On Sunday, September 18, 2022, members and directors of Central Michigan Emergency Network visited the first site in a project that has been in the works for over a year and a half and will continue for the next 18 months. That project is to replace all 3.4ghz Point-to-Point links in our network with 10/11ghz equipment. Add additional Point to Point links between sites. Bring newly secured sites online and existing sites into our network. We are also bringing online new 2ghz and 5.9ghz Part97 Point to Multipoint Access Points to over 70% of our sites. And to help those clubs and organizations in our newly covered areas get connected we have identified 18 clubs that will get “Go-Kit” style client radios for them to use as they see fit. This will help those groups get connected to the network allowing them to experiment or provide services to the served agencies that they work with. And all of this is being made possible by a grant that has been issued from Amateur Radio Digital Communications (ARDC) this past June.
Just after the start of 2021, we started working out ideas for replacing our lost 3ghz privileges. We have several links using those privileges for our networks. We identified which links needed to be replaced and options for replacing them. We also had the thoughts of what if we could build the network out more. East to West coast and from the southern state line to the tip of the mitten. It would be one heck of an undertaking and not just from a financial standpoint. ARDC had just started offering grants so we set out to work on submitting one. We spent most of 2021 working with the different groups and sites that would be needed to accomplish this goal. Countless hours of path studies, working with what space was available to be used. People that could help climb and install. We then made contact with ARDC in December of 2021 and had meetings with them on our ideas and they answered our questions on what they were looking for from grant proposals. And we set off writing our first proposal and submitting it before their first quarter deadline. Now let me tell you it was countless hours just getting to that point. To have written a large multi-page grant proposal along with the supporting documentation and budgets was multiple weekends for our group of directors. On top of the months spent just getting to that point. We made the deadline but our first proposal was ultimately rejected a few months later. The feedback we got back was mainly that we shot for the moon but some felt we were unable to meet it in the time allocated. ARDC likes projects to be completed in a year or just thereafter. They are very good to work with on these things. The overlying theme was to split the project into phases and that’s what we buckled down and did.
As a few months had passed and with the May 1st deadline approaching for re-submission we pushed hard with our vendors to re-quote everything for the budget and a project halved. We focused on the backbone and PtMP access points to help bring the availability and use of the network to more groups and clubs around the state. We re-wrote everything and had it submitted before the deadline and waited. And on a Thursday evening in June, we get the email. Congratulations you have been approved. The feeling of accomplishment, joy, and then well crap the easy part was done. Now we have to do it all.
So here is the general outlook of the project that we are deploying.
It is going to be a lot of work. Lots of work. But when completed over 600 miles of PtP microwave linking will be active, sites from side to side and top to bottom of the lower peninsula. Sites of many different types and flavors: Repeater sites, EOC sites ( Including the SEOC/NWS ), and even personal QTHs. All interconnected with unique and native AMPR 44Net IP Space.
Want to help out? Great, we can use it. A network of this size can’t be done by just one or 30 people for that matter, it takes a village of people from all over our great state working together for the common good of connecting groups from all over the state to one another. Send an email to email@example.com or follow our social media channels. We will be posting when we are having work parties at some of the sites. If your area is not on the map shown above don’t worry that is just what the grant is focusing on. But as this is stirring interest in others wanting to connect we will work with any group in Michigan that wants to bring the network online in their area. Or help link their sites together to accomplish a goal/project. We had to pick and define areas for the grant and while we wish we could do it all we have to do things in phases and this is just the beginning. Also, keep watching here as we post more site updates as we complete the project checking sites off our list to be completed.
While this post is titled one site down, the work even to be able to start that first site has been one heck of a task after being awarded the grant. Even receiving the funds. Working with our bank on spending the funds with the vendors. Setting up the facilities to receive the equipment. One could write a novel on all the hoops and issues one runs into when trying to purchase tons of equipment. And we do mean tons. From one vendor alone we have received just over 12 pallets and 4tons of equipment shipped. All that equipment has already been received, inventoried, and shelved ready to be configured for delivery to each site and project. And we still have more vendor orders to place for sites.
Here are some photos from our last Fedex LTL delivery of 2.5tons of gear that came in just last week.
So why not finish this post how it was titled and with the first report of the work done at the Bancroft site this past Sunday, Tom N8IES, Jeff KB8SWR, Randy N8VDS, Max KE8DON, Fred W8FSM, and Michelle KC8UMO were on site arriving just after 1100. Jeff started climbing before noon and not coming down till almost 1900 mind you. We removed the 3.4Ghz radios and installed two new 10Ghz links. A new 2.397Ghz PtMP AP and PTZ Camera as well. Work was also done at the base installing a new switch and jumper configuration to support some of the new changes. The lights were turned out and everybody was clear of the site at 2000. Was a warm one for sure and we were all tired.