MIT and Cambridge to build free wireless mesh network

February 6th, 2006

The MIT Tech reports on a plan in which MIT is collaborating with the city of Cambridge to deploy a free wireless mesh network. The article has some interesting technical details and says that the plan is based on MIT’s roofnet project, an experimental 802.11b/g mesh network in development at MIT CSAIL.

A collaboration with MIT researchers may provide Cambridge with a free, city-wide, wireless internet service as early as late summer. The project will rely on a mesh networking technology that allows individual computers to become new access points, projecting the reach of the network beyond its original antennas.

Traditionally, a wireless network is centralized around one wireless access point, which communicates with a wireless card in any laptop or desktop computer, Hart said. Mesh technology allows individual computers to propagate the network and act as new access points, making it unnecessary for a user to be within range of the original wireless signal, she said.

[the wireless access points] are constructed from $15 commercial access points purchased from the software manufacturer NETGEAR, he said. The 40 milliwatt chip inside the commercial product is replaced with a 400 milliwatt chip and ‘hacked’ to include computer code that enables the mesh technology, he said.

The code, which is publicly available, was written by an MIT research group called Roofnet. Daniel E. Aguayo G, a Roofnet researcher, said that though they were not the first to write a code for mesh technology, they were the first to conduct a large-scale test of their software. …