Tag Archives: Wireless Bridging

Cambium Networks’ Quick Deploy Positioner is a Force-Multiplier


If you’ve ever installed point-to-point bridges to extend a network, you know that alignment can be the hardest part. The longer the link is, the more difficult alignment gets, and even those of us in the business who have a good knack for alignment can get thrown for a loop on occasion. To compound matters, sometimes wireless bridges get installed in tricky, dangerous places. It’s not uncommon to use bridges for short-duration connectivity needs, like for events or even battlefield operations. I’ve set up my share of wireless bridges, and I’ve that occasional situation where even after a few days, the alignment bolts are starting to strip and we’re no closer to getting a stable link. I have a feeling I’m not alone here.

Cambium Networks has recently introduced what can only be described as a “force multiplier” when it comes to getting their popular point-to-point hardware aligned. The Quick Deploy Positioner is not the only device on the market that promises to help with automatic bridge alignments, but Cambium does feel they have a winner in the Quick Deploy Positioner thanks to a number of differentiators:

  • Usable, optimized links are brought to life in under 5 minutes
  • Non-experts can successfully create high-speed links using the Positioner
  • Power options including PoE, AC, and even solar

I challenged Cambium on the Positioner’s list price (a little north of $18K) and was convinced that the cost very well would be justified in the right circumstances. According to Cambium:

  1. Some of these links are deployed in extremely remote areas where travel would be difficult and time-consuming. Sending an extra person just to align the antenna could cost them a day out of the office every 30 days for every positioner deployed.
  2. For emergency response and disaster recovery there isn’t always room to take along someone else in the vehicle to perform this function.
  3. In some cases (Border Patrol and Dept. of Defense applications, for example) there is danger to the personnel on-site.  So each additional person requires extra security, and adds extra risk to the mission.

The Positioner looks pretty sweet, and I can see it earning it’s keep on the Cambium bridges that it’s compatible with (PTP 650, PTP 700, PTP 450i and PMP 450i).

Read more in the press release above, or at the Positioner’s product page.


Related- I had the pleasure of meeting Cambium’s staff in person, at Wireless Field Day 8. See their presentations here.

I was not compensated by Cambium in any way for this blog- I just think the Quick Deploy Positioner happens to be a slick bit of kit, baby. 

Cambium Networks Bridging- Reviewed By Chris Lyttle

I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Cambium Networks and hearing what they have going on with Point to Point and Point to Multipoint Wireless bridging. This technology is an absolute game changer for linking your sites and providing services to customers (think Wireless ISP), and in my opinion, very few vendors in this space are as polished as Cambium these days. Of course, Cambium has deep roots in the industry- but you can read more on that in a minute.

At the Cambium session (At Wireless Field Day 8), I was lucky enough to spend time with one of my favorite wireless colleagues, Chris Lyttle. Chris did an excellent review on Cambium’s presentation and offerings, and rather than duplicate his efforts It would be more productive to steer my readers to his write-up, which can be found here. It’s amazing how these products have evolved, and Chris did great with his treatment of Cambium.

Do you do PTP or PMP bridging? Are you a WISP? Have you used Cambium products yet? If so, how have you found them to perform? I’d love to hear from you- and thanks for reading.

Ubiquiti Bridges- Discoveries and Tips

It seems like almost everywhere I go to consult with small networks that have wireless bridge links in use, I run into some model of Ubiquiti gear. My own knowledge with this tier of hardware isn’t all that deep, as I’m used to dealing higher-priced enterprise-grade stuff. That’s not to sound snobby, but more to add context- and I can say that I’m developing a real appreciation for the likes of Ubiquiti Nanostations and such. Now that I’ve inherited a number of these to verify, optimize, or fix, I’ve found a handful of discussion points worthy of sharing.

I’ve had new-to-me customers declare that their links are failing or that the last guy to touch them did something odd to them. In some cases, the bridges are so high up on a building, you have no way to read the model on them, and the customer has no idea whether he’s using 900 Mhz, 2.4 GHz, or 5 GHz. Many of these cases have come to be in their current state from either a shoestring budget, a poor choice of “network guy”, or both. Whether you’re putting in new Ubiquiti bridges or trying to tame existing deployments, here’s some guidance to help you to be successful, based on my own recent experience:

  • Use the Device Discovery Tool. Found at the bottom of the Ubiquiti downloads page, the tool can save a lot of time and frustration for figuring out what model numbers of hardware is in use, firmware version, and IP addresses. One recent use of the tool showed me this:hourigan bridges

Of course, I wasted time and energy trying to get pictures of the labels on the bridges and finding them via arp, etc before I got smart – the discovery tool is a must-have.

