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Wifi extenders and the bonding system


Scott SV Tengah
 

Hi all,

This is really a question about bonding, which I'm very weak on. 

We have been using a Wirie Pro wifi extender on our A54 for over 2 years and while the Wirie didn't work that great, I separately used the Ubiquiti Bullet M2HP titanium which was part of the package and that worked great. It was mounted on a plastic Pelican case and therefore electrically isolated.

Recently, it died and I needed a replacement but the Bullet M2hp-Ti is no longer being made. I went for an Alfa Tube 2HP, which is generally quite similar.
https://store.rokland.com/products/alfa-tube-2hp-802-11n-long-distance-outdoor-wi-fi-poe-ap-cpe-ip68

The problem with all these devices is that the antenna port is typically connected internally to device power. So when you mount the device on a rail or on the masthead, it sends voltage to the exterior metal and hence the Amel bonding system. The old Bullet was mounted by Wirie Pro in a plastic Pelican case, but I am almost certain the Bullet's antenna port was connected to power also. The Alfa's design doesn't make it easy to mount on the same Pelican case.
 
Since our A54 is 24v,  I had to use a DC-DC up-converter to get 48v which is then fed into a Passive PoE Injector for my Alfa. The PoE injector is just a simple device that adds power to some of the wire pairs in the the ethernet cable - that is how the device gets power. Once I plugged in the powered ethernet cable into the masthead mounted Alfa, the tester light on our Amel for BOTH + and -  lit up and using a multimeter I saw voltage in our rigging. That is obviously not good.

A few questions:

1) Is the fact that the Alfa runs on 48v and the rest of the boat is at 24v the reason why the Amel tester lights up? If this is the case, I can buy another wifi extender that will run on 24v. That doesn't seem likely as the 24v device's antenna connector would still be energized, but I figured I'd ask.

2) The other option to run the Alfa is a 220vAC power brick run on inverter which then provides 48vDC to the Alfa. Very ineffiecient but in this case, the Amel tester light does NOT light up, probably because the power brick isolates the 48v being provided from the boat's 24v battery circuit? But I presume the rigging is still being energized with 48v? But without a way for the power to complete the circuit through the rigging and get back to the source of the 48vdc (power brick), is this not a problem with respect to corrosion?

I hope my question is explained well enough because my understanding of bonding is quite thin. Many boaters use these wifi extenders and no one has talked about this issue but then again, most of them don't deal with our floating ground bonding system.
 
 
--
Scott 
2007 A54 #69
SV Tengah
http://www.svtengah.com


 

Scott,

I hope you guys are safe and healthy.

Since I am a simple person who enjoys simple explanations, let me jump in with what I think will help you. 

The Amel Bonding Checking System on your Amel 54 looks for a connection between the Amel Bonding System and either a positive or a negative connection to the 24-volt battery bank.

Because the A-54, connects many additional things to the Bonding System than previous models, you have a greater chance of some sort of bridge (connection) between things physically mounted on the life rail, lifeline, masts, or anything connected to these things. Boats prior to the 54 did not have all of these additional Bonding System connections. And remember, it could be something the previous owner or his hired technician did. If the Amel Bonding System is compromised by a "wrong" installation somewhere on the boat, 100% of the bonding system is likewise somewhat compromised.

So, when you physically mount a device on the mast or any of the above-interconnected devices, if that device has an internal electrical circuit (+ or -) connected to the case, by mounting it, you have connected 24-volt battery bank voltage to the Amel Bonding System. To further confuse both of us, the Amel Bonding System is almost universally misunderstood by nearly 100% of people you may hire to work on your boat. Something wired or connected wrong by these good-intentioned folks can totally incapacitate the benefit that the Amel Bonding System brings to you.

On another related matter, it seems that nearly all engine repowers that I have recently inspected were done without 12-volt negative isolation. Of course, the C-Drive will likely suffer a long-term death when 12-volt isolation is ignored. I am guessing 4-6 years and poof!

Bill 
CW Bill Rouse Amel Owners Yacht School
Address: 720 Winnie, Galveston Island, Texas 77550 
View My Training Calendar


On Mon, Aug 17, 2020 at 2:07 PM Scott SV Tengah <Scott.nguyen@...> wrote:
Hi all,

This is really a question about bonding, which I'm very weak on. 

We have been using a Wirie Pro wifi extender on our A54 for over 2 years and while the Wirie didn't work that great, I separately used the Ubiquiti Bullet M2HP titanium which was part of the package and that worked great. It was mounted on a plastic Pelican case and therefore electrically isolated.

