Startup ISP needs help

Hello all,
As I have said before, my company has in the past been focused on infrastructure cabling and turn key telephone solutions for businesses. We are now looking at becoming a WISP in the Shenandoah Valley area in VA and WV. We are primarily focusing on the rural areas where the residents have no other options other than Satellite.

I have really been cramming over the last couple of weeks and here is what we have done so far. We have ordered some 900Mhz equipment to start testing with. From what I have read, this is the only equipment that will penetrate some of the trees and foliage that we have in our area. My first site will be run from our business location, which is my house and will potentially service up to 5 or 6 hundred customers, all of which live within two miles of me.

We have already saturated the area with mailings and are going to use the response level to decide what initial investment to make with the canopy equipment. I already have decided that if the equipment tests to our satisfaction, then we are definately going to use the Motorola Canopy equip.

I have been doing installations in the RF field for about 12 years, but the ISP thing is going to be new to me. I need some help. I understand the canopy equipment and am learning more and more as I read. I need to learn more about the other equipment though.

I don’t really know what I need beyond the canopy equipment. I will be getting a T1 to start with (maybe more than 1) to share out with my customers who sign up to my service. I need some help with it from there.

How many customers can share a T1 reliably?
How many routers do I need?
what type of routers?
How many customers and T1’s can go on one router?
If I get more than one T1, will the router combine the bandwidth?
Do I need servers if i’m not going to offer email and webhosting?

I know alot of these questions are elementary, but I am just getting started and I want to learn this stuff before I get in over my head. We are looking to try and start setting up customers by the first of the year.

Any help you guys could give me would be greatly appreciated.
will I need a different router for each T1

Let me see if I can answer some if not all of these. If I miss some please feel free to point it out.

I typically see customers performing 20:1 over subscription ratio. This means that if you sell 512 down/128 up service then you can have about 60-80 clients on a T1 (plus or minus 10-15).

When it comes to routers I feel you get what you pay for. An obvious choice would be Cisco when looking at deploying a network. Some however feel that this is too costly so they look into Zebra running on a Linux box. This will save you money but you then need to look at how well you will be supported when you run into problems. What would others out there suggest when it comes to routers?* I would be interested to see what other ISP’s are using. Again remember that it does come down to a support issue, you get what you pay for. I wouldn’t want to necessarily rely on a Zebra mailing list for support when my business is down due to a Linux server crash. (personally I like Zebra)

I would highly suggest having two different upstream providers if you can. This way if your main uplink provider fails then your customer traffic can route up the redundant path. If you can do this then you will want two different routers on two different power sources running on battery backup. Your network is only as stable as the weakest link. If you get into multiple upstream hops then you will need to look into getting routers that support BGP. Most routers will but make sure the router has a good amount of memory and CPU.

Routers come in all different shapes and sizes. I have worked with small routers that can handle one T1 and large routers that can handle 20-30 T1’s, with T3’s, GigE, ATM, and FDDI. You will need to look at what your current, near future, and long term needs are.

If you get two T1’s from your upstream then you will be able to load balance. If you have two T1’s, each coming from a different provider, then it will be a little more complicated. You will need a distributed director on your network to control the load balancing. It can be done but it isn’t plug and play.

You will need to look into mail servers if you are going to give users mailboxes.

In every possible situation I would put the users behind a SM using NAT so they can get their IP’s from the SM. Then I would statically put the SM’s on a separate network that is transparent to your users. I highly recommend using a 10net ( addressing schema. TAKE TIME TO PLAN YOUR IP ADDRESSING. A lot of times when people start out they rush this part. DO NOT DO THIS. When you design a house you have the architect review it, the builder view it, ETC. Have more than one person review your network addressing plan. It is a very important piece that can make or break you as you grow. I have seen too many people grow their network into a huge layer 2 bridge. I would suggest putting routers at each tower location if possible so that you can segment your network into smaller sections.

I know it’s a long response but please read through it and ask ANY questions you may have before getting too far into the deployment process. It is critical that you start out right. We are here to help. If you need an immediate answer please call tech support and they will get the answer right away.

thanks for the reply…Here comes more questions

We really weren’t going to allocate or limit our bandwidth to the residential customers. Do you need BAM right away if we aren’t going to allocate. Does the AP/SM provide any limits to the upload/download speeds for the customers. Should we limit them? We were pushing our product as comparable to cable modem. Cable provides their customers up to 2M at times, but it then slows down during peak times…thats what we wanted to give our customers.

We were planning to target aroung 40-45 customers per T1. Is this idea good or bad???

We are already looking at Cisco routers…they are our first choice.

We will not be able to afford bandwidth from two different providers right now, so that will be our weak link…if they go down, then we’re down…we will have generator and battery backup on our system. We are starting with one T1 and we have the ultimate capability of 9M at our first location…Our target customer number for this location is between 2-3 hundred customers.

