I've got some friends who are crying out for a wireless hotspot where they live.
I've had a look into bonded ADSL and can have that side of things working to provide good bandwidth.
My question is, what do I need to do to provide the wireless hotspot and allow access once someone has paid to use the service. Just as you do when you sign up for a 24 hour pass at a wireless hotspot.
Any help or pointers to some information on the net would be greatly appreciated.
Never mind the technical aspects of becoming a WISP. There are numerous products that will make it happen. You should think about the political and social aspects instead. What you're doing is setting up everything required of a wire line ISP, with the added enjoyment of an unreliable method of delivery. When you say "where they live" I'm assuming that this will be a replacement for a DSL or cable modem for home use, as in a neighborhood WLAN, not a coffee shop hot spot.
So, who is going to monitor the system for abuse?
What do you do when someone complains about the speed?
How do you handle interference from other systems?
Bandwidth managment and QoS to keep one user from all hogging the bandwidth? Are you going to limit use and abuse such as Bitorrent?
Be prepared for phone calls at odd hours and inconvenient times.
Who's gonna do the bookkeeping and accounting?
Maybe it's best that you let your friends cry and have them get their own broadband connection? Unless you have answers to the previous rhetorical questions, you might be jumping into a potential social problem. I run a neighborhood WLAN/LAN and have a good idea of how such things work. Methinks you should discuss the implications with someone that already operates something similar to what you're planning, and verify that you actually want to do it.
I'm hoping to provide 2x Load Balanced 8 Mbps adsl lines with a router that can carry out the load balancing. This would give a user more bandwidth than they would get on thier own ADSL line (providing that not many users are online at any one time)
They would also get the benifit that they would no longer have to purchase broadband and could in theory get rid of thier phone lines. This would make this alternative an attractive one. My target is users who live on houseboats in a marina. There would be distinct advantages from being free from a copper line. They would have access when they have to move thier boats. They could save money if they don;t pay for broadband and a phone line.
I've only looked into this because friends of mine live in the marina and they would like wireless internet.
I would like to think that I could deliver a reliable service and that the customers could actually save a bit of money in the process. Surely this is not a bad thing in the long run??
That's probably overkill but will not solve the bandwidth management and monitoring problem. My (semi-serious) rule of thumb on user loading per T1 equivalent (about 1.5Mbits/sec) is: 100 light web and email users 10 business users doing whatever business users do. 1 file sharing user. There's a bit more truth to the above than is obvious. Most (if not all) peer to peer file sharing programs are designed to optimize their use of the available bandwidth. Well, that's the official line. More correctly, most file sharing programs are designed to dominate the backhaul and monopolize all the available bandwidth. Note that the typical ISP shows anywhere from 30% to 50% of their bandwidth used by peer to peer file sharing. Your utilization will probably be similar.
One ISP didn't have any bandwidth management in place on their internal LAN. One employee fired up some Bitorrent client and successfully saturated a fractional OC-3 at about 50Mbits/sec. A clue that something was wrong was a 100 times increase in the number of support phone calls.
Incidentally, I've used several Edimax load balancing router models with varying success:
Yep. VoIP is cool. However, watch your pennies. If you hire a VoIP to PSTN service, it can end up costing about the same as a single phone line. Where it really saves money is with multiple phone lines. As for quality, we're back to QoS and bandwidth management again.
Well, yeah. It makes sense and is probably sellable. However, be advised that there are existing companies that sell similar marine Wi-Fi services. You might wanna look at their costs and price structure before jumping in with both feet.
Ok, there is your market research. Have you asked them how much they are willing to pay you for the exercise? I've had similar unrealistic expectations from my neighborhood WLAN/LAN. Everyone just assumed I would do it all for free. I'm not sure about your cost structure, but two 6Mbit/sec ADSL lines will cost about $130/month (after the first years intro pricing). You didn't mention how many users, but I'll guess you need about 10 to make this work. That's $13/month minimum which is about half a residential phone line (after taxes). That's assuming everything else is free including VoIP service and your support services. Do you have 10 users that will pay even $13/month for the backhaul on a regular basis? If your marina is infested with the same breed of tighwads as found in the local harbor, methinks you'll be lucky to get the $13 from any of them.
That's a good goal, especially the reliability part. The problem is that your idea of deliverable reliability may not be quite the same as their expectations. They probably want carrier grade reliability that they have become accustomed to getting from their telco provider. The first time someone fires up a leaky microwave oven and takes down your entire network, they will be sure to complain.
As I previously mentioned and you seem to be ignoring, the technical aspects are trivial compared to the social and political aspects. Look again down my list of rhetorical questions and see if you have any answers. If you think you have answers, then ask the same questions of your customers to see if they have any expectations. If they don't match, you're going to have problems. The rest is to just buy some decent hardware, install it in a good location, pay for the backhaul, and spend your spare time answering support questions.
Bandwidth is a misused term (like when I was sitting in on a meeting and a manager said a buy didn't have enough bandwidth to do the job, i.e. his plate was too full)...bonding or aggregating two 4 Mbps DSL lines won't give a single user an 8 Mbps internet backbone connection, but it will give two users a full 4 Mbps connection.
Jeff's estimates are in line. A 1.5 Mbps (DSL or T1) will comfortably support 100 home users in the evening(peak residential load time) assuming there is only one computer at each residence. Since most businesses close at five PM, your capacity opens up some. A 1.5 Mbps connection might support as many as twenty or more businesses as their profile of usage does not appear as intense as a home user (from what wee have observed), but then each business has multiple computers.
Some WISPs have a monthly download data limit of like 5 Gig and others have a daily cap at 200 Meg (and then their connection drops to dialup speeds for 24 hours). We have both limits in place - although are considering dropping that to only 100 Meg/24 hours, but still allow two or three occurrences per month two of a 200 Meg download to allow for service pack updates.
A good Acceptable Use Policy would prohibit running servers and peer-to-peer connections...but how are you going to enforce a policy? That's why the daily and monthly bandwidth limits are in place. Give them enough slack as to not cripple your network and shut them down (well, cut back their access speed) when they do.
Encouraging VoIP is going to really knock your connection down. I don't recall the study off the top of my head, but with optimum encoding a T1 can support twenty VoIP calls. Some users around here have dropped their copper dialtone and use cellphones. But the real problem is when people start using VoIP for international calls - they tend to stay on the line for hours on end EVERY NIGHT. They will take advantage of a free service at YOUR expense!
The selling point isn't so much of saving money, its the fact that they can even get a high speed connection.
As Jeff mentioned about after hour service calls. What happens when someone moves their boat and their directional antenna points in the wrong direction? How easy will it be for you to find their new slip location? Are you going to climb up their mast in the dark? That's why an omni antenna is better, plus the signal won't fade (as much) when the boat rocks in the waves.