I’ve been talking about this ultra low cost LoRaWan gateway in last October and ordered one. The time to get it has been long as it has been arrived in February this year. This sounds due to an early ordering as the product is now available, even on Amazon for a price under 180€.
This price is not so low if you compare to a Laird Sentrius but we are not talking the same product ! Here we have an outdoor gateway with PoE powering. That’s really interesting. The only missing thing is a LTE communication.
This gateway exists in two different version LoRa8 for 868Mhz zones and LoRa9 for 902 MHz zone.
Let’s see it in detail and find how to configure it for joining TTN.
LoRa8 Gateway features
MikroTik is a new comer in the world of LoRaWan but an old actor of network product. Even if the price is really low, the device have a lot of features. in fact, instead of seeing that product as a LoRaWan gateway, you may see it as a network router with a LoRa card on it.
You will soon understand my point when seeing the complex configuration panel.
In term of interface, the LoRa8 is proposing:
- An Ethernet interface with PoE powering capability
- A WiFi interface
When taking a look to the device you can see a sim card holder and we could expect this gateway to support LTE communications. This is not the case but I assume the router board is generic and the LoRa8 concentrator board on the PCIe is taking the place of the LTE board on other model like we can see on this picture on the right.
LoRa8 Gateway inside
Accessing the internal board is as easy as removing one screw and you will be able to extract the board.
Inside the gateway you have the main board holding the LoRaWan concentrator on the PCIe slot. On the right top corner you can see the WiFi antennas. On the right side you have the 868MHz antenna for LoRa.
When you receives the gateway, the internal LoRa antenna is not connected to to LoRa module. The external antenna is. The internal antenna is not recommended for good outdoor coverage. The guide say 1km max. This is why the external one is connected. depending of your usage, the internal one can do the job: like for indoor warehouse coverage.
Different connectors are available with a large set of way to power it. We have an Ethernet connector with PoE (the injector is provided in the package). A power (square) connector (the cable is also provided) and the standard power connector (round).
You have a SIM connector that provide no feature with this solution and the reset button.
In the middle you have the external 868 antenna connector. This one is connected by default on the LoRa board. As you can see on the right. To change this setting you need to deconnect the UFL connector and connect the other one.
This step is easy but be careful, this type of connector is fragile.
The internal antenna is a PCB antenna like you can see on the picture above.
When powering the gateway up it exposes an open WiFi named MikroTik. You can configure the gateway through this interface. I was not able to reach it through the Ethernet connection.
So it seems you need to install an application to configure it. I did it from my smartphone. But I assume you can also directly access it from a browser once connected to the WiFi access-point.
By default the MikroTik WiFi network is open and accessible. So you can connect to it. The Gateway seems to use IP 192.168.88.1 as a standard choice. The default login is admin with no password.
You can change these setting by using the MikroTik application . You have different version for different environment but I’m not sure there was a MAC version so this may be the reason why I did it with my Smartphone. Once the application has been installed you need to connect to the WiFi access point and run the app. That way you can search for the gateway and configure it. Here are the different step of configuration.
Basically this is only configuring the access to the Gateway configuration portal and you should not leave the default values but configure the right one.
Once the device is configured you can connect to it. The first good idea is to update it. As my gateway was connected to Internet with the Ethernet cable the gateway will manage the firmware download and installation on its own.
It’s funny to see the Kid Control option for a LoRaWan gateway ! This is illustrating the software running the gateway has been made for different purpose than LoRaWan connectivity.
Basically you can use it for different feature than LoRaWan… why not having at work an access point also offering a LoRaWan coverage for your company ?
On the right, top corner you may see a gear (not visible on this screen-shot) this gear allows to access all the advanced setting of the gateway. They are so many so I do not think it is the right way to configure it.
Basically for getting started you have to read some MikroTik documentation as the solution is offering so many option you do not need that you may be quickly get lost.
Let’s try to make it simple. At first we stop using the smartphone application and connect to the gateway with a laptop using the WiFi interface. Then in a browser we can open http://192.168.88.1
As you can see there are many menu and options on every menu …
Secure the admin (WiFi) interface
The first important things if you did not make them previously is to secure to WiFi interface and the admin interface. From the QuickSet panel you can easily add a WiFi Password (click on the arrow) and add a system password on the bottom right side of the page. Then you can click on apply.
