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RF Planner Beta - Quick Start Guide

This is intended for the beta-testers of our new RF Planner application, but can serve as an outline of some of our functionality if you are just curious as to what we're cooking up.

Thank you for signing up to beta-test WispTools.net RF Planner application!

Introduction

For this quick-start guide, we'll show you how to:

  • Get oriented and comfortable with the dashboard page.
  • Understand the site's concepts: Sites, Points-of-Interest, and Render Scenarios.
  • Create a tower site, and add a single sector-antenna and radio to it.
  • Render the resulting coverage.
  • Pre-qualifying a potential customer.

This should be enough get you started using the RF Planner tool.

When You Sign In: The Dashboard

When you sign in for the first time, you will see a screen similar to this one:

Notice that we've added an icon for you: your company name, located at the address you gave us when you signed up. This is your first point of interest, and helps us show you a relevant part of the map.

Later on, every site and point-of-interest you create will appear on this screen. Once you've created a tower, a point-to-multipoint radio, and a render scenario of the estimated coverage will appear here.

Dashboard Concepts

There are a lot of options on the dashboard page, and we've tried to make them as straight-forward as possible. The basic options are:

  • The Sites button shows you a list of all of the towers/sites (we called it sites because you might want to hang antennas on water towers, tall buildings, or even a tree - towers sounded too restrictive). When you click this drop-down, you may add sites, or visit sites that you have already created:
  • The Points-of-Interest button, likewise, shows you your defined Points-of-Interest, and allows you to add new ones. A Point-of-Interest is a location you wish to highlight on the map. It might be a customer, the location of your data-center, or a landmark.
    Clicking this drop-down shows you a list of existing Points-of-Interest, and gives you the option to add news ones:
  • The Render Scenarios button shows you your defined Render Scenarios. A Render Scenario is a collection of sites you wish to evaluate as a unit. The most logical use for multiple render scenarios is separating geographically distinct areas, but you might also maintain a scenario for live towers and a scenario for planned towers - to show your customers the towers that already exist. When you create a render scenario, you will be shown coverage, area information, and estimates for self-interference, noise floors by frequency band as well as the all-important signal-strength estimation. Clicking this drop-down shows you a list of existing render scenarios, and gives you the option to add news ones:
  • The thumb-tack icon is most useful on a mobile device (yes, our website is mobile-friendly!). It gets the current location from your mobile device, and places a marker on your current location. You are given the options to add a site, add a point-of-interest, or prequalify a customer at your current location. This can be very useful when visiting potential customers: click, select prequalify and see if you can give them service.
  • Promote Your WISP lets you enter a full advertising profile for your Wireless Internet Service Provider. When we are live, we'll use this information to promote you in our WISP Directory feature. It's also nice for us to know our users!

You can also right-click anywhere on the map:

This shows you the address of the location you clicked on (approximate address in rural areas that don't have street addresses), and gives you the option to Add Site Here, Add POI Here and Prequalify Customer Here. This can save you from entering latitude and longitude values (or guessing addresses) when adding Sites, Points-of-Interest and pre-qualifying customers.

Finally, the top menu bar offers some options:

  • Clicking wisptools.net logs you out of the application and returns you to the main wisptools.net website.
  • Home returns you to the dashboard.
  • Prequalify Customer takes you to the customer pre-qualification screen. This is on the main menu bar, because you might take a call at any time.
  • Manage: (My Organization Name) (Herbert Wolverson in the example) takes you to your organization management page. Here you can update your address, and upgrade/manage your account plan. You can also add users to your account; users share your site/POI/render information – this is convenient if you have several people working on the same data.
  • My Account: (email address) lets you change your password and change your preferences regarding default tower radius and units of measurement.

Creating Your First Site/Tower

Now that you have the basic concepts under your belt, we'll create our first tower site.

Click Sites, and select Add New Site.

You will be presented with the Add New Site wizard, step 1:

This should be mostly self-explanatory; for this tutorial we will choose the following values:

  • A Site Name of My Test Tower. The site name will appear on your maps, pre-qualification suggestions, and in your site selector drop-down, so it's important to choose a memorable name.
  • We'll keep the default Site Icon; this icon will appear on your map and drop-down lists, and can help differentiate your various sites. We're working on adding more icons.
  • We'll enter a Center-Line Height of 200 feet (the site remembers that we preferred feet when we signed up). This is a very tall tower, for the purpose of example. (The Center-Line Height is the height at which your antennas are mounted; if you have antennas at multiple heights, don't worry – you can override it per radio).
  • We'll set a radius of 20 miles from the site. This is the maximum range at which we want the site to calculate coverage. Keeping this realistic makes the Planner work faster, and stops it from suggesting unworkable sites in the pre-qualification system.
  • Address, and Latitude/Longitude are connected. If we type an address, as soon as we tab to the next field the latitude/longitude of the site will be automatically calculated (based upon a Google address lookup). Likewise, if you change latitude/longitude, the address will be calculated for you. Don't worry about being too precise at this point – in the next step, we'll refine our location. For now, we'll use an address of 800 Fay Street, Columbia MO. (The street address of one of our towers).

