Connecting Rural Communities using WiFi
The CRCnet Project has built a platform to support the deployment of widescale rural wireless networks. This platform is designed to be easy to use and reduces the level of technical knowledge that is required to plan, build and operate a rural wireless network. Using this platform it is now possible for rural communities to group together to provide broadband access to their schools and houses without having to rely on existing telecommunications infrastructure.
Alongside the rural wireless network platform the CRCnet project is developing wireless equipment and software for use in rapid depoloyments. Rapidly deployable wireless equipment has a range of uses. It can provide emergency networks for Civil Defence after a disaster or simply be used to provide a temporary Internet connection to the location of a special event. A farmer could use the rapid deploy technology to monitor a developing event somewhere on the farm. The possibilities are endless.
CRCnet wireless technologies have been successfully used in a number of networks across New Zealand and overseas. Some of the highlights include:
- Connecting 3 of the most remote schools in New Zealand
- Providing a link between a hospital and a medical clinic in rural Transkei, South Africa
- Monitoring hot air balloon locations via a Rapid Deploy network
One challenge faced by the project has been the lack of access to the firmware of commercially available wireless cards. This hinders the development of new MAC layer protocols and makes accurate measurement of wireless performance difficult. One of the groups members has designed and developed a wireless card that allows new MAC protocols to be easily developed and testing while also providing low level access to the hardware to allow accurate measurement of wireless performance. This card is called the WAG (Wireless Analysis and Generation). Initially prototyped as a PCI card a miniPCI version is currently in testing.
WAG (Wireless Analysis & Generation) PCI Card