Rural wireless projects

I have been involved in a number of projects which bring wireless connectivity to rural areas around Africa. These projects are in a sense the acid test of whether your research work is useful or not and are a humbling experience. Often you will have grand pre-conceived ideas of a good research idea which will make an impact in the area of rural wireless connectivity only to be quickly brought down to earth when you get involved in working with a community to establish one. For example in the Peebles mesh project I set up a web page which allowed people to check how many bytes they had left of Internet connectivity only to discover that nobody had any concept of what a "byte" was or how this translated into how much web content they could still look at.

Here are a list of rural wireless projects I have been part of:

I was also involved in setting up a D.I.Y guide to building a wireless mesh network which is available here.

Wireless research infrastructure

Physical indoor wireless network testbeds as well as outdoor wireless testbeds have the potential to accelerate the pace of research in the field of wireless ad hoc and mesh networking. They form part of a critical chain of steps needed to develop and test ad hoc networking protocols from concept to eventual uptake by industry. Current research in this area makes use of simulations or mathematical models which oversimplify the physical and Medium Access Control layer.

I was involved in the design and construction of a 7x7 wireless grid of closely spaced computers making use of highly attenuated 802.11 radios at the Meraka institute in Pretoria, South Africa. Modeling and analysis revealed that a suitably attenuated environment was created with variation in signal strength between node pairs following a Gaussian distribution. This emulates a real outdoor network with normal signal propagation issues such as multi-path fading and lack of Fresnel zone clearance. More information about the lab can be found in my masters thesis and information about how to gain access to the facility including a lab manual can be found here.

I am part of a grand initiative called "Wireless Africa" at the Meraka institute which aims to develop sustainable information and communications technology in developing countries and bring the Internet to 450 million rural people in Africa by 2017. This will be achieved through community-owned decentralized mesh networks built on open source technology.