The project

After many months of COVID19 lockdown and watching many YOUTUBE™ videos regarding IP networks, mesh networking and AREDN (www.arednmesh.org), a group of like minded individuals within the North East area of England decided to embark upon the project of setting up a High Speed Data Network.

Steve, G4EKM, had already dabbled with BROADBAND HAMNET to a small extent using LinkSys WRT54 type devices on 2.4GHZ within a  limited test environment. Technology has progressed at a very rapid rate and commercial devices such as UBIQUITI and MIKROTIK have become available at reasonable prices, both new and also on internet trading sites.

The founders of the group have all come from IT and Electronic backgrounds with the philosophy of using what is to hand or construct from scratch.

AREDN - Amateur Radio Emergency Data Network - was created in the USA and many of the software developers are from big IT manufacturing companies, hence being able to modify and create new firmware for the WIFI devices. Its prime development was to provide facilities for emergency response within amateur radio - ARES ARRL.

In the UK, RAYNET, is the equivilant organisation for amateur radio (www.raynet-uk.net) and is it just by chance that several of the founding members are part of this organisation. The ability to provide a different offering other than voice transmission intrigued us, possibilities of high speed data, video,etc.

It has become apparant that there are other groups in the UK who have also been experimenting with high speed data networks, but everyone has been acting on their own.

Speaking to the seperate groups, some are using AREDN mesh systems, others are using commercial 5Ghz links BUT there is no linking between the systems and no coordination.

Our colleagues in mainland Europe, have already set up an IP network based upon the 44.x.x.x network - HAMNET.EU. It was thought to be time to do something similar in the UK, hence setting up this site and pulling together groups of radio amateurs.

What we are not

We are not trying to stiffle creativity or uniqueness of the individual groups, but more to have an overall goal to aim for.

What is this goal

To create a similar network as HAMNET in mainland Europe to allow radio amateurs to use it exclusivley.

To eventually have connectivity to the European Network.

What are the obstacles

The main obstacles, compared to mainland Europe, are the limitations of our Amateur Radio License, unattended operation and limitations imposed by OFCOM - the UK licensing authority.

The first NOV that had been granted by OFCOM, was for GB7NED on 5.675Ghz. Due to the technology being classed as new, it is still viewed as being under the area of PACKET radio. Power and frequency limitations exist in the 5Ghz band as we share that band with ISM users. We have found that the maximum power that is permitted on an unattended basis is 30dbm eirp i.e. 1watt. This makes it difficult to have a long radio path providing the data speeds we require.

OFCOM allow ISM users different levels of power under the light licensing scheme within the 5.725-5.850Ghz band - maximum of 36dbm eirp i.e 4watt. This will get you further BUT it is a commercial license under the IR2007 policy.

Things to remember - you can not access a commercial wifi device using your Amateur Radio license, BUT you can use the commercial offering as a transport medium. For example, a Digital hotspot for DMR would be connected to the home wifi network and internet to the various centralised servers.

After some careful considerations, a combination of Amateur Radio MESH networks and commercial links are possible.

Why do it

Some forums covering Amateur Radio constantly ask the question, 'why set up another internet when we have one already, provided by big commercial organsiations'.

My answer to that is - because we can.

Also in late 2021, the UK was hit by severe storms. This took down power lines, water, mobile networks and the communication lines.

Relying upon the core infrastucture caused many user services to fail in communcations, even the Blue Light services.

In the North East of England, it took more than 10days for these to be restored.

Providing local mesh networks for emergency communications would have overcome this failing and also keep communities connected. This would not provide the same level of service as the core infrastructure, but communications could be maintained. Also some of these meshes could then have been connected to a core backbone to link out of the area.

Amateur Radio has always been seen as a way of maintaining communications in times of emergency. Sometimes this has been forgotten by a few including fellow radio amateurs.

 

Want more information or are interested in joining

Send an email to Steve G4EKM