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The purpose of this document it to show you the underlying process for designing and implementing an Free Network local network installation. We will cover all the steps of the process, starting with tools, and ending with a functional installation. This will be written from the POV of the installer.

We realize we're writing to two separate audiences here. The DIY guy, and the Professional. Since professionals, by definition, already know what they're doing, we're going to focus on helping the DIY people.

This documentation is the same for both certified FNF installers (who are authorized to use the MESHWORKS badge) and DIY installers. And with that, we begin.

Master Tool List[edit]

This is the official FNF installer kit/gear/toolbox contents list.

This list is based on the lessons learned from over a hundred colo and radio deployments in a wide variety of field conditions and installation activities.

You can easily drop ~$2000.00 or so on a 100% compliant kit. It's understood that a lot of you might not be able to swing that kind of cash. Pawn shops, flea markets, and yard sales can help you round out your tool kits, but be aware you bought used, with all the problems that entails. If you are a DIY person, you'll probably have some or post of the needed tools already. While it's possible to do FNF installs without a complete tool kit, if you don't have everything here, you will be sorry. The right tools make all the difference in the world, -especially- if you're doing this for a third party.

A word on tool kits in general[edit]

We recommend having a dedicated "go box" or "go bag" in your trunk with everything listed here. You can transfer that box/bag as needed between your shop and vehicle. We've seen several cases where an important tool was left in the shop and not present when needed in the field. For the professional, consider a dedicated work vehicle, with 'permanent' installation of tools and containers. Everyone will find their own preferred layout and carrying system for their tools. This layout will change over time.

Your tool kits will break down into two main sets. We will cover tool kits first.


Everyone will have their own preferred method for organizing/carrying the tools listed below. We break them into two kits:

  • Base tool kit (the really important stuff)
  • Extended tool kit (the nice to have, but not immediately available stuff)

The Austin team has settled on using 5 gallon buckets and accessories from Home Depot, detailed below.

Base tool kit[edit]

The base tool kit is what you'll have with you during the course of the installation. It contains all of the most common tools and materials needed to complete installation of radio or colo kit.


Tool kit BOM[edit]

(Insert picture of bucket here)

(insert picture of bucket jockey here)

(insert picture here)

Inside bucket - loose[edit]

  • Ear protection (lots of loud sites exist, kids running around, vehicle traffic etc. Protect your ears!)
  • Eye protection (drilling holes for cable, mounting holes for radios etc. Protect your eyes!)
  • Cable stapler (get a proper one and appropriate staples for cat5/coax and whatever other cable needed) Example:
  • Heavy duty, bright orange extension cord. 25'
  • Cable pull string/Cable Snake (useful for conduit)

Inside bucket - (modular kits)[edit]

  • Label making
    • Label maker
    • Extra labels
    • Multiple colors of labels
  • Extended site survey / war driving etc
    • Alfa usb cards
    • High gain antennas
    • A couple of smartphones with 2.4G and 5.8G WiFi radios in them. a copy of WiFi analyzer installed on both.
    • Several devices capable of creating a WiFi signal, and broadcasting an SSID. Currently, I'm using a couple of old battery powered cellular WiFi hot spots with working batteries. I would recommend a couple of TP-Link's TL-WR702N Wireless N150 Travel Routers( ) coupled with an usb external battery. The entire package can be assembled for roughly 20 dollars a unit, as of this writing(10/06/2014). If that particular device isn't available, feel free to substitute a workable like item.

Inside bucket - (bucket jockey, inside pockets)[edit]

  • Cat5 Cable tester
  • Multi tool

(as time goes on, you'll probably rotate less used items into the internal pockets)

Inside bucket - (bag attached to bucket jockey)[edit]

    • Yellow safety vest
    • Nitrite gloves in plastic bag

Outside bucket - (bucket jockey, outside pockets)[edit]

  • Electric Drill. We prefer something in the half-horse range, ideally with a key chuck instead of a hand chuck.
  • Claw hammer.
  • Crescent wrench.
  • Socket set. Ideally you want deep well sockets, the extra depth will come in handy.
  • Box wrench set. (sae/metric)
  • Multi-tool. Gerber, Leatherman, whatever works for you, but have one, they're entirely too useful.
  • Multimeter. doesn't have to be anything fancy, a ten dollar harbor freight unit will do.
  • Duct tape.
  • Electrical tape (several colors). this is not so much for insulating things as it is marking things for identification.
  • Toothbrush.
Agents of binding[edit]
  • 100 zipties outdoor
  • 100 zipties indoor
  • 100' velcro roll (cut to length)
  • Tackle box for various screws:
    • sheetrock (some in tackle, some in backup bag (box of 2" sheetrock screws.)
    • drywall
    • pc
    • etc
    • Box of nails
    • Box of fender washers