Recently, it died and I needed a replacement but the Bullet M2hp-Ti is no longer being made. I went for an Alfa Tube 2HP, which is generally quite similar.
https://store.rokland.com/products/alfa-tube-2hp-802-11n-long-distance-outdoor-wi-fi-poe-ap-cpe-ip68

The problem with all these devices is that the antenna port is typically connected internally to device power. So when you mount the device on a rail or on the masthead, it sends voltage to the exterior metal and hence the Amel bonding system. The old Bullet was mounted by Wirie Pro in a plastic Pelican case, but I am almost certain the Bullet's antenna port was connected to power also. The Alfa's design doesn't make it easy to mount on the same Pelican case.
 
Since our A54 is 24v,  I had to use a DC-DC up-converter to get 48v which is then fed into a Passive PoE Injector for my Alfa. The PoE injector is just a simple device that adds power to some of the wire pairs in the the ethernet cable - that is how the device gets power. Once I plugged in the powered ethernet cable into the masthead mounted Alfa, the tester light on our Amel for BOTH + and -  lit up and using a multimeter I saw voltage in our rigging. That is obviously not good.

A few questions:

1) Is the fact that the Alfa runs on 48v and the rest of the boat is at 24v the reason why the Amel tester lights up? If this is the case, I can buy another wifi extender that will run on 24v. That doesn't seem likely as the 24v device's antenna connector would still be energized, but I figured I'd ask.

2) The other option to run the Alfa is a 220vAC power brick run on inverter which then provides 48vDC to the Alfa. Very ineffiecient but in this case, the Amel tester light does NOT light up, probably because the power brick isolates the 48v being provided from the boat's 24v battery circuit? But I presume the rigging is still being energized with 48v? But without a way for the power to complete the circuit through the rigging and get back to the source of the 48vdc (power brick), is this not a problem with respect to corrosion?

I hope my question is explained well enough because my understanding of bonding is quite thin. Many boaters use these wifi extenders and no one has talked about this issue but then again, most of them don't deal with our floating ground bonding system.
 
 
--
Scott 
2007 A54 #69
SV Tengah
http://www.svtengah.com


Arno Luijten
 

Scott,

A few things about this. The base of the antenna may be connected to the negative of the power-supply of the WiFi extender. If that is the case, isolate it from the mast.
Second putting your WiFi extender in the top of the mast may seem a good idea but most of the time it’s not. Most WiFi antennas radiate in the horizontal plane as this is where the WiFi clients typically are. So the top of the mast is likely to be above the plane of best field-strength.

There are simple POE injectors for sale on Amazon. They run on several different input voltages and the proper ones are isolated (between input and output). If I remember correctly POE is always 48 volt. 

So putting a proper POE inbetween and lowering the antenna may just be the ticket for you.

Regards,

Arno Luijten
SV Luna,
A54-121


Scott SV Tengah
 

Thanks everyone for the comments. It seems the logical way to solve this is to isolate the antenna from anything connected to the bonding system. This is what I intend to do as the case is plastic and the originally intended mount point (the N-connector) is the part that is energized.

Bill is correct that the 54, starting in 2010 (per Olivier) started bonding the rigging also. 

I have tried two different Poe injectors. First is the 220vac - 48vdc one that came with my Alfa Tube 2HP. That is isolated between input and output but I surmise because the n connector of the Alfa is still connected to power, the mast still gets energized. Next I tried the simple passive POE injector using 48v that I got from the 24->48v upconverter. Arno - even if the input-output is isolated, I still think the mast would be energized because the Alfa's N connector is energized. If the output is isolated, it wouldn't show up on the Amel bonding system tester. So the only solution is to mount it using the plastic case and in my case, I'll use hose clamps. 

Finally, I've tested different heights and the masthead location gives me the best signal. We had it on the solar arch for over 2 years and apparently the panels themselves interfered with the signal by being well within the "fresnel zone".

https://www.proxim.com/en/products/knowledge-center/calculations/calculations-fresnel-clearance-zone#feet

With the Omni Antenna, yes, it does radiate 360degrees horizontally, but with my 8db antenna, there's around a  30degree vertical beam all around. Remembering my 30-60-90 triangles from 8th grade Geometry, that means the antenna's sweet spot will reach hotspots as long as they are further than twice the distance of the mast height (21x2=42meters). I don't anchor that close to the beach bar! :)


--
Scott 
2007 A54 #69
SV Tengah
http://www.svtengah.com


Gerhard Mueller
 

If you have a rod antenna it has horizontally 360 degrees but vertically a very small angle and never more than a few dregrees.
30 degrees are physically not possible.

So this kind of antenna should be installed at nearly the same high as the access point ashore.

