Testing long-range WiFi in Scotland

Patrick shot and edited this video, documenting the prototyping mission.

Directing WiFi long distances required us to develop an understanding of the physical and logistical challenges of point-to-point communication.  Making the minute adjustments to antenna position, required to get the maximum throughput, is a great challenge so we wanted to practice.

The challenge

At 50km, the distance between Bukavu and our first antenna mast on the mountain of Kibanda on Idjwi, you must align dishes using a compass as you cannot see the other end.  You must take into account the curvature of the earth, when calculating mast height to minimise interference in the fresnel zone.

In order to perform an adequate test, we needed a rural area with little or no interference from other signals, and height!  The north of Scotland seemed a good option.  Between the 8th and the 11th April, we packaged up our equipment and flew north on a prototyping mission.  It was a great pleasure to invite Mike, and Patrick from the DRC with us, along with Falling Whistle’s Anders Olsson, from Stockholm.

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Help from the locals!

The Lord Lieutenant of Ross & Cromarty, Janet Bowen, kindly introduced us to her nephew Alex Matheison of Brahan Estates, near Dingwall, Inverness, who offered us his land to use, along with introducing us to neighbouring landowners, who were also keen to assist.

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Along with the generous assistance of Mike Hicks of Cromarty Firth Wireless Networks, we were able to perform a successful test at both 5km and 30km, reaching speeds of 100mb/s with our equipment.  The minimal visibility, on the day of the longer test, taught us the patience and discipline that would be required to align the antennas in the field.

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Chapter 3: Installing the internet on Idjwi