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General question about AREDN vs BBHN

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General question about AREDN vs BBHN


Am I correct that broadband-hamnet is basically abandoned and that AREDN is a continuation of it?
Is it possible to still use old WRT54G devices and not but new equipment? As I see its not under the supported hardware even when it was fully capable of being part of the broadband-hament.  

If you can't use WRT54G devices why? Is AREDN just to large to fit in the flash? Or is it not being able to go lower then channel 1 without hardware mods?

Thanks in advance,
William Gaylord, KD9KCK


K6AH's picture
BBHN has been abandoned

Most everyone who uses AREDN does so in the ham bands.  WRT54's are not capable of this, they only operate in the Part 15 segment of the 2.4 GHz band.  The BBHN project hasn't maintained their software for 5-6 years now and, to my knowledge, they have no developers.  All of the former developers have moved over to AREDN.  The software they run has many security holes.

WRT54 devices are not considered "supported" because AREDN software doesn't fit in its limited flash memory and even if it did, they can't communicate with devices in the ham band.  They do still work connected via DtD.


Okay. So to get on the mesh I would have to spend atleast $50 (at least thats what the docs suggest) per node to get anything working. As you can't just pick up the newer hardware for $1 at a flea market.

So its mostly the not enough memory that is the problem as with a simple hardware crystal mod WRT54G routers can access channels -1 and -2. 

BBHM requires more than the router

Just to point out what you hopefully already realize... a $1 flea market WRT54G isn't all you need to get going.... assuming you want to communicate farther than the opposite side of your home.  You'll need external antennas, the cables and adapters to mate with your router, and... assuming they'll be located outside... some form of water proof enclosure (and outdoor rated CAT5e). 

While conceivably you can come up with some of those things for free, if you have to buy them (as I did in pre-AREDN days), it adds up.  When I figured out that I could get a Ubiquity Nanostation for not much more than I paid for a used WRT54G, cable, enclosure, PoE adapter, and gain antenna, it was a simple choice:  get less interference, more range, more data throughput, for essentially the same money.


w6bi's picture
Other differences

Besides what you've mentioned, a Linksys WRT54G puts out 60 mW, where most of the modern gear puts out around 600 mW. That's 10 dB right there.  And the Linksys is not MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output; all the modern gear has two digital transceivers, and for the same SNR, can transmit data twice as fast as a Linksys.  Or, with a 3 dB weaker signal, the same amount of data.   Plus built in gain antennas.  
You get a LOT for that 50 bucks.

Orv W6BI

nc8q's picture
and where most of the modern gear

Where much of the modern gear is also
outdoor rated, with outdoor mounting, and with speeds up to 144.4 Mbps.
The WRT54Gs are up to 54 Mbps.



Okay. So I guess for this

Okay. So I guess for this project I am part of I will have to use the 5-6 year old BBHM firmware.  As I only have wrt54g available to actually do this project with. 

Also anyone know if the old source from BBHM is still available?

K6AH's picture
They had the source when the

They had the source when the project was forked to form AREDN.  I can't say today.

BTW, the term "Hamnet" can refer to several things.  Best to call the WRT54 effort "BBHN" for clarity.

K5DLQ's picture
Hi, just putting in my 2

Hi, just putting in my 2 cents worth here...

I think if all you want to do is a relatively NEAR-field (ie. think feet, not miles) mesh implementation that is temporary and tactical, then you can certainly use the BBHN legacy technology with WRT54g's.  If you are thinking more strategic and wider use of an EMCOMM mesh, then, the experience that you will get with the BBHN+WRT54G hardware will not impress you, primarily due to the lack of clear channel space in Part97, extra power, etc (those things already mentioned above).

As far as source code for BBHN, i haven't seen an active SVN repo for that project in years.  (since we moved over to start AREDN).
AREDN does maintain an archive of all the firmware files (bin files) for AREDN and bbhn (just in case people may still need it and the BBHN website goes away)

...and a final word...
As with anything, if you buy something for $1, it will most likely provide much less VALUE to you as opposed to something that costs $50.   The old commercial rules still apply... extra value costs extra money.    There are REAL reasons why older tech is so cheap now.