Site prep (cleaning) supplies[edit]
  • canned air (big can)
  • lighter
  • Toothbrush
  • can of electric contact cleaner
  • packet of dielectric grease
  • bottle of alcohol
  • For ptp gear:
    • electrical h-straps, holdoffs, and conduit (standard h-strap, 1&1/2" emt + holdoffs)
    • solid #6 copper for ground tie-in

Basic colo/pc/lineman "technician tool set"[edit]
  • Crimp kit, and large selection of RJ45/RJ11 crimps, and any specialty crimps needed (such as tough cable).
  • proper staples (cat5/coax)
  • hemostats (different sizes and different ends)
    • 10"
    • 6"
    • 6" hook nose
  • Telco fox/hound (tone generator/finder)
  • Electrician fox/hound (tone generator/finder)
  • Heatshrink tubing
  • Extension cord. Harbor freight sells a really nice 50 foot with a triple head and lighted power indicator for about 40 bucks.
  • Ladder 22' collapsing ladder (Little giant style)
  • 2 hand-held radios (the kind you can get at wal-mart. walkie-talkie stuff)
  • Box of multipurpose drillbits.
  • select masonry bits.
  • Cable stapler, and supply of staples.
  • Tape measure
  • Level, the smaller spirit level type
  • Claw hammer
  • 1/2" and 3/8" sleeve anchors
  • Punchdown tool
  • Cable tester
  • Neon purple nail polish (for marking the gear, great theft deterrent)

Secondary / extended toolkit[edit]

These are things in the extended toolkit. This is a secondary Home Depot 5 gallon bucket. Generally I leave this in my car trunk. It's things to have handy on site, but not necessary to have with you as you do the install.


Lose in the bucket[edit]
  • Infrared laser thermometer
  • Laser and/or sonic range finder
  • 1000w portable generator (Honda EU1000i)
  • Fish tape
  • 12v AC inverter
  • Laser level
  • Lens cleaning cloth
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Binoculars (in a nice safe case)
  • USB keyboard (handy for when you need to provison the autonoc/autotunnel docker server)
Power related items[edit]
  • Kill-a-watt (for all the "zomg how much will this cost me!!!! naysayers)
  • Circuit fox/hound
  • Multimeter
  • Cisco POE injector
  • 12v multi tip , selectable output voltage thing a ma bob (regulated dc-dc converter)
  • Power cords of various types (standard PC power cord x2, whatever else you expect to need)
  • Y adapter (sometimes you've only got one outlet available and need to double up)
  • 12v 1 amp barrel jack power supply with multiple tips for different types of barrel jacks
  • AA and AAA batteries
Network / pc / colo support related items.[edit]

The are not strictly necessary for radio deployments, but does allow you to be a full service FNF installer from core routers in colo to single radio owner premise equipment, even so far as to providing PC type support.

  • 5 port ethernet switch
  • USB ethernet adapter
  • DB9 to RJ45 serial cable
  • DB9 to DB9 serial cable
  • 2x 6' CAT5 patch cables
  • USB A to B cable
  • VGA cable
  • Small length of un terminated CAT5 cable
  • Throwing star network tap ( )
  • USB multicard reader
  • SATA to USB converter
  • USB extension cable
  • Other random PC support type stuff (video adapters etc)

Procedures to follow[edit]

It is extremely important to note that this process was written using critical path planning. This means that the steps -must- be followed in order, or the system breaks down. Even if the step doesn't technically apply, still check it off. For example, "get site owner's permission" might no apply, because you -are- the site owner. Check it off anyhow. Step sequence is very important.

Site Survey[edit]


  • access to the site's main breaker box
  • physical inspection of the inside of outlets
  • roof access if needed.

Tools needed:[edit]

  • Android smartphone (camera/wifi analyzer/note taking/voice recording/gis) etc etc etc
  • note taking materials.
  • Multimeter
  • outlet tester
  • frequency testing device/software 'wifi analyzer' is good stuff.
  • Tape measure and/or range finder.
  • Ladder


None used this job.


1) Arrive on site, meet with site owner.

2) Make sure that you actually have permission to run around and take pictures of stuff, poke, prod, open panels, stick fingers in other people's stuff, drill holes in things, etc,etc. This is important, seriously.

3) Walk around the area that needs to be served and inspect it. Notice things like

  • height of the building and floors
  • potential radio mounting points
  • any existing cable plant or radios

4) Line of Site - What's in the way? what locations give the best view of the area? What objects will be in the way that might cause signal 'shadows' (places where radio signal will be degraded due to something blocking the signal).

