Bringing people and their communities together is exciting, doing so wirelessly even more. Community networks FunkFeuer from Austria, NEDWireless from Croatia, and wlan slovenija have been connected with a wireless backbone, spanning borders, cultural differences, and bridging technological gaps. Furthermore, a physical layer has been established for connecting HAMnet and Slovenian packet radio network, setting the foundations for further international cooperation.
We believe this are the first international wireless links connecting community networks in Europe and are looking forward to a continent wide collaboration. Read more for the story of technical and organizational challenges, of hills and pain, of sensors and routers.
It has all begun in 2010, dreaming and planning the link between Austria and Slovenia, the idea gained significance on the International Summit for Community Wireless Networks in Vienna. A month later, we were already on top of Pohorje with the FunkFeuer team from Graz, testing the feasibility of the link with success a few weeks later. We were not really satisfied with the setup and lacked long distance WiFi experience, thus July 2011 was the time for coordinated action between three countries and Wireless link testing day, gaining valuable experience with Croatians joining us on Pohorje for the day and we established links up to 66km towards Austria, the longest so far.
Due to a very unfortunate event, Mitteregg location in Austria became unavailable and our plans were halted. At the end of 2011 we got a nice present Wolfgangi – another possible location for connecting to Austria, the link to which we tested in freezing conditions in early January 2012 with great success. Spring sprouted a range of ideas for setting up international connectivity, requiring quite some funds. Luckily, Mitar was awarded Shuttleworth flash grant which we together used for parts of telemetry and telecontrol systems (to allow easy control of equipment on towers on remote locations), purchase ofequipment, and deployment of international links.
In August 2012, we have tested the link with Croatia and had a great success. First two prototypes of telemetry and telecontrol shields were deployed to Pohorje with the link to Austria and Urban with the link to Croatia. Due to the prototype nature of all the systems and their debugging, early September was spent on towers tweaking and improving systems. This all would not be possible without the help and experience of HAM radio operators of radioclubs S59ABC and S59SDXX. We have spent days and even some evenings on the towers, mounting equipment, testing links, debugging HAM and WiFi equipment and securing it from the mice invasion. Alongside wireless backbone, an ADS-B airplane transponder receiver on Pohorje was set up, with one of the greatest receiver ranges in Europe. We are on making the receiver data available.
In October 2012, two years after initial idea, at International Summit for Community Wireless Networks in Barcelona, I was proud to announce Austria-Slovenia-Croatia wireless backbone. First steps in the long journey have been made, but we still have a long way ahead of us, making the world wireless, country by country, community by community, by people for people.