  • Use the Latest Firmware. The operating system on Ubiquiti brides is called airOS. Different model numbers use different “latest” releases, and if you look at the picture above, you’ll see these NanoStation M5s are all on v5.5.9. This happens to be the latest available for this model (as I write this). firmware

  • Keep a Spare Handy. For links that don’t cost much, especially when they are deployed off the beaten path, having a spare or two on hand is just good strategy. Again, using the M5 as an example, you can see a spare bridge (and proprietary 24v power injector block) doesn’t take a lot of coin to get into.amazon M5Remember to backup the configs of all of the bridges you support (found in Device pages of airOS software config pages) so bringing a spare to life can be done quickly.

  • Watch That Mast/Mounting As A Frequent Source of Headache. Ubiquiti bridges like the M5 tend to be lightweight, and are often constructed to be mounted with nothing more than tie-wraps. Though simplicity is nice, mounting these things can get you in trouble. I have found them under metal roofs, on flimsy conduit “masts” that wiggle in the breeze, and put up with no regard for Fresnel zone dimensions. This is one place where the cheap gear and the expensive stuff share commonality: they still have to mount solidly, with proper alignment, and in a way that provides appropriate radio line of sight for the frequency in use. Given that 900 MHz is popular in this space, anyone working with them needs to know the difference when it comes to Fresnel calculations for the different bands. that 8 foot pole that you can get away with for 5 GHz isn’t going to cut it for 900 MHz.

The Ubuiti bridges (excluding the AirFiber products and optional parabolic antennas) are remarkable lightweight and easy to work with. At the same time, best practices and wireless networking craftsmanship are still required for link success and minimal downtime. Don’t let “cheap” overtake your approach because of the product set you’re dealing with.

What Ubiquiti bridge tips do you have to share?

Related Post: In Defense of Little Wireless


A Different Kind of Wireless Bridge, From AOptix

Just as the world of wireless client access has evolved over the last decade, so has the point-to-point bridging space. Though I don’t do a tremendous amount of bridging, I have done a couple of dozen production links using a variety of licensed and unlicensed technologies. And through the last several of years, I’ve absolutely marveled at the advances in point-to-point bridge hardware as pricing in this interesting space have come way down versus what you get for your dollar.

For me, bridging is really fun in that it reminds me a lot of amateur radio- with the rooftop/tower work, the need to select the right band for the application, and the importance of proper installation if you want communications with a far-off station to work right.

Before I get into the real point of the blog (a new bridge product), let’s take a quick detour. At both of this year’s Interop sessions in the US (Vegas and NYC), Kieth Parsons did an awesome presentation on extending the LAN with point to point bridging. If you missed it, you can find Keith’s slides, and almost all of the Interop NYC sessions, here. Don’t feel lonely if you don’t have point to point bridging experience; a recent survey I did of well over 300 WLAN professionals showed than more than half don’t do anything with bridging.


If you want to start learning about bridging, Kieth’s slides will likely kindle an interest and provide value.

Warning: Cool Technology Ahead

Back to why we’re here: the AOptix Intellimax product set, and in particular the MB2000. There are a number of impressive points related to this bridge:

  • 2 Gbps of throughput to 8 km (just about 5 miles) even in the worst weather. There is NO autorating, you always get 2 Gbps
  • Need more than 8 km? Daisy-chain ’em
  • Free-space optics are coupled with RF for dual-tech signalling that AOptix calls Composite Optical RF (COR)
  • When conditions are bad for one technology, the other picks up the slack automatically. AOptix calls this Advanced Wavelength Diversity, or AWD
  • The units are made to mount easily, and align in around 20 minutes, compliments of a feature called PAT (Point, Acquire, Track)
  • Beam-steering allows for up to 6 degrees total of tower/mast twist and flex (+/- 3 degrees)

There’s a lot to digest here, and it’s impressive. The free-space optics side of the MB2000 has a 120 mW license-free (worldwide) transceiver, while the RF side’s 80 mW works in 71-76 and 81-88 GHz spectrum. This means in countries like the US and UK, it’s “lightly licensed” in that you fill out paperwork, pay the fee, and you’re good for 10 years.

