and start reconnecting the old customers.

Chances are if they were RUS funded they used Motorola Canopy. A refurb 900mhz AP runs about $400

^^ This is not a bad idea really if you can do it. Dont ask me what RUS is. ;(
--
OptionsDSL Wireless Internet
»www.optionsdsl.ca

w1spfanatic

join:2013-01-11
Screven, GA
reply to wirelessdog

I could do that, but I don't want to run into any red tape from the feds for dismantling equipment etc etc. Plus, I will have to get the CPEs that are still installed and configure every single one of them if I am not mistaken. Correct?

I uninstalled one from a house a few days ago and got into it and browsed through the OS. They are Trango M900s SUs.

None the less, I still have to find someone to go up the tower for me and install the AP(s) I am going to use.



Inssomniak
The Glitch
Premium
join:2005-04-06
Cayuga, ON
kudos:2

said by w1spfanatic:

None the less, I still have to find someone to go up the tower for me and install the AP(s) I am going to use.

Ya not gonna do it yourself??
--
OptionsDSL Wireless Internet
»www.optionsdsl.ca

w1spfanatic

join:2013-01-11
Screven, GA

I could if I am granted access. I would probably lose my manhood climbing up that high. I am petrified of heights.



Inssomniak
The Glitch
Premium
join:2005-04-06
Cayuga, ON
kudos:2

said by w1spfanatic:

I could if I am granted access. I would probably lose my manhood climbing up that high. I am petrified of heights.

Id get over this part quick, getting climbers to hike up towers, or do installs will get expensive quick.
I was too pretty afraid of heights when I first started, but I did it anyways, it fades away.
--
OptionsDSL Wireless Internet
»www.optionsdsl.ca

w1spfanatic

join:2013-01-11
Screven, GA

1 edit

I've been up pretty high before in a man basket attached to a crane. In matter of fact, I still have my harness. I know I can do it. I'll have to anyways because I don't have the funds to pay someone.

My thing is tampering with the equipment still installed.


wirelessdog

join:2008-07-15
Queen Anne, MD
kudos:1
reply to w1spfanatic

How would you be dismantling? I'm not suggesting touching the equipment on the tower. Just add new equipment. The Trango gear will do around 3/1 connections which really isn't too bad.

With your plan you have to install new equipment at every customer anyway so reconfiguring really isn't an issue is it?


jcremin

join:2009-12-22
Siren, WI
kudos:2
reply to w1spfanatic

said by w1spfanatic:

I don't want to run into any red tape from the feds for dismantling equipment etc etc.

How long has the WISP been shut down? See if you can get a copy of the lease from the water tower owner. Many leases give xx number of days to remove equipment from the site before it is considered abandoned and legal property of the landlord to dispose of. RUS funded or not, I don't believe any tower owner has to keep the equipment in tact on their structure if these things are clearly laid out in the lease.

If the lease has expired or was defaulted on, and the timeframe for removing equipment has passed, the equipment may be free and clear of any "owner" and the landlord may be willing to give it to you for free simply to be able to be able to rent out the space again. If the owner is the city, they might see it as a valuable opportunity to add some new competition to replace the old WISP.

Worth looking into anyway. After all, WE the taxpayers paid for it, might as well use it if you can.

OHSrob

join:2011-06-08
reply to w1spfanatic

Everyone here has some very good suggestions.

You should put up some 5ghz gear if you have perfect line of sight it works best.

Mikrotik's Cloud Router looks very nice. They even have a high resolution picture of the board so you know what your getting part wise, It all seems pretty good.

Its got a little LCD screen on it too.

We mostly use Cisco gear for our networking. We use Cisco 3825, Cisco 3845, Cisco 3845 routers. And Cisco many types of switch's. (Not the home or small business ones).

Pfsense is a good choice if you want to use a pc based router. There are many operating systems you can run, Mikrotik, Debian.

Openwrt isn't bad either if you use JFS file system, add in fsck and a few other utility and put it on a flash card.


w1spfanatic

join:2013-01-11
Screven, GA
reply to wirelessdog

True. The Trango 900Mhz AP isn't expensive. I will find out today all the information on the lease and all the equipment.


w1spfanatic

join:2013-01-11
Screven, GA
reply to jcremin

Good outlook on it!

I will get all the details today on the water tower, which is owned by the city and the Mayor sounded pretty happy that someone was inquiring about it all.


w1spfanatic

join:2013-01-11
Screven, GA
reply to OHSrob

I'm actually thinking of running a free wi-fi service in the city limits in the 5Ghz band due to LOS. Most subscribers can't get perfect LOS so 2.4 sounds welcoming but 900 would be perfect!