However if you have a directional antenna you will have this characteristic as shown in the scheme.
But you have to turn it always to the direction of the access point.


I change the antenna depending of the situation temporary.

--
Gerhard Mueller
Amel Sharki #60
Currently Kalamata, Greece


Scott SV Tengah
 

Gerhard, I am talking about omnidirectional antennas, which I think you call "rod". They do look like a rod. Vertical Beamwidth depends on the dBi gain. If you have a 15dBi gain antenna, it will be around 6 degrees vertically, I think. But it will travel very far.

With a 5dBi antenna, you have 40 degrees vertical beam width. But it won't travel as far.

Vertical beam width vs. dBi

--
Scott 
2007 A54 #69
SV Tengah
http://www.svtengah.com


Arno Luijten
 

Scott,

my point was not the radiation pattern of your own antenna per se, the access point has a radiation pattern as well. It takes two to tango in this case as the communication is bi-directional, even if you are just downloading. 

What kind of connection is there between the antenna and the rest of the system? Myself I’m using a device called “Badboy” and that has the whole WiFi system build into the base of the antenna. There is only Ethernet cable coming from it connected to a POE adapter and subsequently to a Draytek 4G router. This chooses which connection to use (4G/Badboy) depending on available bandwidth.

The Badboy is isolated from everything apart from the POE injector and the Router.

Cheers,

Arno


Robert Giroux
 

Unfortunately, from Bitstorm website:

 

“As of March 2020, Bitstorm made the decision to cease production of its high power Wi-Fi systems. A number of factors caused this decision and included supply chain issues, manufacturing and staffing as a direct result of the Covid-19 virus. Sales of remaining inventory will continue for as long as available. Customers will continue to receive support for any issues on a best effort basis.”

 

There are however many companies “marketing” this type of WiFi bridge device. They all probably start out in one or two Chinese factories and receive a few differentiating components and/or specs, then branding and packaging. Ubiquity even has a titanium bodied one!

 

 

Regards,

Robert Giroux

 

From: main@AmelYachtOwners.groups.io <main@AmelYachtOwners.groups.io> On Behalf Of Arno Luijten
Sent: Tuesday, August 18, 2020 7:43 AM
To: main@AmelYachtOwners.groups.io
Subject: Re: [AmelYachtOwners] Wifi extenders and the bonding system

 

Scott,

my point was not the radiation pattern of your own antenna per se, the access point has a radiation pattern as well. It takes two to tango in this case as the communication is bi-directional, even if you are just downloading. 

What kind of connection is there between the antenna and the rest of the system? Myself I’m using a device called “Badboy” and that has the whole WiFi system build into the base of the antenna. There is only Ethernet cable coming from it connected to a POE adapter and subsequently to a Draytek 4G router. This chooses which connection to use (4G/Badboy) depending on available bandwidth.

The Badboy is isolated from everything apart from the POE injector and the Router.

Cheers,

Arno


Scott SV Tengah
 

Arno,

I am not worried about the distant access point's radiation pattern. In almost all cases, it's a simple router like the one you use at home with a low gain antenna. If you look at the link on the previous pic, their radiation pattern is likely similar to a 360deg globe of a 2dbi antenna. 

The simple fact is that I ran a test in a few locations with the new device located on the solar arch, 1/3 the way up the mast on a halyard, 2/3 of the way and then at the masthead. Using speedtest.net and packetlosstest.net I almost always got better throughput and faster and more stable response times (ping and jitter) from the masthead location. Now if you're rolling 20 degrees side to side at a rolly anchorage, then my 25-30 degree vertical beam may miss the hotspot while rolling, but I probably wouldn't be surfing the net if I'm rolling that much. :) If you're at a marina and the access point is less than 40 meters away, the same problem may exist, but at that range, I'll just connect my computer directly to the access point vs. through the outdoor antenna.

Your Badboy is based on a Ubiquiti Bullet M2HP-Ti. Badboy packages it, calls it marine and charges you a multiple of the actual price. I know this because I had a Wirie Pro which did the same thing with the same Ubiquiti device and charged me even more. BTW the "Ti" stands for titanium but it's really aluminum. And it never worked right as they set it up incorrectly and the external wifi antenna would interfere with the hotspot their LTE router created inside the boat. I tested this by sitting right next to a very close access point with the antenna in the same location (and height) as my computer. Directly connecting with my computer resulted in 5x faster speeds. And the signal to noise ratio was much better on my computer. 

