Mesh Node

Sometime around about eight months ago, I began to hear a new term in the Amateur Radio world – Mesh Node. I had never heard of this before. A little study and education from fellow HARC club members taught me what I needed to know and that I now needed one.

The radio clubs of Southlake, Colleyville, and Grapevine, Texas have all been investing in this new system. It is basically a long range WiFi system that runs at higher power, on generally WiFi channel 1, which is in the 13 cm amateur radio bands. This allows for legal higher power output, in turn further range.

The nodes run on a modified version of OpenWRT on Ubiquity and Linksys equipment. I have a Ubiquity M2HP node connected to a 15 dB gain antenna mounted on the roof of the house.

In addition to the custom OpenWRT OS, it also has OSLR added in, not only is it powerful, it is also smart. OSLR allows for the node to autoconfig itself to join other nodes. If a node goes down, other nodes recognize it and automatically reconfigure to keep the connection alive. It is a great representation of what mesh networking is supposed to be.

Mesh nodes are still a new thing in amateur radio, but it is being quickly adopted in the DFW Metroplex for redundant emergency communications. One of the nodes in Southlake is running a full-fledged Asterisk server for VoIP phones to connect the EOC’s in the area, just in case normal internet/cellphones/landline phones collapse in a disaster.

The technical details of Mesh can be found here at the Broadband-Hamnet site.

Since it is still a new technology in the amateur radio world, coverage is spotty, but rapidly growing. Nodes are being installed every month in DFW, so there are quite a few installed including ones at:

  • Hospitals
  • EOC’s
  • Individual QTH’s like mine

The Hurst Amateur Radio Club has a mesh node that is ready to deploy. We are waiting on a couple of additional parts to arrive, but once they do, ours will be installed. This should connect mine to Hurst EOC, and in turn JPS Hospital and then up to Southlake, Grapevine, Colleyville areas north. Once those are online, the hope is that the Tarrant County system will connect to the Denton County system. City of Denton is almost completely saturated with coverage. The goal is to form a large ham network that can stand tall and resilient in the time of need.

I am not a “Prepper” by any means (even though everyone should be), but it is still good to be prepared for emergencies. Hopefully mine will eventually link the Cities of Bedford and Hurst as a link in the chain, but only time will tell if that has. I have heard the mesh word spoken of at the Bedford ARC before, so we’ll see what happens.

Until Next Time.