Amateur Radio Data Network
Beginning in 2016 WARA, in co-operation with HamWAN in Washington state, began establishing a high speed digital data network for amateur radio use in greater Victoria. Aside from out of band Internet access, this network provides ‘off net’ data services to users and EOCs in the event of a major communications outage. Note that the vast majority of these ‘off net’ services will continue to function regardless of Internet connectivity – the network can function as a complete stand-alone system or as part of the larger Internet.
We currently receive our Internet uplink via a point-point link with a HamWAN site just north of Seattle, Washington. Current speeds range from 3 to 10 Mb/s depending on the quality of the link (generally weather dependant). WARA is currently working on setting up a second Internet feed to the system for redundancy. Our ‘off net’ services are all hosted out of a datacenter in Saanich which links back to Triangle Mountain via 5.8 GHz wireless.
The network uses frequencies in the 5 GHz amateur radio bands and can be accessed using commercial-grade WiFi gear. Access has been officially tested and confirmed to work with the Mikrotik Metal 5SHPn radio – please be advised that our how-to is based on this model and, while other vendors/models may work, they are not officially supported. If you would like to connect your EOC or organization to the network check out the How-to Guide 
Even though the system connects to the commercial Internet, standard amateur radio regulations apply when using the system. The key points to keep in mind are:
No Encryption – Encryption is not permitted on any amateur radio frequency or mode and high speed data networks are no exception. While we are not currently filtering encrypted traffic, we ask that users of the system exercise self-regulation and not send encrypted data. The most common form of encryption is the process of accessing websites that are using https security. You can determine which websites are https by looking at the address bar in your web browser. If the website has http:// in front of the address then it is unencrypted and can be used, however, if it has an https:// prefix then it is an encrypted site and should not be accessed over the ham radio network.
- Important! Because no encryption is permitted on the ham network, any credentials submitted via the system(i.e. logging into your email or similar) could potentially be intercepted and stolen. Avoid sending any secure or privileged information over the HAM network.
No Commercial Activity – Regulations surrounding the use of Amateur radio for commercial use are clear – it is not permitted. This is, unfortunately, at odds with most of the sites on the Internet which use advertising to generate revenue. It is generally a good idea to avoid websites laden with ads. Definitely do NOT use the network to conduct commercial business transactions. Station Identification – Regulations require that amateur radio stations identify themselves at the start and end of a conversation, as well as every 30 minutes during a QSO. Part of the configuration guide covers how to setup your radio to properly identify itself with your callsign. Ensure you have followed this step correctly. Network Congestion – This isn’t really an amateur radio rule but is an important part of using the system. Because there is only a limited amount of bandwidth available (around 10 MB/s) we ask that users of the system avoid data-intensive activities. Such activities would include streaming video or large file downloads.
- Note that this system is designed to primarily be an emergency communications network and is not a substitute for your general Internet service. Using the system as a substitute for general Internet can cause congestion on the network and could get us in trouble with Industry Canada.
In addition to redundant Internet connectivity several ‘off net’ services are available for participants to use. Current services include:
Chat Server – A simple chat server based on the mattersmost open source application. The server is accessible via a web browser, dedicated PC application or mobile application. The service is available from the Internet and from within the network and is fully self-contained so it will be available regardless of Internet connectivity. Register an account on the server to gain access. DNS Servers – There is currently a single DNS server with two IPs; 22.214.171.124 and 126.96.36.199 which handles DNS for the entire network. Note that this server will only be recursive for queries originating from WITHIN the network, so you cannot use it as your DNS server from home. The DNS server is also authoritative for several subdomains. Web Hosting – Web servers running the Apache software are currently running out of the Cube datacentre. Currently, there is an internal wiki along with a cloud storage website and the potential to add new sites in future exists. The Network to Date Right now the network is centered around two key sites:
Triangle Mountain – This is our main wireless distribution point and primary Internet uplink. Our main Internet feed comes from a 153 km microwave link to Haystack Mountain in Washington state. The speed on this connection ranges from 3 to about 10 Mb/s depending on conditions and the strength of the link. Triangle Mountain also serves as the main distribution point for client access into the network. We have deployed two 120 degree sector antennas which cover a large portion of Greater Victoria, Port Angeles and the Western side of San Juan Island. Check out the coverage map to find out which areas have coverage. Cube Global Storage – We have server and router infrastructure co-located at Cube Global Storage which is a major local datacenter and disaster recovery site. Most internal network services (IRC, email, DNS, etc) originate from this site. We currently have a single server which is running virtualization software which allows us to create individual virtual machines (independent computing environments). Cube also has it’s own redundant Internet connectivity & power and could be used to feed Internet to the network in the event our primary connection fails. Out of band connectivity between Cube and our main distribution at Triangle Mountain is provided via a 10 Mb/s commercial 38 GHz wireless link, the use of which has been donated by the Access Data Group Client node at Red Cross – Red Cross House is the home to WARA’s emergency radio room and it is the first client node on the network. Red Cross currently serves as a working proof of concept for how the network could be integrated into an EOC. The system is currently used to facilitate remote access to the PC in the radio room and provide Internet access during club meetings. Hardware consists of a Mikrotik Metal 5SHPn radio and an L-Com HG5827EG 27dBi grid antenna. The site currently receives a signal of around -75dBm giving speeds of up to 10mbps. Coverage
Current coverage is limited to the single distribution site at Triangle Mountain. While the Triangle site overlooks a large portion of Greater Victoria, any obstruction (trees, buildings, vehicles) will prevent you from getting signal. WARA is actively working on establishing additional distribution sites to increase coverage to the downtown/OakBay areas.
