Henry O’Tani G8OTA

Feasibility Study & Pilot Project supported by Power Pole U.K. Ltd.











Executive Summary


Citizens Wireless Community Networks:

Telecentres Powys

WLAN Feasibility Study

Existing Systems

Commercial Low Speed EPS9 Cable Network:

Broadband Amateur Radio

New Amateur and Community WLANs

WLAN Adapters

Congestion from over-use no problem!

Financial Advantages

The Political Dimension

Feasible Options

The Proposed "Pilot" System

Options for Test

Future development


Community Owned & Managed WLANs

Wider Applications


Glossary of terms

Executive Summary

Licence exempt Wireless LANs (WLANs) at 11Mb/sec (IEEE 802.11) are a technical innovation which releases the potential of computer "Ethernet

LANs" from being confined to "WIRES in buildings".

This makes it possible to develop something entirely new in ICT : Namely: "Open Amateur & Community Wireless Computer Networks".

Community owned and managed (via a local non-profit-making telecentre, community association, club or mutual co-operative) "amateur" wireless computer networks offer open toll free access, completely releasing participants from the burden of local internet call charges and presently offer a superior access to all internet services than any existing technology possible over telephone wires (including ADSL at 2Mbits/sec).

The purpose of this study is to assess the applicability of amateur WLAN technology to (Rural Village) communities and demonstrate the overall practicalities of the entirely new concept of Open Amateur & Community Wireless Computer Networks". Sponsorship has been obtained to provide a single linking component and peripherals which will enable several of The Powys Telecentres to interconnect at very high speed. Continual live media and high quality video conferencing and images transfer between sites is identified as an important and exciting new feature made possible only through this free broadband connectivity.



"Citizens Wireless Computer Networks":

With the recent "sell-off" of franchises for commercial "3rd Generation cordless networks" there now exists an even stronger case for retaining and defending a modest part of spectrum to be kept apart for future Non-Profit and Non-Commercial Broadband Services (in Public and Private Education, Scientific Research and Development, Recreation and "Play").

The ICT equivalent perhaps of a "Citizens Wireless Band"......


Powys Telecentres:

"Telecentres in the Telecentres Powys Network are autonomous, public access community resources and have emerged as a result of strategic consideration and vision and locally articulated demand. It is a truly

organic partnership combining a network of committed volunteers, technology and strategic support resulting in locally defined and managed resources centres or Telecentres."

Figure. 1 Llanbrynmair Telecentre

WLAN Feasibility Study:

The practical result of this study is to assess the applicability of WLAN technology to (Rural Village) communities.

This will be made possible through a PILOT DEMONSTRATION

( - partly funded by Powerpole U.K. Limited - a West Wales based manufacturer of ambient wind and photovoltaic power generating systems) which will hopefully show the overall practicalities of the entirely new concept of "Open Amateur & Community Wireless Computer Networks".


Existing Systems

"Developments in the application of IT and the establishment of a network infrastructure since the mid eighties were key elements in the ability of Powys to establish such a public network.

In mid 1993, under the "Community Development Programme", Powys County Council in association with the then Development Board for Rural Wales and the Powys TEC set up a small number of 'telecottages' in different types of community settings."



Commercial Low Speed EPS9 Cable Network:

"EPS9" (BT) is the name given to the method whereby a large number of the Telecentres are connected to the Powys County Council Wide Area Network (WAN). It runs at 64 or 128k bits per second depending

on local circumstances. It is limited by distance from a BT exchange (5Km) and has a revenue cost of about £375 per annum. To set up, it requires a capital investment of about £3000 which includes line

drivers and routers as well as some technical input to configure the boxes. Once installed it is plugged directly into a hub and thence into the network (Local Area Network ) in the Telecentre.

Connection of a telecentre to the WAN provides access to the Intranet based Information systems on the network including 'What’s On?' and 'Jobs on Line' Both of these are services are unique to Powys and

have been developed by the IT department of Powys County Council.

Connection to the WAN also offers access to the Internet via a 512k leased line and access to email services for public use."


