Off-Grid Network Advice

striker29

Novice Member
Hello all.

New here, and hope I'm posting this in the correct place. I am looking for some advice one a project I'm looking to start.

My family and I have a vacation property in the Bahamas. Where our place is located, we are pretty much off the grid and rely on cellular data for our internet. We currently have a single sim card router which is pretty outdated so looking to upgrade a bit. The property is a bit spread out over multiple buildings and traditionally we have just had internet in the living room but if I upgrade I want to put separate access points in each building to create a seamless network. I'm looking to keep it basic with just internet. I don't want all the statistics and information that a lot of systems I have found online offer. However, the ability to add a camera system later would be great as well.

The plan is to mount a LTE router on the roof of the 2 story building we have. I think that will give it the height to get clear access to the towers near by. From the router, I plan to run it down to 5 access points in the various buildings with ethernet cables and switches. I have experience making the cables up but not much with the rest. I am looking for simple and rugged over "sexy" and feature loaded. The most important thing to me is reliability and speed (I know limited with LTE). I do want to keep the internet password protected and possibly have a sperate private network as well (not required).

Does anyone have any experience with an outdoor LTE router? Being the Bahamas, there is a lot of salt spray and sun so it definitely needs to be something built extremely well. Also what are good options for switches and access points?

Thanks in advance!
 

mickevh

Distinguished Member
I would suggest you de-couple your thinking about "Wi-Fi" and "Routing" from each other - they are independent in that one does not rely on the other, though of course both are required to avail an Internet service.

Wi-Fi is availed by "Access Points" (AP's) not "routers" - this is not just hair splitting over nomenclature, in the field of data networking AP's and routers are very different things. SOHO "Get-you-on-the-Internet" omni-boxes often contain both (and a lot more besides) as a matter of convenience, but in larger deployments AP's and routers can, and often are, different devices. Routers sit at the "edge" of networks connecting the network to other networks, which in the SOHO use case is usually "the rest of the world" via an ISP. Routers do not sit i the "middle" of network "bossing" it.

So plan Wi-Fi coverage in the optimum way to achieve the best Wi-Fi coverage - including what switches and cabling it necessary to connect all the AP's together, then plan how you are going to connect to a router and thence your Internet service.

If you are planning a multi-box (ie multi AP/switch) infrastructure, there's no need to compromise "router" position versus Wi-Fi coverage as one would using a "one box does it all" solution. If your router is not delivering any Wi-Fi coverage (ie you turn off it's built in Wi-Fi AP) then your router can literally be physically positioned anywhere convenient and reachable from the cabling infrastructure.

With the caveat that I've never deployed a cellphone based solution, though I have deployed Wi-Fi AP's with "external" antenna, I see no reason why a "router" would need to mounted outdoors unless it's a device with integrated cellphone antenna. I would prefer to use a router that can be housed internally, away from the weather and larceny, and "just" have the antenna mounted externally. Thusly, I'd want a router that offered connection to separate rather than built in cellphone antenna. Though because of the (very high) frequencies involved on the "fly" leads between router and cellphone antenna, ideally they would be reasonably close to each other (like either side of an external wall) and the cable pathing of the fly lead needs some attention to make them as short as possible and probably quite straight - or at least using large curves. Others may be able to speak to that in more detail and competance.

For multiple networks, e.g. a "private" and "Guest" network (whether wired or Wi-Fi) the simplest and most robust way to achieve this is with AP's and switches that can support VLAN's (virtual LAN's) to keep the traffic separate and a router that can route between multiple LAN's/VLAN's (cheap ISP/SOHO routers usually cannot.)

That's all very "do-able" but you will need more feature rich, read expensive, equipment to achieve this and some expertise to set it all up. It will not be a case of take it home, plug it in and "tada" it all works by magic. The learning curve is not difficult, but there is definitely a learning curve if you are new to this.

In terms of equipment, then to achieve all this you are looking at something bit more "pro-sumer." I have never used it, but there's few folks here who have done this with equipment from the likes of Draytek and Ubiqiti and they speak well of the latter. Though I am not sure Ubiqiti "does" the cellphone piece, it seems it does offer Wi-Fi, VLAN's, routing, with a product range (AP's, switches, controller,) that integrates and can be controlled with a single management platform. Hopefully they will chime in.

If you need some 101 on VLAN's, subnets and routing, we can get into it.
 
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I’d add to the above that tp-link offer the Omada platform that is a general equivalent to the unifi network platform in having router/fw, a controller, switches & access points. It can be 1/4, 1/3 cheaper than unifi so might well be worth considering.

I’m aware of a U.K. company solwise who specialise in lte connectivity who might be worth talking to about the cellular modem/areal aspect
 
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