If you would like to connect your EOC or club to the network then check out these instructions: How-to Guide (note that these instructions assume you are using the recommended Mikrotik 5SHPn radio, other radios may work but are not tested or officially supported).
Getting connected to the network is a fairly straightforward process but does require some background knowledge of computer networks. If you run into any issues feel free to Contact us or stop by one of our club meetings and someone would be happy to help.== Capabilities == With these two systems installed, remote control can be enabled on a permanent basis not relying on internet service providers. Although mesh access is already in existence, it requires someone to mount a relay node on Mt Doug in order for it to reach the Saanich Emergency Program
HamWAN uses Mikrotik hardware for communications. This is because HamWAN operates using a proprietary TDMA protocol on the Mikrotik devices. Test.
In the future, the 900 MHz sector antenna on the tower closest to ECS will have to be rotated to face westward. THis will enable communication to the CUBE datacenter in Gordon Head. On the tower closest to EOW, a 5GHz dish should be installed and aimed at Haystack Mountain.
Current state of the Network
Testing, equipment acquisition and negotiations to access suitable radio sites has been a long process; despite the challenges the network currently has some major operational infrastructure:
p2p link with HamWAN Puget Sound - Since May a point-to-point link with the HamWAN Puget Sound club in Western Washington has been operational. This link goes from a WARA site on Triangle Mountain to a HamWAN site on Haystack Mountain. The total distance is 150km and Mikrotik BaseBox radios tuned to the 5.4 GHz band form the backbone. Antennas consist of a 3ft. dish on Triangle and a 2ft. dish at Haystack. This link allows the Victoria system to be fully routable with HamWAN and operates independently of any commercial Internet infrastructure coverage mapDistribution site for client connections - Triangle Mountain also serves as a major distribution site for client to access the network based on the HamWAN Standard. There are currently two, 120 degree sector antennas aimed at 40 and 80 degrees. Together, these sectors provide theoretical coverage to most of greater Victoria, however, because the sectors operate on 5.9GHz reception is easily blocked by trees, buildings or other obstructions. Active work is underway to source new radio sites which will increase coverage. Datacenter for 'off net' services - There is a router and server colocated at Cube Global Storage which is a major local datacentre and colocation provider. Cube's facility is built to withstand a magnitude 9+ earthquake and they have full power backup from both UPS and generators. Cube is currently linked back to Triangle Mountain via an out of band 38GHz link and 2.4GHz, 5.8GHz and 900MHz radios have been installed on the roof for testing. Client node at Red Cross - Red Cross House is the home to WARA's emergency radio room and it is the first client node on the network. Red Cross currently serves as a working proof of concept for how the network could be integrated into an EOC. WARA uses the system to remotely access the PC in the radio room so net controllers can remotely operate VHF packet radio. The system is also used to provide Internet access during club meetings. Hardware consists of a Mikrotik Metal 5SHPn radio and an L-Com HG5827EG 27dBi grid antenna. The site currently receives a signal of around -75dBm giving speeds of up to 10mbps. Available 'Off Net' Services
www server While one of the goals is to provide redundant Internet connectivity to all stations, a secondary goal is to host 'off net' services which exist within the network and will always be available regardless of external connectivity.
Some of the current services are:
Chat Server - A simple chat server based on the matters most open source application. The server is accessible via a web browser, dedicated PC application or mobile application. The service is available from the Internet and from within the network and is fully self-contained so it will be available regardless of Internet connectivity. Register an account on the server to gain access.
DNS Servers - There is currently a single DNS server with two IPs; 188.8.131.52 and 184.108.40.206 which handles DNS for the entire network. Note that this server will only be recursive for queries originating from WITHIN the network, so you cannot use it as your DNS server from home. The DNS server is also authoritative for several subdomains.
Web Hosting - Web servers running the Apache software are currently running out of the Cube datacentre. Currently, there is an internal wiki along with a cloud storage website and the potential to add new sites in future exists. External Connectivity
One of the main stated goals is to provide redundant connectivity to the general Internet as well as connectivity to similar systems. Such systems in the region include:
HamWAN Puget Sound - HamWAN actually describes a standardized set of protocols for sending high speed data over ham radio, rather than referencing a single organization. The basic requirements for a HamWAN implementation is that client access occurs on 5880,5900 and 5920MHz and that the proprietary Mikrotik NV2 protocol is used (rather than the standardized 802.11 common in wifi networks). The HamWAN standard also declares that 3 sectors, each 120 degrees are used. Sector 3 is to operate on 5880MHz, Sector 2 on 5900 and sector 1 on 5920 More Information about the HamWAN standard can be found on their website
There is a fully functional HamWAN implementation in the Puget Sound area comprising of seven mountaintop distribution sites. HamWAN, in co-operation with WARA, has deployed a fully functional distribution site at Triangle Mountain in Langford which connects back to the Puget Sound Network via radio (see above). Backup Internet connectivity is also provided via this radio link.
BCWARN - BCWARN stands for British Columbia Wireless Amateur Radio Network and is primarily based out of Metro Vancouver. BCWARN currently receives its Internet uplink from UBC and has sites at key locations including the VE7RPT repeater site, Surrey, NewWest and Coquitlam Amateur Radio Clubs, Mt Bruce on Saltspring Island and Bowen Island among others. Active testing and negation is ongoing to link the Victoria system to BCWARN. More information: bcwarn.net