Broadband Amateur Radio

In the United Kingdom, use of IEEE 802.11 equipment overlaps the standard Amateur Radio Licenced 2.4 GHz allocation. This licence permits unlimited antenna gain and the notional use of transmitter power amplifiers and receiver low noise mast-head amplifiers up to 2450MHz. Licenced radio amateurs using just better aerials, can anticipate reliable working up to 25 Km (18 miles) line-of-sight distance from a licence exempt WAP. Much better performance (over obstructed paths) may be had with higher gain antennas at each end, sector directional arrays or amateur licenced power amplification.

Amateur Television Repeater GB3HV

antenna replacement (High Wycombe)

Typical home-made Amateur

Television Repeater Station

Figure 2. (GB3HV).

New Amateur and Community WLANs

Licence exempt Wireless LANs (WLANs) at 11Mb/sec (IEEE 802.11) are a technical innovation which releases the potential of computer "Ethernet

LANs" from being confined to "WIRES in buildings".

This makes it possible to develop something absolutely new in ICT, Namely: "Open Amateur & Community Wireless Computer Networks".

Open: because apart from terrain it has no physical restrictions..

Amateur: because its motivated from kindness L. ama "for love of"..

Community: because it can only start and run efficiently if operated as a local social activity for the mutual benefit of all who participate.

The Wireless Access Point (WAP) (or antenna) is usually mounted high and essentially anywhere that is practical as long as the desired radio coverage is obtained. The English village church usually at the centre of the village with a tower or spire, tall chimney, public building or water tower would be an ideal location. Church authorities might welcome the idea of facilitating church services being "Webcast" through this new media. If the village is on a narrow strip of land such as along a river valley, a reasonable sized parabolic antenna could give exceptional range increases of over 30 times in a roughly 6 degree wide beam.

A single wireless access point can support a large group of maybe 100 or more simultaneous users as effectively as 100 BT ISDN telephone connections but typically with (specification IEEE 802.11) at a range of not more than a couple of hundred metres in free space and much less via obstructions at the very restricted power levels specified for licence exempt users.

The basic IEEE 802.11 licence exempt system is designed to normally offer an outdoor range of only several hundred meters. In an open network however any user can provide a "stepping stone" for any other so if WLAN cards were as common as computer modems (in cities at least) there would be the possibility of "amateur & community WLANs" with basic equipment, but everyone would need to get their WLAN cards at the same time for everyone to be connected to each other!.

In small villages this is not the case. As soon as a central community enterprise such as a Telecentre sets up a wireless access point on a "server", all WLAN card equipped computer users up to a quarter mile radius may choose to connect to it with licence exempt equipment.


WLAN Adapters:

End users access the WLAN through WLAN Adapters, which are implemented as PCIMCIA cards in notebook computers (Figure 3), or use ISA or PCI adapters in desktop computers (Figure 4) or fully integrated devices within hand-held computers.


Figure 3.

WLAN Adapter (Emtac Notebook PCIMCIA type A2422-3A)


Figure 4.

Standard PCI bus Adapter (Planet type WL-2400)


WLAN adapters provide an interface between the client network operating system (NOS) and the airwaves (via an antenna). The nature of the wireless connection is transparent to the NOS.


Congestion from over-use no problem!

From a very thinly spread introduction of licence exempt WLAN nodes (to be set up initially by the Amateur Radio Community whose licences permit means of overcoming great distances) a rapidly increasing LOCAL public following is facilitated (making the indispensable pioneering role of the licenced amateur an essential but transitional one).

Given increasing popularity the "11Mbit/sec" throughput of a "new node" will slow down in approximate proportion to the number of users, viz:-


11,000 Kbits/sec


n where "n" is the number of users at the given instant.


200 users on a 11 Mbits/sec broadband channel at the same time will for example reduce each to approximate "55Kbits/sec telephone modem speed" …. (due to TCP/IP and CSMA "overheads" network users typically only ever achieve a large fraction of a rated throughput).

With Spread Spectrum however, co-channel interference does not block but simulates the degradation of signal strength which one gets by increasing the separation distance. Given a theoretical minimum of only 4 separate working channels, infinite cell/zone sub-division is possible so traffic may be increased in a village in direct proportion to the number of cells into which individual users can be divided.

Providing there is maintenance of a "Local Club" or "Local Co-operative" community structure (which does not excessively waste funds) the increasing popularity of a "node" to attract "new contributing members" will be translated into the required revenue needed for that community to plough back in the immediate deployment of more channels or sites.