TomS_
Git-r-done
Premium,MVM
join:2002-07-19
London, UK
kudos:5

5GHz will really limit the number of devices that can actually use the service though. Devices tend to have B/G support more than they have A support.


w1spfanatic

join:2013-01-11
Screven, GA
reply to w1spfanatic

Here's the update...

The Mayor signed a contract with Utility Services Group right after the WISP tanked on the city and I have to go through them to lease space on the tower. With that comes numerous standards and laws in order to accomplish the task along with one hefty price tag. $500 a month for leasing space. The Mayor informed me that he sets this price and could lower it down but no less than $275 a month. SMH, non-sense.Luckily, I had a plan B. Another local man OWNS a couple of towers around the area and has agreed to let me lease some space on a few of them. 2 of them I am eyeing. One is in a bigger city 15 mins away, with a tremendous possible customer base compared to my original proposed area. BUT, I'll be competing with the likes of Comcast and VZW LTE.

Who here has competition? And if you do, what models do you use to draw-in your customers? How do you keep them?

I'm back to the drawing board to see if this would be a good jump for me considering the monsters I am up against. If anything, I could purchase a Comcast line in-town here and set me up a wireless link. I need the experience w/ the technology and the stable connection.

Also, with the 2.4Ghz in NLOS conditions what's the theoretical range, /= 2 miles?



Inssomniak
The Glitch
Premium
join:2005-04-06
Cayuga, ON
kudos:2

Competing against comcast will probably be tough, fast speeds, etc.

I only compete against other wireless services, and some DSL because no one likes the incumbent, but I just usually do my whitelabel DSL for them, usually these ppl are good for spreading the word. Not much money in it.
No LTE here but 3G is no competition because of low caps.

Yea 500 a month is a lot for a startup if you ask me. Even $250 is a lot really for me, We pay at most $4-500 a year for 100+ foot Grain legs, or trade it off in free Internet.

2.4ghz in NLOS at 2 miles is no good really, but 2.4ghz does have good NEAR LOS performance. I have done 5-6 mile near LOS 2.4ghz no problem. But NLOS as in trying to just burn a hole thru a big nearby bush lot isnt gonna happen at 2 miles.
--
OptionsDSL Wireless Internet
»www.optionsdsl.ca


wirelessdog

join:2008-07-15
Queen Anne, MD
kudos:1
reply to w1spfanatic

$275 a month is perfectly reasonable. What did you expect, free? Heck $500 a month is probably reasonable depending on how much gear you can hang on their tower.



WHT

join:2010-03-26
Rosston, TX
kudos:5
reply to w1spfanatic

Still Radar Madness
»forum.ubnt.com/showthread.php?t=67215



TomS_
Git-r-done
Premium,MVM
join:2002-07-19
London, UK
kudos:5
reply to wirelessdog

said by wirelessdog:

$275 a month is perfectly reasonable.

Agreed. Done pretty well to knock 45% off the price just by asking!

Most likely some of that has to cover insurance for the tower, since anything that goes wrong with your gear could cause damage (e.g. fire)

As a start up he may be interested to see you get going and offer some competition.

Youve got to think about this in numbers.

$275/month / 10 customers = $27.50 breakeven. Most likely you could charge somewhere around $30/month and still be a viable option for a lot of customers. On rental alone, every customer after that is profit.

10 customers is not bad for breakeven, especially if you have access to a lot more from there, or can link to more valuable places. But naturally you have to include your other costs like bandwidth so that figure is likely to rise, but again, not uncommon.

w1spfanatic

join:2013-01-11
Screven, GA

1 edit
reply to w1spfanatic

The $275 was being presented to the city council and was depending on their vote. They require me to have insurance on my equipment, provided out of my pocket. I also have to cover the light bill for the utility shed/base station. The potential customer base in the city with the water tower would not break 25 on startup so it would be financially tough.

On the other hand, the tower owned by a local is willing to lease me rental space for $150/month because I am a start-up and allow me up to 100ft. No word on splitting the utility bill yet, but the fiber connect is still $50 per 1/1. The only problem would be competing against the wired folks. Charge 25/month for 1/512 entry level package and draw in customers.


wirelessdog

join:2008-07-15
Queen Anne, MD
kudos:1
reply to w1spfanatic

I think you have some real misconceptions about what a business venture like this costs. To think you will break even immediately is quite frankly laughable.