RAK is one of the most famous LoRaWan gateway manufacturer in the hacker space as they have made HAT for raspberry Pi since a while.
I’m not a big fan of RPI based gateways as I do not want to manage RaspiOS and Rpi hardware and really prefer to have an all in one product well integrated when deploying Gateways. So the Wisgate solution is a better choice in my point of view and it has taken time before I decided to buy one of them.
I’ve bought this one for my next project of LoRaWan solar gateway as I want this one to be fully autonomous, including a 4G connectivity. I have multiple candidate gateways for this like the Kerlink iFemToCell evolution and this Wisgate Edge. The Wisgate price is lower at $249 compared to 325€ for the Kerlink. For this reason, and the fact I already tested the iFemToCell some years ago, my first choice has been on the RAK gateway.
So let’s review this Rak Wisgate gateway !
The RAK Wisgate Egde is a “low cost” LoRaWan indoor gateway with some interesting and good features for an industrial deployment.
- It supports active PoE (802.3af)
- It has multiple connectivity solutions (Ethernet, WiFi, 4G)
- It includes a LoRaWan server
The system is based on an OpenWRT system running on a Mediatek MT7628, a router oriented MCU MIPS24 @ >575MHz with 128MB DDR2 Ram. Not something strong but good enough for such system.
This part of the solution supports the WiFi connectivity at 2.4GHz with two different antennas. The WiFi antennas are PCB based but connected with UFL connectors. I case you need, it is easy to hack it and replace these antennas by external better one.
The 4G engine is a Quectel EG95, this one is directly soldered on the PCB so even if the 4G connectivity is an option, there are different boards for the two versions and it is not an option. So you won’t be able to upgrade a Wisgate Edge by adding later the 4G connectivity. It would have been great to make this possible but it is not. This Quectel supports LTE Cat 4, FDD, WCDMA, GSM/Edge.
On this picture you also see the LoRaWan concentrator, this one can be removed. This is the same as you can find on the different RAK products so it is well know and high quality. On the right of the picture you also see the 4G antenna. It is also connected with an UFL connector so you can imagine to use an external better antenna in case it is needed with a simple SMA adapter and a hole in the plastic box.
Powering can be done with the 12V adapter provided or PoE. For my solar project the 12 volts input is a good thing, I’ll see what is the real power consumption when WiFi is Off and LTE is On. The documentation says 12W but this is the maximum power adapter capacity so I assume the real consumption is lower. My expectation is to have an average of 4-5W for getting a correct solar power at a correct cost… let see that later.
Power Up and configuration
The gateway is connected to PoE or 12V to boot-up. After a quick boot period it is possible to join the gateway using the WiFi Access Point mode or using the Ethernet network when connected. The gateway uses DHCP to register an IP or it setups 192.168.230.1.
You could experience a connection issue related to the self-signed outdated certificate coming with the gateway. In my case the certificate was ending 6 month ago. So certain browsers like Chrome will refuse any connection. You can give a try with Mozilla, more permissive. As the certificate is auto-signed you will always have a warning on accessing the configuration panel.
The setup is really easy, I’ll not detail it here, as an example, to join TheThingsNetwork, I just had to switch the gateway in Packet forwarding mode and declare it in TTN console, the default setting was already the right one.
The update of the gateway has been a bit more complex, at first because finding the firmware was not so easy (no link in the documentation), you can get the associated documents following this link. After upgrading the firmware I also had an error when trying to access the web console. I finally restart the gateway and the problem has disappeared. So apparently, there is a missing reboot after upgrading.
This new firmware has solved the certificate expiration.
Multiple use mode and integrations
Integrated LoRa Server
The Wisgate comes with an integrated LoRa Server, so you can use it to manage the devices Join procedures and downlinks. In a such mode, you don’t need any other external system to start playing with LoRaWan. Your devices data will be received by the gateway itself and they will be stored locally or pushed to a backend local server.
The integration with a backend local server is made over MQTT protocol. This is really good for a such device at this low cost. More over, in the last firmware version, there is no more limitations in terms of number of devices.
It makes it a really good and low cost solution for starting IoT deployment in a PoC mode in industries.
Packet forwarding mode
The gateway also have the classical packet forwarding mode. It supports multiple protocols:
- Semtech UDP packet forwarder
- Basic Station (modern alternative to Packet Forwarder)
- MQTT packet Forwarder
It is rare to have a such list of integration capabilities and it’s really good to see ; once more for this price level.
