It costs around USD$30k to wire up a rural home to a local ISP. Trenching - not the active infrastructure itself - accounts for 80-90% of installation costs. The cabling required for last-mile access is what keeps broadband prohibitively expensive for many parts of the world. But with wireless technology continuously improving, when can we cut out this excessive wiring altogether? 5G might not be the solution. It is expected to cost 7-8x more than satellite access per bit. However a lot of the same improvements in cellular technology that make up 5G, like mmWave beamforming (802.11ad) and massive MU-MIMO (802.11ax), are present in affordable, low-power WiFi.
Mesh++ has developed solar- and battery-powered outdoor WiFi mesh nodes that leverage these technologies for use in areas without stable (or any) power. We use the NSRDB to reliably predict environmental downtime which occurs in any self-powered network. As an access point, they can compete with top-end commercial gear at 4x4 MU-MIMO and 23dBm/chain. But to make this work we had to develop a more efficient mesh network. We have three patents pending on synchronized routing protocols that put the classic consumer mesh on steroids, expanding the maximum size of a high-speed mesh from 5-10 nodes to hundreds, over thousands of acres, with multiple gateways. These networks use a TDMA technique reminiscent of cellular timeframing, which minimizes large-scale interference in a similar way and is the key to efficient wireless networking. These networks have no central point of failure.
Setting up a remote network will almost always have a throughput bottleneck through the gateway(s); but you don't necessarily need to route a videochat through remote servers to get to your neighbor, and you don't need the external internet to access a textbook. We need networks that are socially and technologically scalable and that means maintaining local resources. So, we put a 1TB SSD in each node and a quad-core Snapdragon processor to host distributed services and alleviate the bottleneck. When accessing local resources only, nodes can host hundreds of people each.
Some of the most promising technologies for emerging markets are decentralized forms of infrastructure, where centralized power plants, server farms, banking, is not practical. A network that follows the same topology opens up so many doors. In April 2018 we formed the UCCO with a number of blockchain companies specifically targeting emerging markets. By integrating a number of basic resources within the same hardware, it becomes exponentially more valuable.
The idea starts with WiFi; but it leads to local programming courses and remote jobs. It pushes education to access content. It leads to self-sustaining economies that can also participate globally. Stable infrastructure lowers the barrier for the world's leading companies to expand and new companies to form. And hopefully, eventually, to make itself obsolete by manifesting in larger opportunities.
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