[Battlemesh] mini-survey towards an FCC-Free "global south" router

Nicolás Echániz nicoechaniz at altermundi.net
Sat Apr 16 02:15:53 CEST 2016

Hello everyone.

It's been a while since I last posted on the list, so this e-mail is a bit longer than what I like to send or receive... but it's important.

I'm writing this email because after TP-Link's announcement that they'll "sort of close" their routers to firmware updates[0] since June, some of us in "the Global South" started thinking about building our own routers. In our countries, the FCC and EU regulations do not apply but we suffer the impact all the same because mainstream manufacturers build their equipment to comply with "Global North" regulations.

This router project is mostly targeted at community mesh networking scenarios in low income areas, where creativity is usually in more supply than money.

Our experience deploying 70+ node mesh clouds in Argentina (totaling 200+nodes) using TP-Link WDR3500 routers + "semi-directional" antennas[1] as our primary node configuration has driven us to some conclusions:

1) The dual band router is a cheap option that helps reduce the per hop performance degradation.
2) Use of the only 2.4Ghz radio for meshing + local AP provision reduces this band's performance.
3) The use of the 2.4Ghz band makes the dual-radio nature of these devices quite useless in scenarios where the noise in this band is too strong. This is common now even in semi-rural areas.

So... now to the subject of this e-mail.

For the project at hand, we'd like to know, in your experience deploying mesh networks:

0) what's the approximate size of your mesh clouds (number of nodes)

1) what's your most common node configuration?

  * one device with multiple wireless interfaces (Eg. Routerboard + PCIe wifi adapters)
  * one device with dual-band radios (WDR3500, etc.)
  * multiple "dumb" wireless devices connected to a router that actually handles routing (Eg. 1 router + many Ubiquiti devices)
  * other (please describe)

1.1) Does your network mostly depend on ad-hoc mode?

2) considering your most common node configuration: could a router with two integrated 5Ghz radios for meshing + one 2.4Ghz radio for local AP provision cover most cases?

Just so you don't feel you are once again answering questions to some curious person who won't actually do anything with the information, I want to let you know that we'll be presenting this project for the current FRIDA Call (which we won last year) and according to the information we have gathered so far, the funding will be enough to produce a first batch of routers without need for other sources of funding.
Sustainability in the long term for this non-profit effort will very much depend on how useful this device (or family of devices) is to the majority of mesh network projects out there, thus the survey.

I hope you have the time to answer this. It will greatly help the argument for the funding project.

I'd very much like to be there during the next Battlemesh but it's not possible. Guido will be "flying AlterMundi's colors" so at least one "sudaka" will be there :)

Abrazos para todos!


PS: those of you who would actually be interested in taking part of the router project, let me know and I'll send you the current state of the proposal.
PS2: feel free to circulate this to other lists or people.

[0] http://www.wired.com/2016/03/way-go-fcc-now-manufacturers-locking-routers/
[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_3LyuF2qSSY

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