I ended up going from knowing almost nothing about wifi to learning a lot. I ended up setting up taking the Wirie Pro apart and just using the Ubiquiti M2HP-Ti with the stock Ubiquiti AirOS firmware and pairing it to a Mikrotik WaP AC router operating on 5ghz. The latter made all the difference but it took me a year and the help of a VP of Engineering from a well known Silicon Valley company to set it up! Mikrotik's RouterOS is not for non-network pros, I've learned!

Sadly, the Ubiquiti died after 2 years and now I'm looking for the replacement since they're no longer sold. My Ubiquiti and the subsequent Alfa are all connected the same way from the external device, which as you note, has the WAN (wide area network) part of the wifi system to my Mikrotik "inside wifi" system via a Cat7 shielded ethernet cable that delivers both power and data. The Ubiquiti Bullet, Alfa Tube and Mikrotik Groove/Metal 52AC are all connected this way.

The Wirie Pro was put in a Pelican case which was mounted on the arch, so isolated in that manner. I didn't get a chance to test whether the Bullet was case grounded, but now I think about it, the Bullet did show a lot of corrosion on it. Perhaps you can stick a multimeter between an in-operation Badboy/Bullet case and battery pos and battery neg. I'm curious whether you'll see 24+ volts. 


--
Scott 
2007 A54 #69
SV Tengah
http://www.svtengah.com


Arno Luijten
 

Scott,

There are still Badboys for sale here at Island Waterworld. I can’t test the thing at the moment as the boat is away for the hurricane season.

I did do the same tests as you for connectivity and found the connection quality much better at lower levels and away from the mast. Most marinas I’ve been either have a domestic router working so bad (congestion) it makes no sense to use them anyway or they use several directional antennas pointed at the different pontoons. The latter assumes connection at lower levels.
From experience I prefer using a 3/4G SIM & router to save myself the annoyance of Acces point congestion you get in most “free” WiFi spots.

Cheers,

Arno


Gerhard Mueller
 

Are you using the 2.4 GHz or the 5 GHz Ubiqiti? I don't know a dual band Ubiquiti.
I'm using the 2.4 GHz Ubiquiti for over 10 years now in its plastic case without any problems but in European marinas.
Some knowledge about networking is useful anyway, e.g. if you have another router in your network there must be only one DHCP.
--
Gerhard Mueller
Amel Sharki #60
Currently Kalamata, Greece


Mark Garver
 

I will second what Arno says about Marina wi-fi, I have an extender on the backstay, didn’t help with internet performance. Sure it gave me better wi-fi signal, but internet still sucked. After speaking with a few others at the marina, I went with the following solution which works great. You have to supply your own 4G SIM Card and data plan, but this thing rocks and for the price it is a great option.


Mark
SV-Its Good
SM #105
Gloucester Point, VA

On Aug 18, 2020, at 5:20 PM, Arno Luijten <arno.luijten@...> wrote:

Scott,

There are still Badboys for sale here at Island Waterworld. I can’t test the thing at the moment as the boat is away for the hurricane season.

I did do the same tests as you for connectivity and found the connection quality much better at lower levels and away from the mast. Most marinas I’ve been either have a domestic router working so bad (congestion) it makes no sense to use them anyway or they use several directional antennas pointed at the different pontoons. The latter assumes connection at lower levels.
From experience I prefer using a 3/4G SIM & router to save myself the annoyance of Acces point congestion you get in most “free” WiFi spots.

Cheers,

Arno


Scott SV Tengah
 

I think it really depends on your use case. We are rarely in marinas and in some of the places we've been, mobile data is quite expensive and generally not truly unlimited. In Hawaii, anchored nearly 1/2 mile offshore, we could easily get wifi from shore as long as our antenna was mounted high. During our 14 day covid quarantine time, we were pretty happy for that.

In any event, I was using a 2.4ghz Bullet model and then a 2.4ghz Alfa model. 2.4ghz generally travels further but is more prone to interference, as some have noted. For longer distance connections, it's usually the way to go.

Mikrotik has a wifi extender product that does both 2.4ghz and 5ghz and can do it with one antenna (Groove 52 AC), but I would not recommend Mikrotik's products unless you have access to a very capable network engineer or you understand how to create interfaces in their configuration software for the wifi wan portion, the local lan portion, create virtual interfaces for each of the aforementioned wan/lan physical interfaces and then create a bridge that connects them. Oh and you have to setup DHCP servers and Clients manually. I had my VP engineering friend do it and I still probably couldn't repeat it. When I first got my Mikrotik Wap AC (internal wifi router), I couldn't even figure out how to connect to the device to set it up! But once setup, it's extremely powerful and reliable. Better than any router I have ever used.