Now you can reconnect to the gateway in a secured way.
Activate LoRaWan / TheThingsNetwork
The configuration is easy, you need at first to go to LoRa panel from the configuration interface. Then select the SERVER tab and add the public TTN server.
The server name is router.eu.thethings.network
The we can go to the DEVICES tab and setup the LoRa interface
Here we need to make different things. First we need to select the Network Servers we have created on the previous step “ttn”. Then, we need to copy the Gateway ID for the TTN registration coming in the next step. To conclude this configuration we need to click on Enable checkbox to activate the interface.
Once all of this has been done, the interface is running
Register the gateway on TheThingsNetwork console
The last step is to register the gateway on TTN console. Go to the console / gateway. Register a new gateway like this:
In the gateway ID field you type the value previously copied during LoRa configuration. You check the Legacy packet forwarder case. and you select the description you want and the Europe Frequency plan.
Once done and validated your gateway is up and running and you should start seeing traffic from it.
Issues in production
I’ve experience some little trouble in production with that gateway:
- By default the frames with CRC error are reported (this is not an issue but it seems better to disable this feature)
- I’ve seen sometime the LoRa concentrator being in error. I don’t know why, logs where empty but restart has been needed. It happens during phases I was changing the setup on regular basis and playing with the rssi-offset directly from the console, it can be linked but not immediately. So, if you play… you know.
- The most problematic things has been when requesting the gateway to transmit a >41 bytes message is SF12BW125. This message was seen over the air but 100% impossible to decode on the receivers side (verified with multiple receivers)
Advanced setup for LoRa8
Here, I want to configure the LoRa8 gateway to be a WiFi client and not an access point. That way, the LoRaWan message will be able to pass through WiFi and later I want to power the Gateway from a solar panel to make the gateway an autonomous system easy to install on a roof top.
Access to WebFig through LAN
The WebFig configuration is only accessible from the WAN interface by default. As a consequence, when changing the configuration, if WiFi is loss or changed the configuration console will no be accessible anymore. I want to be able to make the configuration over an Ethernet cable as a backup.
The access to WebFig is blocked by a Firewall rule blocking all the LAN direct communication. This rules can be disabled that way:
Once disabled, the WebFig will be immediately accessible from the LAN.
Configure WiFi as station
Now, I want to setup the gateway as a WiFi station to an existing Wlan network. This operation is not really easy as we need to make different settings to reach that goal.
First, we need to create a new security profile as this element contains the credential of the WiFi network. Go to Wireless, then Security Profiles tab.
The WPA2 Pre-Shared Key field contains the WiFi you want to join credential.
Now, we can change the wlan1 interface settings.
At first, and for the safety, you can click on “Safe Mode” button on the left side bar. This mode will rollback the configuration at the point you activated this mode in case for disconnection. really cool !
Then you need to go to Wireless menu, then WiFi Interface tab and click on the wlan1 interface.
The interface mode is set to station and the Security Profile is set to the newly created profile.
Once done, you can type the SSID you want to join or you can search it. Click on Scan Button then, Start the scan process. The list of SSID around will be displayed. Select the one you want to join.
Now you see the details for this network and you can click on connect to make the wlan1 settings adapted to this network. Basically the SSID field will be updated with this new value.
If you check this now, you will be connected to the WiFi but the IP will be incorrect: you need to setup the router as a DHCP client to get an IP on connection.
So, at first we need to disable the DHCP server on Wlan1. Go to IP / DHCP Server. Then by clicking on “D” icon (here E) you will disable the DHCP Server. The “D” will become “E” for being Enabled.
Now we can add a DHCP client on the wlan1 interface going on IP / DHCP Client and clicking on Add New:
Select the Interface wlan1 and click on OK.
You can also disable the NAT configuration by clicking on “D” icon found on Firewall / NAT tab.
Now the gateway is accessible from the WLAN you selected. In case your Ethernet and Wlan are on the same IP network. It’s better to deconnect Ethernet and reboot the gateway to get the proper setting