5) What's it made of? - building materials have different properties, some of which are -extremely- hostile to signal propagation. An important secondary question is 'What's behind that wall?'

6) Where's the Power? - While I'm certain you're going to find several radio mount points that are just perfect in terms of LoS, they might not be great in terms of getting power/data to the radio.

7) Power Quality - Check the outlets you're going to be using with the outlet tester, confirm that they're wired correctly, and that you're getting 110AC. If they're not properly wired/grounded, you're going to have to fix this before you can continue.

8) What are the Hazards? - What risks are there to putting that radio there? is the cable in a spot where people might get tangled in it? Will children be able to reach the equipment? These are important things to consider. When you choose locations be mindful of what might happen to your gear, and plan accordingly.

9) Can I bolt that there? - When picking the specific spot to place the radio, look at what you're going to be connecting it to. Is the materiel solid? Is it something that you can attach a radio mounting bracket to without resorting to questionable improvisation to do so?

10) Noise check - Take that android device you've installed Wifi Analyzer on, and fire it up. Walk around, and make note of other radio sources that might interfere. Especially scan the places you plan to put radios.


So, you've gone through the full site survey. You've inspected, detected, poked, prodded, and otherwise meddled. You've done every step, right?

Right. Check it again, you've missed something. Go ahead, we'll wait.

Ok, so you've double checked your work, and there you should have a problem list. Unacceptable levels of local radio noise, Feral Children, space aliens, no good places to mount radios, and all the buildings are built like faraday cages. In short, you gots problems.

So, list em out. Each one. in detail. what's f-.. err, what's wrong, and why it's wrong. Dont skimp on the detail.

Assign a level of severity to each problem, ranging from 'annoying' to 'complete show-stopping disaster'.

Error Correction[edit]

So you built a list of problems in the last section. That's good. Here's where we try to come up with solutions. Be creative.

Can you build a custom bracket with a few bits from your local hardware store? Can the Feral children be bribed with gum and pokemon cards? Would a different radio/antenna choice work better? Can the natives be bribed to run their home wireless stuff on a different channel?

Work your way through, do your best to resolve all the issues on the list. If you have a show stopping disaster level problem, if you can't completely fix it, can you bring it down to 'annoying'? Once you've gone down the entire list of problems found in 'Review', and tried a fix on each of them, Cycle through Review again.

Keep doing this, until the problems reach a level of 'acceptable' for the node owner. And may whatever gods you pray to have mercy on your soul.

Make Done[edit]

So, you've done the full site survey, and you know what you're going to have to do to make it happen. So, write a work plan, and let the node owner know you're ready to move on to Build Design. What, did you think this step was going to be complicated?

See Next[edit]

Next Step is Build Design

Build Design[edit]

Ok, so now we're at the part that's going to require a fair amount of skull sweat. Build Design. Contrary to what a lot of people might think, this is not the exclusive domain of super smart people. It's the domain of people who are absolutely crazy about attention to detail. Still, with patience, anyone (even me!) can do this. The trick here is to focus on each step, one at a time, and don't let yourself get overwhelmed trying to eat the whole thing at once.


In this case, it's not so much getting permission as it is capturing the Site Owners requirements. This can be broken up as follows.

Services : Do they want just bare bones connectivity? Or do they want local email, web sites, network data stores, Chat forums, a localized instant messenger? You'll need to know these things when building the specifications for their network.

Area: How much space do you have to cover is the big question. There are other questons as well, such as, What dead zones did you find? where are you going to have to place your radios to work around those dead zones? are you going to need an extra radio to cover those dead zones?

Speed: There are two speeds to consider. internal speed, and external ( find industry standard terms for this). Internal speed will be determined by the type of radios used, external is based on the package the site owner purchases from their ISP of choice.

Users: How many users are you going to support? to what level? How much resources do they consume on average? will Quality Of Service management tools be required to keep the bandwith hogs under control? All of these questions are going to require answers.


This is mostly a mental task, so very little in the way of physical tools are required. Things you must have would include;

1. Access to the Site Owner so you can hammer out details and build a plan they're willing to approve of.

2. Some means of recording everything.

Things you -should- have;

1. A computer with internet access so you can look things up.

2. Reference materials so you can look things up as you need them.

3. Visio, or something like it.

4. A working printer to print out the Build Report when you're done.


While the process of creating a Build list uses very little in the way of materials, The list you create will have a -huge- list of materials attached to it. This will be covered under Tasks.


In the Permissions section, you covered SASU. Time to break that down.

