Beginner’s Guide

Contributor: Orv Beach W6BI

What it’s all about

By loading the AREDN® firmware in a outdoor wireless access point, you can join a ham radio network. It’s like the Internet but runs on ham radio frequencies, mostly in the 2.4, 3.4, and 5.8 GHz bands. By joining this network you can find and use all sorts of applications (known as “services”). Anything running on a server, like weather stations, web sites showing site conditions, and email servers can be provided as a service. There are also services that don’t rely on a browser: video streams, chat servers, and VOIP PBXes. The network can also be used to connect Winlink stations, Dstar and DMR repeaters, and Allstar devices. Pretty much any kind of service you can put on the Internet you can put on the AREDN network, subject to the restrictions of the ham radio regulations (FCC “Part 97”).

RF access to the network

How do you find out where the nearest network node is? There are several ways:

  • Check the mesh map at If you don’t find one near your QTH, don’t despair; the map only shows a fraction of the nodes on the air. If you’re in any of these areas, there are realtime network maps that can help you determine if there’s a node in your area.

  • Create an account on and see if there’s a Regional Forum for your area. Ask there for local information. If you don’t find a regional forum for your area, get it started by asking the webmaster, Randy WU2S, to create one for you. Search for his callsign using the search function, and by finding it you’ll be able to drop him a note. Once it’s created, create a post mentioning you’d like to get started and asking if there’s any activity near you.

  • Ask around your local ham club or on a local net.

These network nodes behave very much like handie-talkies. That is, they’re low power and line of sight, so you typically end up talking to a network node on a hilltop, mountaintop, or some other elevated location (e.g. water tower). So if you determine there is a local node, how do you find out if you can reach it?

For these devices, line of sight is REALLY line of sight; they don’t do trees well at all. There are a number of on-line LOS calculators, ranging from simple to use to really complex. A simple one is at By entering your location, expected elevation of your node, and naming it, the site will generate a coverage plot for you. You can do this for your QTH and/or any existing local nodes. (See the Network Design Guide for other tools.)

Alternative to RF network access

If after doing your research you find that you don’t have any RF path to the network, don’t despair; there is an alternative. The nodes have the capability of ‘tunneling’ over the Internet to another node. While this isn’t a radio connection, it will let you get on the network until such time as the network has grown into your area.

In order to establish a tunnel, you’ll need an additional piece of network equipment beyond the node itself. The current preferred device is the Mikrotik hAP AC Lite router which when running AREDN® firmware will provide your node access to the Internet (plus a host of other really useful features when running a ham network in your shack). Current price on Amazon is about $50.

Configuring your node

After you have your equipment in hand, you need to install the AREDN® firmware, configure its settings, and put it up in the air. Installation and configuration of the firmware is covered in the Installing AREDN Firmware and Basic Radio Setup sections of the Getting Started Guide.

Aiming High Gain Antennas

Note that the higher the gain, the narrower the beamwidth and the trickier it is to aim these dishes accurately. Fortunately, some aiming tools have been added to the AREDN® firmware that help in setting up the dish in the correct direction and elevation. Remember that the vertical beamwidth is as narrow as the horizontal beamwidth. Review the Tips for Aiming Directional Antennas document in the How-To Guides section for more information.

Typical Node Deployments

Here are some typical deployment scenarios for connecting an AREDN® node with PoE power adapters and computers.

Basic Deployment

Figure 1: Basic Installation

Basic Deployment with Ethernet switch

Figure 2: Basic Installation with added Ethernet switch

Basic Deployment with Mikrotik hAP ac lite

Figure 3: Basic Installation with Mikrotik hAP ac lite

Link: AREDN® Webpage