I was approached by AOptix’ PR folks wanting me to cover a deployment done in Mexico where the Intellimax supposedly did very well. I’m not a huge fan of case studies unless I can write about something I’ve been involved with first-hand, yet I find the AOptix story to be compelling enough to share here. I wasn’t provided with pricing information, but given that we’re talking “carrier grade” gear, expect it not to be priced like lower-capability bridges.

You can picture this sort of bridge being suitable in 4GE backhaul, military and public safety networks, large campuses, and a range of other applications.

Please have a listen to a quick podcast I put together on the topic as well.

I’d love to hear from any readers on whether they have experience with AOptix, or have found any other bridging solutions (low or high-end) that they like- or hate.

Real-World Wireless Bridging- On The Cheap

Raise your hand if:

  • You’ve ever successfully installed a wireless bridge link
  • You’ve ever had the thrill of dialing in that final alignment and getting data to whiz across that new bridge at full supported rate
  • You’ve ever sweated out the first rain or snow storm for that link, then delighted when no packets were lost
  • Written out a fat PO for a pricey bridge link
  • Suffered through the hassle of doing a licensed link-frequency coordination, paperwork, etc.
  • Found alternative links at better prices and thought “gee, cheaper feels pretty good when I get the same or better data rates”

I see a lot of hands out there. But I also see some of you who wish you could raise your hands. Yes, the life of those of us who do bridge links is a sexy, thrilling high-adrenalin realm of no-holds barred rooftop backhaul adventure, I tellya. 

Here’s the thing about wireless bridge links that I want to talk about here though: these days you can get a lot for your money. The options are many, new technology is widening the market and driving prices down, and this handy option for extending the network across long distances when you don’t have fiber options is compelling.

Example #1:

I once did one of these for around $30K. It is “lightly licensed”, and gave 100 Mbps, full duplex.

Contrast the Bridgewave FE80 above to the Ubiquiti AirFiber we recently did for around $4,500 for a two-hopper (with masts/mounts/wiring/grounding) that gives a solid 650+ Mbps in each direction.


Example 2:

Cisco’s venerable 1300 bridge is still out there. It’s an 11g bridge that works in 2.4 GHz (rather, it tries to work in the crowded 2.4 space), and on a good day you might push 20 Mbps over it on a link that’ll run you around $3K installed if you’re lucky. But you also have to feed it low-loss coax. and use a wonky power/data injector.


Or, you could step into this saucy little number, for less money:


The LigoWave PTP 5-N uses standard PoE, outdoor UTP, works in the 5 GHz band, and can give around a real 180 Mbps for as little as under $1,500 typically installed.

The examples are many. There are a slew of bridging options out there at varying price and throughput tiers. Some are “carrier grade”, some are so inexpensive they are almost disposable. Each has it’s own story, advantages, and little gotchas. But wireless bridges are simply wonderful components, and the last few years have brought amazing new offerings to the market.

Other than Bridgewave, Cisco, LigoWave, and Ubiquiti mentioned above, I also follow these bridge/backhaul manufacturers:

And there are many, many more out there. Again, there are link options for all budgets and bandwidth requirements.

Regardless of which bridge solution you opt for- keep in mind:

– If you don’t know what you’re doing, get trained before installing
– Safety concerns are a whole different ballgame with bridging versus Wi-Fi
– There are a slew of do-it-yourself mast/mounting options, but do enough of these and you
may eventually have to pay a tower-climber
– Wiring, grounding, and lightning protection all need to be done to the manufacturer’s spec
– Well-installed links rarely need servicing, but when they do, it’ll be during the crappiest
weather. Install accordingly.
– Bridges in business networks tend be as critical as switches- secure them
(administratively), monitor them, and trend for changes that may indicate
– Never install licensed-frequency hardware without the license
– Stay out of 2.4 GHz- it’s variable to the point of being useless in many areas
– Keep a spare on hand for prod links, keep a spare set on hand for dealing with disasters