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How do I participate in amateur radio mesh networking?

Amateur radio mesh networking is a method of creating a high-speed, self-forming, and self-healing wireless network using amateur radio frequencies. This type of networking is typically accomplished using modified Wi-Fi routers running custom firmware. To participate in amateur radio mesh networking, follow these steps:

  • Acquire the necessary equipment: To set up an amateur radio mesh network, you’ll need a compatible Wi-Fi router or access point that supports the required custom firmware. Devices like Ubiquiti’s AirGrid, NanoStation, or Rocket M series, and MikroTik’s RouterBoard series are popular choices for this purpose.
  • Install custom firmware: To use your router or access point for amateur radio mesh networking, you’ll need to install custom firmware that enables mesh functionality. The two most popular firmware options are Broadband-Hamnet (formerly known as HSMM-Mesh) and Amateur Radio Emergency Data Network (AREDN). Visit their respective websites to download the firmware and follow their instructions for installation.
  • Configure your device: Once you have installed the custom firmware, configure your device by setting up the network SSID, frequency, and other required parameters specific to your local mesh network. Make sure you’re operating within the amateur radio frequency bands and follow any specific guidelines or requirements of your local mesh network community.
  • Set up your antenna: Connect your device to an appropriate antenna to maximize range and signal strength. Depending on your location and the desired coverage, you may need a directional or omnidirectional antenna. Make sure to properly mount and ground your antenna to ensure optimal performance and safety.
  • Connect to the mesh network: Once your device is configured and your antenna is set up, you should be able to connect to other nodes in your local mesh network. Keep in mind that mesh networks often rely on line-of-sight connections between nodes, so your ability to connect may depend on your location and the presence of nearby nodes.
  • Participate in the community: Mesh networking relies on a community of amateur radio operators working together to create and maintain the network. Join local clubs, mailing lists, or online forums to stay informed about network activities, share your experiences, and help troubleshoot any issues that may arise.
  • Expand the network: Encourage other amateur radio operators in your area to join the mesh network, and consider setting up additional nodes to increase coverage and redundancy. Organize events like “mesh-ins” to help others set up their equipment and learn about mesh networking.
  • Use the network: Take advantage of the services and capabilities provided by the mesh network. These may include voice over IP (VoIP) communication, file sharing, chat services, or even emergency communication during disasters or other events when traditional communication systems are compromised.

By following these steps, you can participate in amateur radio mesh networking and contribute to the growth and resilience of the network. As the network expands, it will provide increased connectivity and capabilities for amateur radio operators and emergency communication efforts.

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