Akwapim Community Wireless Network:
The Akwapim Community Wireless Network is an open-architecture mesh network that uses cost-priced WiFi technology and open-source software to share Internet access. The network currently has ten nodes, and spreads out over a 20km range, offering connectivity to schools, businesses, and community activity centers throughout six towns in the mountainous Akwapim North district of Ghana’s Eastern Region. The figure below maps out the existing nodes of the network.
(Snapshot: June 28th, 2006)
The mesh network is implemented by the CUWiNWare software, from the Champaign-Urbana Community Wireless Network. It has advanced algorithms that determine the best path for an “Internet” signal to travel to get through the network, from point A to point B. It is an “organic,” open-architecture platform, in that a node can enter or leave the network at any time, without any changes needing to be made to the other nodes.
Each node has an antenna and a router, and various cabling. The antennas vary in size and structure with application; highly depending on each proposed connection. Figure 5.2 depicts a typical antenna installation. The routers are built from desktop computers and wireless cards; they are nearly all identical.
Most routers are constructed out of old computers and new wireless cards. Most of the nodes are made from Dell OptiPlex units and D-Link DWLG520 WiFi cards. The computers used do not need hard drives and therefore are well-suited for work in developing countries. CBLit has many computers lying around due to a broken hard drives; the result of an unstable electricity supply. These are used to build-out the network.
The wireless implementation is standard IEEE 802.11b, running in ad-hoc mode. Due to the emerging widespread popularity of this technology in the consumer marketplace, it is easy to obtain and use off-the-shelf WiFi equipment. Some of this equipment is now available in Ghana, though in the beginning there was a need to import equipment from the United States and Poland.
In order to provide Internet connectivity to all the nodes, the open-access architecture nature of the network allows an uplink to the Internet to be placed at any of the nodes. This is a key to its flexibility as it expands. Currently there is a VSAT at the Apirede Community Resource Center providing a 128/32 (downlink/uplink) kbps link. In phase II a cost-priced VSAT solution would be added to provide true broadband speed (512/128 kbps). The increased bandwidth will permit more people to connect, and thus allow the expansion of the network to 20 nodes. The open-access nature of the network means that anyone who has a node can offer services, such as Internet connectivity.
The “open networking” goal of the CBLit’s Wireless Ghana pilot project, the Akwapim Community Wireless Network, is to develop a truly open-access network where services (Internet access, voice over IP, video applications) can be offered by anyone, anywhere on the network, and where content can be created by anyone and shared.
- Apirede Community Resource Center: 24dB Grid Antenna, Dell GX150 w/ DLink DWLG520 running customized CuWinWare 0.6.0+.
- Abiriw Church: 16dB Omni, Dell GX150 w/ DLink DWLG520 running CuWinWare 0.5.9+.
- Akropong Community Resource Center: 9dB Flat Panel, Dell GX150 w/ DLink DWLG520 running CuWinWare 0.5.9+.
- Larteh Junior Secondary School: 24dB Grid Antenna, Dell GXa w/ DLink DWLG520 running CuWinWare 0.5.9+.
- Okuapemman Secondary School: 9dB Flat Panel, Dell GXa w/ DLink DWLG520 running CuWinWare 0.5.9+.
- Grace Deliverance Team Office: 9dB Flat Panel, Dell GXa w/ DLink DWLG520 running CuWinWare 0.5.9+.
- NIFA Secondary School Science Department: 24dB Grid Antenna, Dell GXa w/ DLink DWLG520 running CuWinWare 0.5.9+.
- Presbyterian Pastors Offices: 9dB Flat Panel, Dell GXa w/ DLink DWLG520 running CuWinWare 0.5.9+.
- Water Aid Offices: 9dB Flat Panel, Dell GXa w/ DLink DWLG520 running CuWinWare 0.5.9+.
- NIFA Senior Secondary School Administration: 9dB Flat Panel, Dell GXa w/ DLink DWLG520 running CuWinWare 0.5.9+.
- PPAG Ghana: 9dB Flat Panel, Dell GXa w/ DLink DWLG520 running CuWinWare 0.5.9+.
- Akwapim Rural Bank: 24dB Grid Antenna, Dell GXa w/ DLink DWLG520 running customized CuWinWare 0.6.0+.