Monday, June 18, 2018

Hands-On With the Cambium Networks Outdoor e700 Access Point

Nestled in the heart of McAllen, Texas along old US highway 83 is a food truck park that houses delicacies from across the world. The work of the McAllen Chamber of Commerce, local Chefs, the City, & South Texas food enthusiasts culminated in this park a few years ago. Visitors stop by for a quick bite during the week and head over to enjoy the outdoors and the park with their families on the weekends.
When Cambium Networks announced the new e700 series outdoor AP and we got our hands on one, we thought what better place to test it than down at our food truck park. Quick installation ensued on the rooftop of the McAllen Chamber of Commerce, adjacent to the food truck park.
Once a month during the Summer, the McAllen Chamber of Commerce hosts a highly regarded karaoke contest at the food truck park. I know it sounds kind of cheesy, but people really get into it!
Speakers, mic stands, and bleachers are set up for the participants and spectators. The only problem is, the food truck parks sits in a bit of a bowl with there is weak cellular service and no Wi-Fi available to use. Each month the chamber has had to figure out ways to get online to stream the songs that are requested by the performers. By implementing a Wi-Fi solution, we give them quick and immediate access to all the resources they need.
Image credit: McAllen Food Truck Park Facebook — https://www.facebook.com/mcallenfoodpark/
We installed the Cambium Networks e700 on an existing non-penetrating roof mount, connected it to a UV-rated, outdoor Ethernet cable back to a switch inside the Chamber of Commerce, and from there out to the world!
Now we are able to offer free Wi-Fi to the visitors of the park and a prioritized feed to the Chamber of Commerce employees to get the karaoke contest going!

A Pretty Cool Use Case

Even though it sounds simple, think about it:
The primary user is streaming high-definition audio and video and hundreds of users are recording, Snapchatting, posting, and streaming the performances via periscope, YouTube live, Facebook, and more. If there is any hiccup amongst these live performance fans, we’ll definitely hear about it!

About the Cambium Networks e700

The e700 access point doesn’t have any large drastic differences from the e500 other than the expected tech upgrades, but once you open up the box it’s apparent that a little bit more work was put into it then it’s predecessor the e500.
The mount that is used to hold the radio to a pole or wall has an upgrade. Recessed, form-fitting plastic is used to hold the tilt mechanism in place. Very cool, very durable, and probably way over engineered. This bolt / nut combo looks like it will hold a heck of a lot more than the AP. Better too much than not enough though!

A large plate of heat dispersing fins on the back of the unit gives it a more rugged look while helping keep the components of this 4 x 4 radio at the appropriate temperatures. The molded case also has a new wall or pole mounting bracket design. The mount bracket fits into two slots at the top of the heatsink, and then the bottom of the mounting unit is fastened to the radio.

The version that we had required us to use a Torx 25 bit that was not included in the packaging to attach the mounting plate to the radio. I’m not sure if this will change in production version, but I hope it does. Not everyone carries one of those tools :-)
There is also a small chain on the back of the unit but it is not referenced in any of the documentation, so I’m still pretty unclear what it is for.

Vital Stats of the Cambium Networks e700

· 802.11ac wave2 supporting standards based beam forming on 5 GHz
· IP67 housing
· Integrated 8 dBi Omni antenna on 2.4 and 5 GHz,
· 512 clients, 16 SSIDs
· 2x2 on 2.4 GHz and 4x4 Tx arrays on 5 GHz
· EIRP: 33 dBm (2.4 GHz) and 36 dBm (5 GHz)
· Comes with BLE radio — future proof for roadmap plans for collecting presence information and installation procedure assistance
· Operating temp range: -40°C to 65°C
· Best RX sensitivity = -99dBm

A Different Approach to Configuration

Contrary to most configurations serving large crowds, we left both 2.4GHz access and 80 MHz channels enabled in 802.11ac. We wanted to see how, at factory default, client connections would perform in an open environment. Normally we would follow best practices and drop to 20 MHz channels while disabling 2.4 and none of the OFDM data rates, but we wanted to simulate a traditional situation where the person installing this equipment isn’t a wireless professional, but a normal Enterprise or network user.

So Far, It’s Great!

The results that we have seen over the last two weeks have been encouraging and flawless. We are using Cambium Networks free cloud management tool cnMaestro to monitor and maintain the equipment and wireless connectivity. There is no captive portal to access the network, so it is a straight shot once they associate to the WiFi. We are processing DHCP and DNS from the network through the 2 SSIDs being broadcasted.
As the summer months creep up on us in the Rio Grande Valley with Fall ready to follow, more and more people will be getting outdoors to enjoy the food truck park. Now, they can enjoy great quality Wi-Fi service as well, delivered via Cambium Networks e700!