Al Hammond

Wireless Mesh as a Transforming Tool

Wifi Mesh NetworkAcumen Fund’s Eric Cantor reports on the recent AirJaldi Summit and points to the revolutionary potential of wireless mesh networks to empower communities. Our own work on a new model for rural connectivity points in the same direction. WiFi mesh can be deployed easily, without sophisticated engineers. Some of the newest equipment has very low power needs, so can be readily and affordably paired with solar panels.? Advanced mesh also has much expanded range, throughput, and interference management?so it can manage 10 hops with no loss of capacity, cover areas a mile square or greater, provide 15 Mbps bandwidth or more. By empowering a range of user devices?phones and PDAs as well as computers?mesh is more broadly accessible, even to those for whom literacy is a barrier.

Most importantly, WiFi mesh offers the potential of radically lower costs, especially for rural areas: in a pilot we are developing for a province in rural Vietnam, we project a cost of access (and in-network VOIP telephony) of less than $1 per household per year. Whether as stand-alone entrepreneurial efforts, community-owned systems, or low-cost extensions to mobile networks, we believe that mesh WiFi networks are the means to bring low income rural areas into the global conversation and the global economy.