My last blog post was about my LoRaWan project, and I promised to post updates on this site. So, here I am, with a new update. I live in Žilina, a small (fourth largest) city in Slovakia that does not have any LoRaWan gateways (except one, we will get to that later). So naturally, I decided to buy one. I decided to go with the Mikrotik solution as I already knew RouterOS well and why not. I started looking for a Mikrotik wAP LR8 kit but unfortunately, it was out of stock everywhere. I looked more and figured out that the LoRa kit is just two parts (with some additional stuff we won’t care about now) packed together - Mikrotik R11e-LoRa8 - the mPCIe LoRa card and standard Mikrotik RBwAPR-2nD outdoors AP. Heck, even the kit’s product code was just the product codes of the router and mPCIe card combined with & - RBwAPR-2nD&R11e-LR8. So, I decided to buy them separately.

Well here comes the fun (not fun for my wallet) part - If you read my last post, you would’ve known that I want to create a smart-city solution using LoRaWan for my school finals. So, I looked up where is the nearest LoRaWan gateway and it was in a city park! Yay! Time for testing the sensors. Well not really. I don’t live directly in Žilina, I live close to it in a small suburb and the city park is literally in the opposite direction where I live so I did not have time to check it. The only time I tried it was when I went evening shopping, and I couldn’t get any data. I even double-checked with my Airspy Mini SDR that I was transmitting on the right frequency, and I was. So, the next day before sunset I decided to investigate. I packed everything and went to the GPS coordinates of the station. I came and what a surprise - there was nothing! I was standing in the middle of a forest like a weirdo with a backpack full of tech for nothing. At that point, I decided to just fuck it and buy the station instead. (I’m not saying that the gateway is not there, maybe its just indoors, who knows)

Why in the middle of a lake?

Since I was unable to test if it was my software or if the gateway is not working I had only one option - buy the damn station. But since I live in a close suburb and the station is supposed to be mounted somewhere in a city - I need to debug it somehow. So, I decided I will run the station temporarily at home and since I do not want to leak where I live exactly - I decided to set location to a middle of a lake. Of course - when I’ll find a good location for it I will move it there and update the station’s location on TTN.

Sooo… what next…?

Now it’s just debugging, debugging and once again debugging. After everything works, I will start relocating the station to a better (hopefully permanent) location.

What shuld I be carefull about if I’ll choose to go with buy-stuff-separatly method?

In first paragraph I’ve said "(with some additional stuff we won’t care about now)". But what stuff? Well for starters you’re not getting the antenna with the card. Mikrotik kit has build-in LoRa antenna and it even has SMA adapter for exterial antenna - which you need buy separately. Needless to say - go with this route only if you know what you are doing.

And one more thing at the end

Yes, I know there are commercial LoRaWan networks, Orange has one here, but I want to make LoRaWan accessible to anyone, so I decided to go with an open-source solution. Also, the location might not be perfect but hey - for a few months it will do. I don’t want it to be permanently in a city center - just for the duration of the project. I have a much better place for it in mind, but for that, I need to get permission from the owner of the building and I’d need to build a solar panel setup with GSM modem. But if it works, the whole region will have access to LoRaWan. Who knows, maybe someday I’ll update the build and post it here…