As a side note, I asked on Mikrotik's technical forums regarding case grounding. I was told that the Mikrotik Groove/metal, Ubiquiti Bullet and Alfa ALL have the antenna connector connected to DC- via the circuit board. That means the only way to prevent introducing DC- to your rigging is to either put the whole wifi extender device into a non-conductive housing and mount that or get the plastic version of those devices and mount it via the plastic case. Any other way and you violate Amel's floating ground bonding. And if you don't have a later model a54 or newer, your Amel Mass+/- tester light won't show this leak since prior to later A54s, the rigging wasn't connected to the bonding system and hence the Amel tester light.
--
Scott 
2007 A54 #69
SV Tengah
http://www.svtengah.com


Arno Luijten
 

On Wed, Aug 19, 2020 at 05:13 PM, Scott SV Tengah wrote:
Mikrotik has a wifi extender
Hi Scott,

You made me curious about this Microtik product. Having worked with Cisco's Router OS, I'm not so easily scared off by this stuff, but this must be the worst documented piece of hardware ever! It's like having to read the whole phone book for one phone number. So kudos for you that you found a way to get it working. In contrast the Bitstorm Badboy is idiot proof. A build in webserver takes care of your config. It also does NOT support more then one client unless you buy the other toy from them (Called Unleashed), but as I have a proper router with potentially 4 WAN interfaces I don't care. It does require a bit of setup on the router play nicely with the LTE interface but that is fairly easy if you are into that stuff.
It is a bit of a shame they stopped selling it, even with the inflated pricetag. They do not mention isolating the body but with their standard mounting hardware it will be isolated because of it. They do provide you with a SWR analysis of the supplied antenna.

What surprised me, given your results is that the claimed receiver sensitivity of the Mikrotik is -93dB whereas the Badboy claims -96dB (a factor of 2). Transmitting 27dB vs. 36dB.
From my experience the Badboy does connect quite OK most of the time but congestion makes the connection very often almost useless. In Curacao I had a relatively quiet network and could use Netflix without issues. That is something like 2-4 Mb/s if I recall correctly.
I agree that the 5 MHz is mostly useless also because most public WiFi uses 2.4 only

Regards,

Arno


Scott SV Tengah
 

Arno, 

I got it to work only with the help of my friend. I literally couldn't connect to the Mikrotik Wap AC to even try to set it up for a year! Having a Mac doesn't help. I believe your Badboy is the same as my old Wirie Pro - a Bullet with a custom firmware, which you access through a webpage. Same with the Mikrotik, but it's just far more complicated. 

To be clear, I've never used a Mikrotik for the WAN portion of my network. In other words, it was always for the internal wifi network. For that it's been great. My internal network is fast enough that I have one hard drive shared between multiple computers over wifi and data transfer is almost as fast as connecting the hard drive by cable directly.  

For connecting to remote access points (cafe/restaurant/marina/etc), I first used the Bullet/Wirie, which is exactly what you have. Then I used the Alfa Tube, which had a much lower noise floor. For whatever reason, I had a big problem with noise floor on the Bullet. As you probably know, it's not just signal strength, but it's signal strength relative to the noise floor, which determines how fast/responsive your internet will be.

Moreover, the results you receive are dependent on another multitude of factors, so just isolating receiver sensitivity and transmission power to compare different setups, if all else is not equal, is not very useful. If the airwaves are congested where you are, the strongest received signal, defined by signal-to-noise ratio, won't help you too much. The nature of 2.4ghz transmissions is that many of the channels OVERLAP and some routers double their radio bandwidth to 40mhz in an effort to increase throughput, but that results in a higher likelihood of overlapping. So if you have someone else on an overlapping channel, you will have slowdowns. Further, the remote access point's connection to the internet is another factor. You can have the strongest, best receiver in the world but if your marina/cafe's access point has a dial up connection, the best speed you will ever get is dial up.

Finally, be careful cranking up transmission power. First off, it only helps with uploading. Secondly, Badboy's claimed 36db must include the gain from the antenna. Otherwise, they're violating max power limits from the FCC and I believe they're based in the US. Thirdly, my networking engineer friend explained to me that many wifi routers are smart. If your boat is sending a very powerful signal out, the receiving router interprets that as you being something like a smartphone that is very close to that router. To save power for both the router and the "smartphone client", the router will then lower its own output power. Through experimenting, I find that if I encounter one of those smart routers, turning DOWN my transmission power will increase my internet speed. Finally, high transmission power will increase the likelihood for interference for other users - bad karma and also another reason why smart routers, in an attempt to be good citizens, will decrease their output power in response to a high power received signal.

This wifi stuff is almost as complicated as maintaining a boat! Almost.

--
Scott 
2007 A54 #69
SV Tengah
http://www.svtengah.com