Long range low bandwidth mesh projects for good

Though we generally discuss how relevant is to have high speed broadband internet, it is also interesting to explore how impactful little but essential data networks can be.

This is the case of a set of wireless telecommunication networks called LPWAN (low-powered wide area networks), that use low power high sensitivity radios. There are many like these but arguably the most widespread one has been LoRa.
These radios’ main use has been focused on Internet of Things projects, but others have chosen to use it for other things…

As this radios have very high sensitivity (though have longer range) and are thought to be reliable in multiple scenarios like urban or remote locations, they can be perfect for basic but essential human-to-human communications (ie. bare-minimum community networks).

There are a set of projects that have gone that way, and that are free software/hardware, namely:

There are a few non-free similar projects, but as they are not open for expansion or ownership by the communities, we shouldn’t focus much on them here.

All of them implement:

  • hardware access
  • mesh routing
  • application layer

All of them are affordable (<U$S 50).

Most of them use the same hardware, like esp32, esp8266 or raspberry pi zero.

They differ in applications:

  • disaster relief
  • hiking
  • bitcoin traiding

I myself see them as potential precursors of broadband internet community networks, and that can support communities getting in touch with each other and building the meaningful connections in between communities to imagine building more broadband-like community networks, and that could strengthen the relation between communities.

Hope more interactions could happen around this kind of networks!

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