The more nodes on a mesh network, the stronger the network. This is where you come in; join us in this effort! The mesh requires unobstructed line-of-sight paths between nodes. If your property offers line of sight paths to possible key nodes (whether or not you are a licensed ham radio operator) and you would like to locate a node on your property, let us know.
For Served Agencies
Partner with us so we can partner with you. NBAM operators can work directly with served agencies, connecting critical locations like fire or police stations, hospitals, community based organizations, DOCs or EOCs to the mesh with permanent installations. We can often help connect agency staff with the Ham Radio community, too, including finding ways to HOW TO GET A LICENSE.
Many public service and non-profit agencies already have amateur radio operators in their ranks, and often have dedicated groups or clubs – such as an ACS (Auxiliary Communications Service), RACES, RCV, or CERT/NERT – using amateur radio.
NBAM operators can partner with these groups, teaching them how to best use the mesh to meet your needs, and helping you acquire the right equipment. For special events like parades, races, civic celebrations, NBAM can be integrated into an organization’s communications plan. Such events also provide an excellent opportunity to see the mesh in action and better understand its capabilities.
Installing a hardened Primary Node with redundant power, VoIP Phones, and WiFi Access can often be accomplished for under $1,000.
For Amateur Radio Operators
If you have your FCC amateur radio operator license, getting started is remarkably easy, and low cost.
To utilize the North Bay Area Mesh, you must meet these minimum requirements:
• Be an FCC licensed amateur radio (ham) operator [Part 97].
• Have line-of-sight to a mesh node.
• Use AREDN (Amateur Radio Emergency Data Network) firmware compatible equipment.
Before you begin, Contact a NBAM Steering Committee Member
Our volunteer operators can help you determine which gear will work best for your particular needs, and provide advice on how to configure it. Before you spend money on equipment, check with us—we often have equipment that you can borrow to test a location or establish a site.
Get The Right Gear
Mesh gear is remarkably affordable and easy to find on Amazon, eBay, and from specialized vendors on the internet. AREDN firmware can be installed on nodes from Ubiquti, Microtik, TP Link and GL-iNet. Not all equipment is AREDN compatible, notably Ubiquiti “AC” devices. First check the AREDN website, https://www.arednmesh.org/content/supported-platform-matrix/
Streakwave is the Bay Area's local Wireless ISP vendor, carrying almost everything you'd need to build a node and get online. They are an authorized vendor for MikroTik and Ubiquiti/UBNT branded equipment, and often sell MikroTik gear for less than MSRP, and far less than what you'd pay on Amazon or eBay. Ubiquiti equipment can also be sourced directly from Ubiquiti via their online store, or used via eBay.
To Set Up a Client Node
If you are just getting started accessing the network, or have limited line-of-sight to existing nodes, we recommend setting up a Client Node. The equipment required for this node can often be found second-hand on eBay, ensuring a low-cost commitment.
To Set up a Client Node with a Phone, Tablet or Laptop
The AREDN mesh can use 2.4GHz or 5.8GHz equipment, however there are really only two Part 97 channels at 2.4GHz, and interference is problematic, so we suggest 5.8GHz. We recommend one of the following:
Ubiquiti Nano Station M5 ($90 new)
Ubiquiti Power Beam M5 ($90 new)
TP-Link CP510 ($60 new)
Mikrotik hAP ac lite [RB952Ui-5ac2nD] (~$50 new); or
Mikrotik MQS [RBmqs] (~$23 new)
You’ll also need some Cat-5 or higher Ethernet cable to power and connect to the node locally. It’s recommended, to provide backup power of some form for the node, so it isn’t affected by power outages.
NOTE: PRICES CURRENT AS OF May 2022
To Set Up a Primary or Secondary Node
Often referred to as a "High Site," Primary or Secondary Nodes provide wide-area coverage to multiple Client Nodes using multiple radios. Primary or Secondary should be able to connect to at least one other node for redundancy. NBAM Nodes must provide 5.8 GHz or 2.4GHz connectivity… In high density sites, the 2.4 GHz spectrum is not preferred due to RFI.
Primary or Secondary Nodes, at a minimum, should have 12-24v battery backup power with AC recharging abilities. Ideally, they would also have solar or generator backup abilities as well to ensure their operability during long-term power outages. As with Client Nodes, it’s recommended to pair radios with a local access device, near the power source, to allow for troubleshooting and alternate site access.
To set up a Portable AREDN Node (PAN)
PAN's are meant to be easy to transport and able to operate independently. A regular PAN node may have solar charging capability, multi-day battery capacity, cameras, routers and WiFi access points, etc. These are expected to be deployed by motor vehicle. A PAN Lite node will have less than 24 hours battery capability without recharging, a small mast and one-to-three radios depending on the application. These can be carried by hikers and bikers for placement on suitable hilltop locations.
At a minimum, they require:
A power source capable of running the node for >8 hours without charging. Often a USB-C battery pack with 20v Power Delivery support or PoE specific UPS devices.
5.8 GHz or 2.4GHz radio for connecting to another Node, usually the same as a non-portable Node
A local access device for providing WiFi access to Part 15 devices in the immediate area.
Options include an IP Camera, IP Phone, etc.
PANS are designed to be flexible. Building your specific setup will depend on how and where you plan to deploy the node, what the node needs to do, and how it will be operated. Feel free to reach out to us for current best practices and recommendations!
Configure your equipment:
To connect to the mesh, configure your equipment to the appropriate SSID/channel/bandwidth such as SSID: AREDN- 10-v3 Channel: 179 (5.895 GHz) Bandwidth: 10 MHz
Recommended for New Nodes: 5.8 GHZ
For those setting up new nodes, we advise configuring your equipment to 5.8 GHZ since this band tends to have a lower noise floor, less competing users, and more spectrum available for Amateur Radio.
An off the shelf node will first need flashing with the appropriate AREDN firmware, see https://arednmesh.readthedocs.io/en/latest/arednGettingStarted/installing_firmware.html