The first thing you need to do is determine the location of the Center. The variables for determining it are;

Power - You need good clean electricity for this. You need to be aware of what circuit you're on in the main breaker box, and what else is on it. 
        If you're sharing a circuit with a washing machine, you're gonna have a bad time.
Location - Ideally, your center is, well, central. It should also be weather proof, and if need be, cooled. While that's not normally an issue up north, 
           I live in south texas currently, and heat management is a huge concern.
Security - You want a location that can be locked, or otherwise made unaccessable by random people.

Services - This breaks down into sub catagories.

Licensing -  What software do you need to provide the services the site owner has specified? Is it free? not-free? if so, what sort of licenses are required? 
             How much will they cost? These are important questions to answer.
Hardware - How many computers of what specifications will be needed? How much Wattage will they draw? where will they be located? 
           Do they have a dedicated circuit? if not, what else is on the circuit with it? Does the hardware need it's own circuit? 

Area - When dealing with coverage area, the first question is 'how many radios?' followed immediately by 'what kind of radios?'

Quantity - How many radios are required? This is a function of two variables. Amount of area to be covered, and number of dead spots that you have to work around. 
           In the cases of areas with a lot of construction, a smaller area will require more radios for coverage than a larger, less built up area!

Type - While you can use a number of different wireless devices to build your network, we prefer  to use Ubiquiti radios, for a number of reasons.
       Mostly because they work right out of the box, and don't require any hacking or complicated fiddling. Mount to bracket, plug in, configure. 
       The base units, at time of printing, average 70-100 dollars per radio. However, most, if not all of Ubiquiti's stuff is Power over ethernet, 
       which means an injector module, or a POE capable switch. 

Speed - We have two different speeds here, internal, and external.

Internal - How fast do you need  your internal, point-to-point data transfer rates to be? Bear in mind, if you're not providing internal services, the
           only speed your users are going to notice is your external speed.
External - This is the speed of the site owner's internet connection. While it has zero effect on internal speeds, it's going to be the choke point most
           users will notice, and complain about. Which brings us to...

Users - How many do you have to support, and what do they do? A host of researchers doing data collection are going to have a hugely different set of needs than a bunch of MMO gamers. Bandwith and latency are the two big concerns.

Bandwith - If you're handling a lot of internal traffic, then internal bandwith will matter. If it's a small network, primarily for internet sharing, external bandwith will matter. 
           Know your users, and build accordingly.
Latency - Absolutely irrelevant to the person who surfs the  web and does email, absolutely critical to the guy playing WoW. Again, it's vital to know your users.


Ok, so you have a rough idea of what this build should look like. How many radios, where the router/POE system is, what kind of radios.. you've got that sorted. Now for the fiddlybits.

Cable - map out where the cables are going to go, and do your best to get an accurate measurement of how long each cable is going to be. add all that up, and add 10%. Buy a box of Cable ends.

Brackets - Figure out what sort of mounts you need, and price out what it's going to take to get them into your hands.

Fasteners - counting up all the fasteners required for the job would be a mind-numbing task that's not terribly efficient. Overbuy, instead. Make sure you have plenty of sheetrock screws, cable staples, spare bits for the screw gun, washers, and a selection of bolts, for metal, wood, and masonry.

Radios and antennas - price em out and buy em.

Router - make a point of adding up the wattage draw of the radios you're going to use, and confirm that the power supply that comes with your router will produce sufficient power. This is important.

Error Correction[edit]

It may help at this point to imagine yourself as a data packet from an end user. Go through each step in the chain, and ensure you've addressed it. start at the radio bracket, and work twords the router. Radio, cable, router, services.. double check each one, and make sure you've addressed it.

Make Done[edit]

When you've completed Error check, write a itemized report, with the prices of all the stuff you're going to need. Congratulations, you have a Bom.

See Next[edit]

Next step is Physical Installation.

Physical Installation[edit]

So you're on your doorstep with your keys in one hand, and your coffee in the other, and you're about to roll out to the job site, right? Not so fast, sunshine.


Have you;

1. Confirmed the initial install plan with the property owner? (see Build Plan)

2. Gotten permission to do the install from the property owner? Just because they approved the design, doesn't mean they've approved the actual work. Details Matter!

3. you know, having those in writing, with a signature on them would be really, -really- good for you.


1. I have a BOM, and I'm not afraid to use it!

When you did your Build Design, you wrote a bill of materiels, or a BOM. your BOM should include a complete list of all the tools you're going to need. Make sure you have everything, and that it works. Have fresh batteries, make sure everything was charged last night, cutting implements are sharp, that sort of thing. Now, double check everything on that list, and make sure you have it on hand.

2. "ran when parked."