Here's our completed step 1 screen:

Now we click Proceed to Step 2:

Our Points-of-Interest are shown, along with the new site location. A panel on the right offers information about your proposed site location. You also have the full range of Google Maps options, including Satellite and Terrain views (as well as zooming). You can drag the tower icon to the actual tower location.

Select Satellite, and zoom in to your new site. The tower is on the wrong side of the road!

We can easily rectify that by dragging the tower onto the cell-phone tower we can see on the satellite view:

Now, zoom back out and we'll examine the “Learn About Your Site” options.

First of all, select “Land Coverage”. This shows you what our database knows about the area you have selected. A legend is on the right-hand side. You can see how each area is categorized. This information will be used when generating coverage plots, in particular with regard to trees:

Next, let's take a look at the Height Map option. This shows us a shaded relief-map of our site's area, with height-above sea level (darker is lower elevation) indicated. This can be useful for understanding the altitudes, ridges and valleys included in our proposed tower area:

We'll ignore Slope Map for now; it's mostly of use for our planned 3D rendering features that are coming down the pike.

Instead, click on Visible Area From Tower (for the screenshot, we've switch to a Google Terrain view so that you can see how it relates to terrain):

Your browser has traversed every pixel inside your coverage radius, and calculated if that pixel is visible from the site (with a receiver 20' above ground-level). Because we're doing this as a quick preview, it isn't taking trees into account – but it should give you an instant idea of how useful a tower site may be. This is particularly useful when you are considering new sites – you can get an instant representation of potential coverage area.

If you need to change anything, you can click Back to Step 1; our information is complete, so we'll click Add Site, and work on radio load-out.

The Site Information Page

On this page, you can:

  • Update your Site Information. This is the same as the information you added while adding the site, but is helpful if you need to change site name, icon or location.
  • Add or edit Point-to-Multipoint links, such as a sector antenna. Like the drop-downs on the main page, this presents you with a list of existing radios and the option to add a new one.
  • Add or edit Point-to-Point links, such as backhaul links. These will be covered in another guide.
  • See which Render Scenarios include this site, and quickly add it to any you have created (it won't have any at this point).
  • You can Delete the Site, removing it from your account permanently.

We want to add a point-to-multipoint radio, so click the Point-to-Multipoint drop-down, and select Add PTMP Loadout:

You will be taken to Step 1 of the Point-to-Multipoint wizard:

Don't worry, this isn't as intimidating as it looks! For our example radio, we will do the following:

  • Set the System Name as My Test Sector.
  • We'll leave the Mounting Height at 200'. Notice that the site used the default you selected when you setup the site.
  • We'll leave the Target Radius at 20 miles. Once again, the site has imported your default settings.
  • For this example, we're going to use a Ubiquiti Rocket M5, with a 120 degree 19 dBi sector attached to it. We could go through the steps of adding the pattern, gain, power – but to make life easy for you, we've populated the “Select Transmitter” button with popular choices for you. Click it, scroll down to Rocket M5, and click the 120 degree 19 dBi sector option:
  • Notice that antenna pattern, description, gain, power, center-frequency, channel width and description have been filled in for you with default values taken from our device database. You probably want to change the Center Frequency to the actual frequency you intend to use (same for Channel Width), but for this example we will keep the default values.

Our Step 1 screen is complete, and looks like this:

We click Proceed to Step 2, and are presented with the second screen, asking us about our customer devices:

We enter the following:

  • CPE Height always defaults to 20' above ground level; this is a good average for installation on the roof of small homes. You may change it to whatever height you consider to be a good average.
  • Again, we could enter CPE Gain and Power levels by hand, or we can click Select Customer Device and select a common model. In this example, we are selecting a NanoStation M5 as our preferred customer premises equipment (CPE). This automatically fills in the Gain and Power fields for us.
  • Target RSSI is the received signal-strength for which we try to aim. It defaults to -55, which is generally a good number of Ubiquiti equipment (highest possible speeds, with some margin to spare in case of poor conditions). This will be represented by green areas on our map.
  • Worst Acceptable RSSI is the worst signal we want to accept onto our network. Some vendors' equipment suffers significant overall performance drops when poor-quality connections are accepted onto the network. Some doesn't. Therefore, you want to enter the signal threshold here that works for your network. It defaults to -75, which is where we'll leave it for this example.

We have now completed the CPE definition part of the link, and it looks like this:

Click Proceed to Step 3, and you are presented with the following screen:

At the top, you have options for Azimuth and Downtilt, and on the map itself the antenna radiation pattern is overlaid (in black). Since we selected a Ubiquiti 120-degree sector, it looks like a balloon. You can adjust Azimuth and see instant feed-back on the map as to the area at which you are aiming.