Some really cool features on top of this
Little things making the difference, this gateway has some cool features good to be noticed:
- The ability to store message for later transmission in case of backend server connectivity loss.
- The ability to filter messages to forward by OUI or Network ID list (this option is a bit difficult to click for enabling but it works when clicking on the top side of the buttons) . This is really cool when you are using 4G connectivity and do not want to pay for forwarding packet coming from different networks than yours.
- Dynamic DNS integration helps you to reach your gateway even if the IP can change al along the time (classical situation in 4G)
- VPN integration, by creating a VPN (OpenVPN base) between your gateway and a remote server you can administrate your gateway securely. And it also works if your mobile operator uses private IP inside its mobile network.
- Fake GPS, to report a GPS position over the Packet Forwarded protocol, even if there is no GPS inside the gateway.
LoRaWan stats dashboard
The main dashboard contains really interesting stats I did not seen on many gateways.
Number of active node is a good indicator about the network ability to grow as the Duty Cycle clearly show where the communications are and some potential channel saturation. RSSI & SNR is a bit more complex to use until you filter the devices to get only your communication.
Missing little things
There are some missing features and some are a bit critical in my point of view:
- You can’t set the maximum transmission power or the antenna gain. This is important to comply with regulation if you change the antenna. It can also be important if you want to restrict your transmission area in an industrial environment.
- You can’t change your RSSI level, this is more a hack you need sometime to use but it’s nice to have it accessible.
All of these setting can be made using the SSH access and taking a look to the /etc/config/lora_pkt_fwd file so, if the antenna gain would be good to have in the web UI, there is a way to setup all of this when needed.
The antenna gain parameter is:
config sx1301 'sx1301_0' ... option antenna_gain '4'
For the rssi offset I found nothing in the documentation but tried:
config sx1301 'sx1301_0' ... option radio_0_rssi_offset '-145' ... option radio_1_rssi_offset '-145'
and apparently it works 😉
The gateway has a strange feature I’ve never seen before in a such low cost gateway: an external storage for logs and data. I’m not exactly sure of all what you can do with it but at least you find logs. It seams also that it stores the device data when you use the LoRa Server.
It comes with a 16GB memory card. nice !
Let’s configure it for 4G
Enable 4G communications
Nothing more simple: just enable it in the dashboard after setting the APN and user / password. Eventually the PinCode if your sim have one.
Here is a little issue, in my point of view, with this gateway: the nano sim and the flash card are accessible to anyone. It is easy to use but also easy to get. In an industrial deployment there is a risk of theft by employees. So a mechanical protection could be commanded as an add-on.
As previously mentioned, a really cool feature is the ability to filter the LoRaWAN traffic to reduce the communication between the gateway and the remote Network Server.
There are two ways to setup a such filter on the gateway:
- OUI List
- Network ID List
OUI list works on the DevEUI identifiers when you have you own OUI. This OUI is usually the first 3 bytes of the DevEUI. If you have an OUI for your devices corresponding to 01:23:45:xx:xx:xx:xx:xx you can setup a filter with 012345 value.
Network ID List correspond to the devID assigned by the network. Each of the networks have its own devIDs. For TTN, 0x26 and 0x27 are in use.We can add these values in the Network ID List.
Currently I do not have all the details on how to activate this feature, so I’ll update this blog post as soon as I’ll get answers from RAK support.
Network traffic (with a really low number of communications) is about 150KB per hour ( 100K upload, 50K download). This is about 110MB / month.
As previously introduced, I want to use this gateway in a solar powered solution and for this reason the power consumption of the system is a key point. On this point, I’m really happy by what I’ve seen and measured.
I powered the system using the 12V adapter on which I connected a current measuring PeakTech 2025 with 10Hz USB capture.
The booting phase is about 120mA @ 12V (1.4W), Once the 4G is connected and LoRaGateway up & running we have a 290mA/h @12V (3,5W). I assume we can have some peak when the LoRaWan gateway is also transmitting.
As a reminder, I’ve disabled the WiFi part.
I assume the power consumption also depends on the 4G-LTE coverage around and the associated transmission power required. (Putting a hand on the 4G antenna impacts the power consumption by 40mA as an example).
Peaks are around 500mA.
To complete this post, here is the unboxing / first steps video related to this product. The video is in french.