I personally want to set up

I personally want to set up an actual  AREDN node using the right stuff at my house. 

I am just stuck using WRT54G for now in this project at my college. (As that is what we were given for it.)  Hopefully I can get them to get some better stuff later on. 

K6AH's picture
Keep us posted on your

Keep us posted on your progress.  We are happy to help.


KE2N's picture
mixed bbhn/aredn

This would probably be a good spot to mention (just FYI) that some of the old Linksys routers have a feature where the automatically try to join any network that they can hear.  If there is a channel -2 or -1 network in the vicinity, when these boot up they act brain dead. We had one ham who had some Ubiquiti AREDN nodes on the roof of his house and he could not get the Linksys rrouters to work.  Bringing the Linksys to a location where there was no channel -1 activity caused them to boot up just fine. Back at his house - they were brain dead again.  This drove us crazy for a while...

Thankfully (based off the map

Thankfully (based off the map) there are no nodes any where near me.  

This is good for the research project i am working on that is stuck with WRT54G routers but bad for me trying to setup a node on the mesh with Ubiquiti hardware. (As there are only 2.4 Ghz "near" (over 40 miles) by on shared channels.) Closest 5.8 Ghz nodes are over 100 miles away on the map. (I  am in Chicago)

KE2N's picture
my kind of town

a friend of mine is looking at putting up AREDN nodes on a 400-foot tall building in Chicago even as I write this ... but its only in the planning stages.

Chicago or NW Indiana AREDN/HamMesh

William, I recently moved to NW Indiana and was shocked to see absolutely no AREDN or HamMesh (BBHN) activity in the greater Chicagoland or NW Indiana area.  I have been in contact with a ham in this area who apparently has access to place a AREDN system on a 30 to 40 story building somewhere in Chicago, I assume somewhere in the Loop.  Anyway, I can provide some information and assistance on getting the BBHN WRT54G devices to "play nice" with the AREDN network, there is (or at least was the last time I tried) a relatively easy for the two systems to communicate at a basic level.  I started in Ham Mesh like many others did by flashing WRT54G devices and had a lot of fun and learned a lot of things related to what could be done with HamMesh, be it BBHN or AREDN.  Anyway, I'd be happy to discuss further, maybe even meet to do some basic workshop stuff using WRT54Gs, they are a great, inexpensive way to learn some HamMesh basics.  I have several AREDN systems as well, you can see a couple of them on the air on the AREDN Map in the NW Indiana area.  Let me know if you would like to discuss further (and a shout out to one of my peers/mentors in Ham Mesh, KE2N).
73, Bill, N4SV/9

If I set the BBHN firmware to

If I set the BBHN firmware to use the correct SSID would that possibly allow it to act as part of an Arden mesh? (I am thinking no as there is probably bigger differences under the hood.) 

I am working on saving to buy some stuff to set up an actual Arden Node. (Almost $100 takes time for a college student with only a part time job but the stuff is way better then WRT54G routers)  I am in Bridgeport in Chicago with out much access to elevation.( Peak in my roof of the 2 story house.) 

nc8q's picture
We would rather not have 40+ WRT54Gs in storage

We (Miami Valley Mesh Alliance) have 40+ WRT54Gs in storage.
I think we would rather have the storage space for other things. :-|
If you know of someone passing by the I-70/I-75 corridor with
9 cubic feet (3x3x1) of trunk space, you are welcome to them.
Or if you are coming to Hamvention 2020...


K6AH's picture
You could make it work...

You could make it work under the following conditions:

  • AREDN RF link would need to be configured:
    • to 20MHz bandwidth
    • to Part 15 channel 1-11
  • WRT54G devices would need the same SSID as the AREDN link.

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