For this example, we will select 90 degrees (East):

Notice that the antenna is now pointing East on the map. That's all we need, so scroll to the bottom of the screen and click Add the PTMP device, and return to the site.

The Site Screen – Now With Coverage

You are now returned to your site screen. Notice that there are two additional map layers present:

The Antenna Patterns display shows an overlay of the antenna radiation patterns of all point-to-multipoint radios located at this site. Here is the radio we just added:

The Path Loss 5800 provides you with a quick, real-time estimate of coverage for your new radio. This is a quick-and-dirty calculation, so it isn't perfect – but it serves to validate the data you have entered. We won't worry too much about this yet; it's time to add a scenario.

Rendering Our Test Site

Click Home on the main menu bar at the top, click Render Scenarios and select Add New Scenario.

You will be taken to the scenario definition screen:

On this screen, perform the following steps:

  • Enter My Test Scenario as the Scenario Name.
  • Check My Test Tower under Included in Scenario?
  • Click the green Create Scenario button.

You will be taken to the scenario viewer/renderer screen:

Since we just created the scenario, there isn't very much to see here. Make sure that your tower is showing, and click Request Render:

This will bring up the render request dialog box. Select Medium Quality / Fast Rendering, and click Request Render. You will see a number of blue information boxes appear at the bottom-left of the screen, notifying you of rendering progress (you may carry on using the site while it renders). After some time (typically around 30 seconds for this test), your screen will change to show you rendered scenario information:

Clicking the Height Map drop-down shows you the data that has been rendered on your behalf:

That's quite a lot of data! The Height Map and Land Cover maps are similar to what you saw when you created the site, but are at a higher resolution. They serve to show you that your map is created with real, useful data.

Overall Predicted RSSI is the map most people find useful:

It shows coverage of the antenna we just created. Areas in green can expect the Target RSSI we setup when creating the antenna. Areas in yellow can expect our Worst RSSI from PTMP setup. The two are on a gradated ramp, gradually turning yellow as signal strength worsens.

If you have multiple antennas, they all appear on this screen – using the best possible antenna for an area. Notice how there are holes in the coverage: the system has detected terrain and foliage, and adjusted predicted RSSI accordingly.

Coverage for 5800 Mhz will be the same as Overall Predicted RSSI. If we were to add additional antennas in different frequency bands, each band would appear separately here – so you can easily differentiate between systems. For example, here at Full Stream we have 2400 Mhz showing Wi-Fi coverage, 2500 Mhz showing our WiMAX system, and 5800 Mhz showing our Ubiquiti coverage.

Areas Predicted to suffer noise interference will be blank for this example; a later tutorial will expand upon this. This maps areas that can see two (or more) radios on the same frequency, and can therefore be expected to suffer self-interference problems. With a single radio, this isn't a problem.

Noise floor for 5790Mhz (up to 5810 Mhz) will show you a red area in which our test radio is adding to the background noise of the 5790 Mhz channel. This isn't very useful with a single radio, and will be covered further in a later tutorial.

Publish Our Plot

On the Scenario page, there is a button/checkbox labelled Published:

Checking this box informs the RF Planner system that this is your actual coverage map, and should be presented on the front page, and for customer pre-qualification. For this quick-start, go ahead and check the box. You will be asked if you are sure – indicate that yes, you are sure.

Now return to the main Home page, and notice that the green/yellow area from your Overall Predicted RSSI plot are visible. This serves as the basis for our last tutorial: Pre-qualifying a customer.

Pre-qualifying a Customer

Zoom into the map on the home page, and right click a location with some coverage:

Click Prequalify Customer Here. (You can also select Prequalify Customer from the main menu bar, but you will have to enter an address). You will be presented with the first-step of the Prequalification screen. Notice that the location and address are pre-populated for you, and a marker shows where you clicked. You can drag the marker to move it. You can also enter an address in the Address box, and the map will automatically move to that address. Likewise, if you edit Latitude/Longitude, an address will be calculated for you, and the map will move to that location.

Scroll to the bottom, and click Tower Visibility. You will be presented with the results of the customer Pre-qualification:

You can click any tower in the list (there will only be one for this example) to see a terrain-profile explaining the estimate:

Notice how the Fresnel zone is plotted for you, and areas that might intersect heavily urban areas (the pink/magenta regions) are highlighted. Two coverage estimates are provided: one using raw Free Space Path Loss (which will be accurate if you have perfect line-of-sight), and a Longley-Rice/ITWOM estimate that attempts to take into account the effects of terrain.

When you have your entire network in the system, it will smartly rate sites based upon your coverage map and terrain – quickly answering the question can I get service to this customer? A later beta will let you put these maps on your website.

Conclusion

That wraps up the first quick-start guide. In this guide, we've learned how to navigate the program, add a site, hang a radio from the site, and estimate our coverage guide. Upcoming guides will cover point-to-point links, advanced render features such as Noise and multiple bands, and offer tips on how to get the best out of the website.

Once again, thank you for being a beta-tester of our new RF Planner system.

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