Afghanistan’s home-grown wireless network

12:10 in News by Duncan Brown

Recently American publications have been reporting an unusual wireless project that didn’t make many headlines over here, but looks like a dream community network. The scheme, which is called FabFi, is described on its website as ‘an open-source, FabLab-grown system using common building materials and off-the-shelf electronics to transmit wireless ethernet signals across distances of up to several miles.’ To put it another way, FabFi is a community wireless network set up in Eastern Afghanistan, made out of rubbish and car batteries. It uses technology developed at MIT and most of its Afghan staff were recruited as university students.

Each node in the network at Jalalabad costs about $60 to install - the network components are all ordinary bits of circuitry, and the masts are built out of whatever material is to hand. It’s a relatively simple process to put them together:

Commercial wireless routers are mounted on homemade RF reflectors covered with a metallic mesh surface. Another router-on-a-reflector is set up at a distance; the two routers then create an ad-hoc network that provides Internet access to a whole network of reflectors. The number of reflectors which can be integrated into the network is theoretically endless; FabFi’s network covers most of Jalalabad.

The reflectors can be built out of wood, metal, plastics, stone, clay, or any other locally available product that the metallic mesh can be attached to. FabFi also designed their devices to run on power generated by an automobile battery, which means the networks an also go “off-the-grid” if necessary. [Fast Company]

It seems the spirit of JFDI is alive and well! Have a look at the FabLab blog for more info.