When was the last time you checked the Zero Point Module in the flying saucer? the muffler bearings in the truck? Seriously, do a pre-flight on your vehicle. It would suck to get stuck on the side of the road and miss your install appointment, and have to wait for a wrecker, or worse...

3. "it will fit, Mother said so."

Packing is an important part of the process. The trick is to try to think about what order you're going to need things in, and pack accordingly. It's really going to suck if the first thing you need is under everything else.


1. BOMs away!

So, in your BOM, you wrote up all the cra- er ,materials you were going to need to build the install. It's a lot of stuff, so...

2. "He's making a list, and checking it twice".

Seriously, a physical list is awesome to have. When you're packing out to go to the job site, check your list twice. Again, pack everything in the order in which you think you're going to need it.

3. "Do it again, only harder!"

Ok, you did your tool load-in to the transport, now load all your materials. Again, pay attention to loading order, so you don't put something important underneath everything else.


Ok, so we're at the job site, and we're ready to go. We've got clearance from the property owner, they've signed off on the build design. Let's begin.

1. Mounting Brackets.

In the Build Design, you determined what kind of brackets you would use, and where you would mount them. we start there. If you've decided you have to fabricate the brackets from scratch, do so now. Once finished sorting out your brackets, get out your ladder, if needed and scoot up there and bolt that bracket down. Once it's installed, give it a good solid tug to make sure it stays put.

2. Hole Punching.

If you have to drill out holes in walls and other osbtacles, this is the time to do it. Make sure of what you're drilling, and what's behind it. drilling into a live power line may be visually spectacular, but it's expensive as hell, and frequently lethal.

3. Cable layout.

Starting at where you have the router located, walk out your cable along the path it's going to be mounted. Once you arrive at your mounting bracket, add two feet of slack, and affix the cable near the mounting bracket. Personally, I like to drive a staple through the last half-inch of cable, cladding and all, which will keep in in place while we move to the next step. Other people have tied the end of the cable to the mounting bracket, or used duct tape or... you get the idea.

4. Measure, -then- cut.

When you did your build design you measured out how long the cables were going to need to be. With the spool at the router, start reeling off your cable. draw each one out, measure carefully, add some slack, then cut. Remember, if it's too long, you can trim it short, if it's too short, you're boned.

5. Cable pulling.

Once you've got the cable measured and cut, start threading it through any holes or ductwork you might have to use. Use of a cable snake is encouraged if needed. Do this until you have all your cables run, and laying on the ground near your mounting brackets.

6. Cable mounting.

Get out your cable tacker/stapler, and apply staples as needed. a good rule of thumb is 1 staple per every 3 feet, or 1 per meter. Take your time, and make sure you don't punch a staple through the cable, or you'll have to replace the cable.

7. Cable termination.

You've laid all your cables, and mounted them, they're simply awaiting termination now. Get out your razor knife and your crimper, and go to town. Remember to follow industry standards, so that the tech that comes behind you can figure out what you did.

8. Radio mounting.

plug your cables into your router, and power it up. Now, go outside, and get your radios and antennas. Up the ladder, and install the radio to the bracket, -with- antenna. Most radios don't like being powered up without the antenna, and may misbehave. Plug your radio into your freshly terminated cable, and watch the indicator lights, and wait and watch for a 'clean boot'. Some radios don't have indicator lights, but not many. You wanna see a nice clean "Everything's fine" from the indicator lights before you come back down. Saves time. Do this until all radios are installed and powered up.


At this point, you should have a set of radios hooked to a router, mounted and powered, broadcasting in their default configuration.

Error Correction[edit]

Various possible failures include, but are not limited to

Bad termination. Proper cable termination isn't as simple as it looks, and takes some practice. Even a professional lays a couple of duds a week. Defective terminals are not unknown either. Don't panic, that's what the slack was for. hack it off, and replace it.

Buggered up/out of date firmware. This is more a problem dealt with in system configuration, but sometimes the problems will make themselves known during the installation part of the build. This problem is addressed in System Configuration.

Brackets that don't work. Clearance issues, rotten sills, plenty of things that can hang you up here. I can't begin to address them all, but patience, persistance, and care will usually sort these out.

Bad/no holes. Sometimes, when you're drilling, you discover... unpleasant suprises. Be prepared to have to completely re-route a cable or two. it happens.

Active interference. Loose animals, Natives that wont leave you alone, and other 'show stoppers'. These are the property owner's problem. If all else fails, put your tools up, and tell the owner you won't continue until they take care of -their- problem.

Make Done[edit]

See Next[edit]

Next step is System Configuration

System Configuration[edit]






Error Correction[edit]

Make Done[edit]

See Next[edit]

See Also[edit]