PEARS WiFi Network


In 2007 the Port Elizabeth Amateur Radio Society embarked on a 5.8GHz WiFi network for use of all club members that reside within the urban areas of Port Elizabeth , Uitenhage, Despatch and Jeffreys Bay.  The scope is to provide the infrastructure for members to connect to a club computer network to provide file transfer and sharing facilities between members.  Experimentation using Voice over IP protocols to link to the club repeater network will also be possible, as will a Telnet connection to the club Packet Bulletin Board System, ZS0NTP on Lady’s Slipper.  File uploading and downloading from this BBS will then be possible at far higher speeds than is presently available via the conventional 1200bd VHF packet radio network.  (Conventional packet services will still be available for members not within the coverage areas proposed above). 

Technology used

The De Facto industry standard being employed by public domain providers is being utilized here.  This is in the form of Microtik embedded single board computers functioning as routers, with plug-in Mini PCI wireless cards for the air interface.  (see Due to the popularity of this equipment, prices are very reasonable.  These radio cards are dual band items that can operate in the 2.4GHz and 5.8GHz bands.  However, the 5.8GHz band has been chosen due to the loading already present on the 2.4GHz band.  

High site equipment comprises an RB532 routerboard with daughterboard to accommodate up to four radio cards.  On the main hub site ( Mount Road ) we employ the larger more powerful RB600 Routerboard with four on-board radio slots.  We have added its daughterboard to provide a total of 8 radio slots at this site. This will allow sectorised coverage at a later date, should usage dictate.  On the smaller rural sites, a single omni-directional antenna are used.  Site interconnection is provided by means of dedicated high gain parabolic dish antenna links.  The Internet connection ties into the main hub site by means of a dedicated point to point link to our sponsor ADSL line termination site.  At present, there are two "filler" sites located at members' QTH's, which act as local Access Points, but tie into the main network in the same way as a standard user does.. 

Connection speed from user to high site depends on the signal strength received at each end, the amount of on-channel interfering activity and the wireless standard used.  The backbone links are being designed to provide an expected 54Mbps thanks to high signal levels achieved through the use of 31dBi antennas.  The same speeds are possible to the end user. No bandwidth limitations will be applied on the network, providing no abuse takes place. 


Added facilities

The BBS PC at Lady’s Slipper is interconnected to the Ethernet port of the router board via a local LAN switch, thereby allowing access to this machine via the wireless network as well as the usual packet network.  All the presently fitted packet network ports are configured under AGWPE on this machine, and will thus be available to users over the wifi network.  So any wifi user can connect to the packet facilities without having any radio equipment available at home.  A packet gateway (iGate) for APRS has been installed on the BBS machine to gate all the South African APRS traffic to and from the other APRS servers, onto the local Packet APRS network.

Further facilities at the Mount Road site is the implementation of Voice over IP for Repeater access – in the form of an IRLP connection to the town repeater.  This allows international repeater access by licenced amateurs. 

A remote controlled HF rig interface program is installed at Lady’s Slipper, and interfaced to a Icom IC-718 HF rig using the CIV and audio interface.  This allows PEARS wifi members access to the HF bands from home, without actually owning an HF set.  This is ideal for townhouse complex dwellers, who are prohibited from erecting large HF antenna systems.  Audio interfacing to this HF Rig is via Skype - search for "zs0ntp_hf" as a Skype user, request to become a contact, and if accepted, you can make a call to ZS0NTP and couple to the HF rig audio.  Voice calls are automatically answered once users are verified.  A video feed is also available of the inside of the container, using a standard webcam.  This currently shows internal and external temperatures as displayed on an airconditioner control panel.

Some experimentation has been done with IP video cameras over the network.  Most notably would be one at Lady’s Slipper to allow a view from the mountaintop in various directions, under remote Pan-Tilt-Zoom control.  (Any donations?)

Internal email server

An internal email server program has been loaded at the QTH of ZS2AAW, which allows all WiFi users email address on the domain.  Internal emails between members do not go out via the internet, but rather get delivered internally via the WiFi network.  But these PEARS email addresses are accessible from the internet, and any number of such email addresses can  be created, so all PEARS WiFi members will have an email address such as <firstname>

 Always-on Internet connection

An always-on 7Mbps ADSL internet connection is included as an added incentive for new members to join the society, and subscribe to the wireless network facilities.  This internet connection is essential for the operation of the club's IRLP node located at the Mount Road repeater site and WiFi hub, as well as the APRS gateway which feeds the Lady's Slipper APRS Node.  In addition, there will not be any profits drawn from the operation of this network – all subscriptions would be calculated to merely cover running costs such as ADSL line rental, depreciation, maintenance etc.  Excess funds will be channeled back into the network in the form of expansion and upgrades.

The limiting factor is the bandwidth of the internet connection point, and to limit monthly rental costs, this will be chosen to suit the number of subscribers.  This internet bandwidth is shared amongst all the users at any instant.  But because internet browsing traffic is not continuous, a very pleasant browsing experience will be had.  It can be seen that this network will be many times faster than dial-up speeds, without the call duration costs inherent with a dial-up connection, and available 24 hours a day (always online), to all PEARS members within reach and who have subscribed.


