Understanding Mesh Networks (Video)

FEBRUARY 28, 2013

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Mesh networks are not just experimental network architectures — they are actively being used to connect devices in a decentralized way. This video explains how mesh networks work, and how the concept can be employed more broadly.   Connecting for Good is using this technology to bring Internet connectivity to hundreds of under resourced families in Kansas City with a low initial investment and minimal impact on the environment.

In December 2012, we built our first mesh network to bring free Wi-Fi Internet to all 168 units of the Rosedale Ridge low income housing complex in Kansas City, KS.  Rosedale Ridge is a model for what we plan to do at similar Section 8 and public housing facilities throughout the Kansas City area.  We’re moving forward with plans to create similar mesh networks to bring free connectivity to under served communities.   With connectivity, we are also distributing $50.00 refurbished laptops to residents who complete two sessions of our digital literacy classes.

This video project was researched and created by the Berkman Center’s class of 2012 Summer Interns. Published on Dec 4, 2012

We now operate three mesh networks that supply about 500 households with a free in home Wi-Fi connection.  Visit our Wi-Fi Communities page to learn more and check out the current status of our networks.

Technology

image007-225x300The backbone of our wireless network uses point-to-point microwave technology. Towers located around the city broadcast bandwidth to local relays. The relays provide connectivity to access that can be owned by individuals, businesses and community organizations.  Radios are attached to both relays and access points to create Wi-Fi hotspots.

The wireless network provides an inexpensive gateway to the Internet. At the same time it serves as a large “Intranet” that provides a highly efficient way for users within the network to exchange data with one another.

relay-139x150

 Relays

Relays connect to the towers to cover an entire neighborhood. They are strategically placed to extend the range of the network to parts of a neighborhood that wireless signals would not otherwise reach.

 

image010-167x300Access Points

Wireless access points (or nodes) connect individual households to the network. They communicate with the nearest relay to bring connectivity into people’s lives.  APs can pair with small home servers  to enable users to host their own sites and access services on the local network, as access the the global Internet. FreedomNodes are owned and operated by their users.

 

 

Written by Tom Esselman

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