They also use the commotion (https://commotionwireless.net/), an open source software project that runs on commercially available wifi access points and routers and creates the mesh network.
+ Ubiquiti (founded by Robert J. Pera, hn might appreciate his entrepreneurial background, look him up)
+ Artemis (founded by Steve Perlman, another hacker/entrepreneur )
+ Meraki (aquired by Cisco in late 2012, seems like this one did actual mesh networking in MIT and SF)
It seems like there is a lot of noise around these wireless technologies, what is holding back adoption?
Existing 802.11 ad-hoc is half duplex & CSMA, if you build a multihop mesh with that on omnidirectional nodes you get greatly diminished performance across the network. TDMA is not really better, the whole thing degenerates into a distributed graph coloring problem. You can have a lot of success building a network of point-to-point links but again you only really see people getting excited because they need non-wired infrastructure or because they like the technology. The Ubiquiti gear is really good for this.
Meanwhile you might wonder about doing this on small battery powered devices. It's very difficult to build a mostly-asleep power management scheme if a device needs to be awake to relay packets.
I still think there's promise in the area though and do follow what other people are doing.
Community networking over community networks could be a thing, but bootstrapping is hard, and it can be hard to see the point. "Buy this thing and set it up and you can talk to people within shouting distance with your pc/phone" isn't super exciting.
Maybe the problem is they're doing it from the wrong angle. Don't create a mesh network independent of the internet, create a mesh network integrated with the internet. Then use whichever interface has the best performing route and use them to back each other. So if your wireless goes down you can still use Comcast and if your Comcast goes down then you can seamlessly use your neighbor's Verizon.
I set up a point-to-point link a few weeks ago using two of their cheaper antennas - it took minutes to configure the encrypted, secure connection - it "just works".
I'd love to join a mesh network (or a p2p node network) where I live, but there doesn't seem to be one available.
In Melbourne, Australia there's a rather large wireless network that's existed for years - but I can't find similar networks in any other of the country's large (or even smaller) cities.
Contact details are in my profile.
I really enjoyed this HOPE X talk on this subject:
"guifi.net [es] is a user-owned, open and neutral network in which a growing community of volunteers can connect their computers to form a sort of intranet and, at the same time, share an Internet connection. The non-profit network is free, minus any individual costs for networking equipment, and anyone is allowed to join and use it how they want."
More details: https://lists.thefnf.org/pipermail/discuss/2014-March/001672...
Edit: may be coming to the US, https://thefnf.org
Is there any defacto hardware out there that one can buy to start the mesh, without a huge setup, that I could then set up for a couple of neighbours without hassle who then automatically join the mesh? For something like this to take off it'll need to be as simple as picking up a router off the shelf and reading a few lines of a manual.
I'm trying to understand what advances there have been in reduction of speed over multi hop networks. That's the biggest issue I see, is that people want high speeds, but mesh networks at a large scale might make that difficult. Multi-frequency radios can only go so far.
The Free Network Foundation has aggregated a lot of practical info: https://commons.thefnf.org/index.php/Portal:Education
A link from the FNF on multi-hop optimization:
The motherboard documentary about the FNF is a must watch for any mesh network enthusiast:
How is that going to affect folks outside major metropolitan areas, since their coverage is effectively subsidised by the volume of city users?
Voice of America article:
"A group of computer programmers and hackers in Austria is creating a low-cost way of spreading Internet access across communities. FunkFeuer which means network fire in German, uses everyday technology to create a wireless network, called a mesh, that can transmit data from person to person, without involving companies or governments."
If the number of nodes who deal with routing increases, that's more nodes that need to be informed of each join/part, so technically it takes longer to update the network. But if the joins/parts are few and the signal is strong, this is a rare event. More nodes can make the whole system faster, or it can make the whole system slower. It depends on the implementation. But there's not a constant flow of mesh routing data that multiplies with nodes; that bandwidth used is tiny.
"Most mesh networks are connected to the public Internet, but if that connection goes down, the local mesh continues to work. In Red Hook that means that you could make voice calls (over IP) from your housing project to the local hardware store to see if its open. Or you could email a friend who lives in the neighborhood."
I don't know VOIP very well so this may certainly be possible, but I very much doubt that without an external internet connection you'd be able to email anyone.
Multiple non-internet based servers can easily talk to each other as long as they have a map of how to do so. RHI could be running their own DNS in which case each set of sendmail / qmail / whatever servers could still see each other. And if they really want to go old-school they could use UUCP or NNTP to shift around e-mail and news respectively between sometimes connected nodes. Many of the "intermittent internet connection" problems have been solved for a while.