Click on this thumbnail below for the "bigger picture":

Click HERE for the Network Layout

.pdf version

Services available

As presented at the South African Radio League "Radio Technology in Action" Seminar in Port Elizabeth in May 2008, the following systems are available for internal WiFi members to connect to


PEARS Coastal Repeater network audio RX audio from this network via Skype Search for "zs0ntp_pears" and request contact.  Email ZS2AAW and inform him, and he will remotely accept your contact request on Skype, whereafter you can connect and hear audio from this network.  There is no VOX facility, so you cannot go into TX mode.
HF Remote Control Radio 
Icom IC-718
Ham Radio Deluxe controlled HF set - giving the user total control of the Icom set up on Slipper, and transmitting the audio either via Skype or 438.800 MHz UHF Duplex from Lady's Slipper

Set up a new Rig to control in HRD - click on "Connect"
select "New"
Company: Icom
Radio: IC-718
COM Port: Remote
Speed: 19200
CI-V Address: 5E (default)
Flow Control/Interface Power: tick only DTR (VERY important, since this enables the equipment up on slipper, and ticking RTS will place the HF rig in permanent TX)

Now create the remote connection:
IP Address:
Port: 7805 (default)
Username: zs2pe
Password: zs2pe
Save these settings
Click on "Connect"
You will get a welcome window from Lady's Slipper if you have connected successfully

Com Port: Com 1
Optional PTT (TX) Configuration - DE-SELECT this
Click on OK

You will get a screen replica of the HF Rig.

The HF audio can be monitored in three ways:
1) on 438.800MHz UHF using full duplex, permanently keyed when HRD is activated
2) on 145.700 and the repeater network if coupled using 70002 DTMF
3) on Skype

Using Skype - search for "zs0ntp_hf" and request contact details.  Email ZS2AAW and inform him, and he will remotely accept your contact request on Skype, whereafter you can connect and hear audio.  To transmit, either click on the "TX" button (top RHS) on HRD, and speak into your Skype microphone, or key up on 438.800MHz UHF in the Lady's Slipper coverage area and simply talk.  This duplex link will key the HF transmit when it gets incoming signals, even though it permanently transmits the HF receive audio as soon as an HRD connection is made (yes, this is one of those items controlled by the "DTR" line).  The 438.800MHz link will also key up when the 70002 patch is selected.

PEARS Email server Internal emails are held at this post office, and do not go out to the internet.  Only external emails are routed to the internet.  All members have an email address <firstname> Incoming server:
Outgoing server:
Username:  <callsign>
Password:  <callsign>
ZS0NTP BBS Telnet connection The plain and simple "DOS" style of connection to the BBS - without any packet radio, and lightning fast Use Hyperterminal and make a Telnet (IP) connection to: 
Port:  6300

It will request a callsign and password - contact ZS2AAW for details/access

Winpack Telnet connection Run Winpack, and use telnet to connect to the BBS, not 1200Baud AFSK Connect to:
(IP Address =, Port = 6300)

Sample Winpack BBS.TXT
TITLE Connect to the BBS
WAITFOR Callsign :|Winsock error
WAITFOR Password :
SEND <your BBS telnet password>

You MUST turn off paging (" OP"), and put yourself in Expert mode ("X") in a manual BBS session (done once-off) before this will work properly.

Ui-View using the ZS0NTP AGW Packet engine as a radio interface Allows any WiFi user to run Ui-View software without needing a VHF Packet radio on-air.  The WiFi network makes the radio ports of ZS0NTP on Slipper available as your own radio ports. These ports are as follows:

1: 144.800MHz 1200baud
2: 439.850MHz 9600baud
3: 438.275MHz 1200baud
4: 10.151MHz 300baud
5: 434.800MHz 1200baud
6: EC Link System
7: LoopBack Port

Configure Ui-View to use AGW as the radio interface. (under comms setup)
In the host address :
Leave the port as 8000
Ui-View Web server page Text based view of APRS in the PE Area, with an option to show any station plotted using Google aerial photographs.
You don't have to be running Ui-View to see stations plotted - this is a web page!
AGW Packet Engine Console Allows monitoring and configuration checks on the ZS0NTP Packet Engine software (password protected, sorry!)
DigiPlex Console Allows monitoring and configuration checks on the Node software running on ZS0NTP-2
Telnet feed for APRS clients A raw data terminal connection from the ZS0NTP Ui-View server, mainly used for the Java APRS tracking web page of the VW Rally results Hyperterminal Telnet/IP connection - Connect to:
Port:  1448
Other WiFi users' shared directories Simple file sharing on other users' machines Click on Start, Run, then type in "\\192.168.y.z" as their machine's IP address.  A folder will open with their shared resources, if any have been configured on their PC with the above IP address
PEARS Membership database The society membership database for use by all committee members, for online record updating - birthdays, anniversaries, subs payments etc. \\\SharedDocs\PEARS Membership.mdb
VW Rally Results and tracking Web page Immediate access to overall stage times, accumulated stage totals per entrant, and the raw per stage times we pass as radio hams during the event.  Also featured is a trial of live tracking of official vehicles
PEARS WiFi Users' payments A table showing the monthly payments as received by the treasurer
Winbox config software   winbox
IP Address allocations   IP Addresses