I’m not sure what you mean when you say “upstream hops” i assume you are talking about BH modules between towers???

And I don’t know what BGP is when you are discussing routers.

Our bandwidth will all be coming from one provider right now, but our SLA will state that they will compensate us for downtime… Will we need a “distributed director” if we are getting our pipe from one source. If we do get our T’s from multiple vendors, what exactly is a distributed director? Is it physical hardware or software?

We weren’t going to offer web hosting and email services up front, but prospective customers are asking about it. We are looking into some web based companies that may want to handle that for us…Any ideas???

Does anyone have a visual example on paper or digital format of how the addressing scheme works…How are some of the other WISP’s doing it. I know absolutely nothing about NAT and how that works.

We don’t want to rush this, but we are hoping to start signing up customers within the next 1-2 months. We want to do it right, but we also want to expidite it quickly!!!

Once again, this stuff is probably cake for some, but I need some help with the basics!!!

Thanks again.

Honestly, in my opinion you will not need BAM set up immediately because the antennas have a maximum bandwidth themselves that (on 900MHz) is comparable to a T1 line. In the future you might consider installing a BAM system, especially as Motorola works to give the 900MHz system higher bandwidth levels through firmware upgrades.

As for the number of users you place on a T1, all i can say is my readings based on our bandwidth graphs. Commercial customers will use the bandwidth at different times (mostly) than residential customers, so that will already break up your useage. I think you’ll really just need to play this by ear, as you should be able to add more bandwidth later without changing your network much at all.

We use all cisco routers now. The managability is very helpful when trying to troubleshoot and test the system. also, their durability and structure is top of the line.

BGP will only be necessary when you are using IP space from two different providers. I suggest googling BGP just to get a background on that for the future. If you will be using just one service provider then this won’t concern you much from the start.

As for web services and e-mail, i could suggest a few ideas, but i’d rather not promote any specific companies over the forum.

Canopy_Support said:

In every possible situation I would put the users behind a SM using NAT so they can get their IP’s from the SM.

This is a great idea for the basic user who does browsing, but about half of our users work from home and require VPN. Most of these users want to be able to VPN back to their home too (which is behind the canopy SM) for this we provide a static public IP address at an additional charge. We have to use a D-link, netgear, or linksys router at the customer location to provide mapping from the public IP address to the pivate addresses. We also need the router to provide port forwarding for anyone using certain VPN software and other tunneling software.

The one thing that I have found canopy doesnt handle well is mapping across the NAT (without a DMZ) and port forwarding. Both of these should be taken into consideration when designing your network.

I would reccommend looking into running a linux server with Apache, Postfix, and Proftpd to provide a web and email solution. There are 2 very nice projects out there to manage these. ISPMan and Phpmywebhosting. Both can be found on I personally like phpmywebhosting since it uses a MySQL database to store all the data.

About 40% of our tech support calls are about email and 40% are about VPN. The other 20% is usually connectivity or customer doing something stupid like unplugging something.

One very nice advantage about the canopy is you can have all AP’s and SM’s on private IP’s and then install an SM with a public and it routes very nicely.

We also use cisco routers (7206) to handle our 9meg ATM circuit and Cisco managed switches with VLAN so we can segragate the network.

alright, my next question deals with BH modules. First of all, what freq are most of you using for BH? Should I use BH modules from site to site to get bandwidth to all of my APs or should I get dedicated Bandwidth to each tower site? Which works better?

I am still looking for more info on the network infrastructure of the ISP itself. I am new to this and I need some detailed info on how all of this ties together. If anyone out there has any drawings on how their system is set up, I would love to see them.

Also, some very interesting info on VPN. Some of our prospesctive clients will want to VPN.

My next questions is about power. What type (how much power) of UPS and/or generator should I be looking into for our Operations Center. I just need backup power for our computers and the Canopy equip.

thanks again, every little bit helps. We should receive our test equipment this week and begin our coverage testing from our first proposed location.

We are running similar thing but we have three types of services dialup DSL and wireless on a same network.but we are not using T1 we have link from and ISP through satelite,not providing E-Mail services and webhosting.we are using cisco products in our network like contect engine and 2600 router doing nating on a client side,firstly we tried to nating on SM but it was not working so we use linksys router for that.and next week i m going to install Bakhaul.and i m also blank about Back haul and looking for the help about it.

There really isn’t any need to have individual pipes run to each AP cluster. We are using 5.2 BH to “spread” our DSL lines all over the city. One of our hops is about 6 miles to one cluster, and about 4.5 miles to another cluster. We have a CMM micro at each site. Just make sure your hops are aligned perfectly, since you want to reduce that latency and get the fullest use of your pipe at your AP site.