Financial Advantages:

If 200 people are using a WLAN channel at the same time, they may then obtain inferior speed performance (actually comparable to the fastest telephone access) but it will be toll free.

The £2.40 per hour each user individually pays today for day-time local phone calls may not seem excessive but for 200 users this adds up to £480 per hour being saved!

Money saved is money earned…. Money saved can be kept and spent within the local community for benefiting local people, recreational activities and giving life to community projects, sports & leisure centres and businesses - not leached away hundreds or thousands of miles to enrich offshore multinational corporations.

This "slow drain" or leaching of money amounts to a irrevocable loss of £Millions of pounds per year for a small town of just a few thousand occupants.

With ten hours worth…. e.g. £4800, a village / housing estate / campus can alternatively have a nice set of several permanent, free multi-channel community network WAPs installed instead!.


The Political Dimension

The British government hopes to have an internet computer in every school

by 2003, but will schools be able to afford the higher connection speeds?

How much better to have a superior mega-speed toll-free community connection!

A licence free, DSSS medium offers a free alternative for the young, financially disadvantaged or economically excluded for whom free education, media and social communications can provide the key enabling technology in many strategic solutions.

It is this point which is most likely to persuade the British government not to act against Amateur Radio Repeater Internet/Intranet Services.

While the franchises for normal (3rd Generation) broadband interconnection mediums remain purchased by large private network utilities they resemble the toll-roads and operators of old, which while perhaps providing a superior service for commercial purposes, do so at the expense of taxing all other traffic regardless of non-profit social context.

The issue is somewhat reminiscent of the need for preservation of free access to municipal libraries, baths, parks, open spaces, commons, old public foot-paths and public rights of way against the inroads of new entrepreneurs.

Internet needs to be retained by its users.


Feasible Options

Each Telecentre Powys already has a high speed "internal" LINUX based network running at the "Ethernet" speed of 10Mbits/sec.

The practical aim of this study is to establish how best to demonstrate that high speed interconnection is possible through non-commercial, non-profit-making community operated Wireless Local Area Networks.

A telecentre could link its "Ethernet" to a radio card (Fig. 3 or 4) and antenna (thereby creating a wireless Access Point or "AP") so that any users in the locality may connect at "network speed" using a similar Wireless Local Area Network adapter card (WLAN card).

If the 26 Telecentres Powys were all "line of sight " - that is, directly visible to each other, the engineering hardware would be very simple requiring one of the above PC adapter cards costing around £100, slotted in a computer possibly with an (albeit special) antenna cluster (Fig. 8) costing maybe a similar amount (£100) on the roof top of each telecentre.

On examination of the terrain, it has been found that the 25 towns and villages containing the 26 Telecentres Powys do not have a line of sight path to each other, anywhere. In order to then connect computer systems which are out-of-sight of each other, intermediate "Repeater" or "Relay Stations" are set up. Radio Repeaters usually have to be connected to a source of mains electrical power which alone makes their installation on remote hillsides and valleys rather expensive capital projects.

One of the technical "breakthroughs" which makes this approach particularly feasible is to use low maintenance and zero emissions, wind and solar powered semi-portable units called "Power Poles" designed for remote low cost unattended operation. These are practical because the power used with the approved licence-exempt apparatus (even when it is running continuously as anticipated) is relatively very small.

Using "Repeaters" the 26 Telecentres might be interconnected as follows:-

8 in 2 clusters of 4

6 in 2 clusters of 3

4 in 2 clusters of 2

8 requiring individual relays.


26 Total


The Proposed "PILOT" System

For the purpose of a "Pilot Demonstration" a single repeater connecting three or more popular telecentres (each centre with its existing small network of half-a-dozen or so workstations) should provide an adequate basis for demonstrating…...

The best sites for the "The first Telepole Repeater" are likely to be:-

"Pentre Wells":

Llandrindrod Wells + Builth Wells + Llanwrtyd Wells + Tirabad.

"Carmarthan Van":

Ystradgynlais + Trecastle + Brecon (+ Hay-on-Wye).

"Hope Dyke":

Welshpool + Berriew + Churchstoke + Mochdre (Newtown).

"Clyro Hill"

Erwood + Boughrood + Hay-on-Wye.

As a demonstration, the "Carmarthan Van" site ( for 3 telecenters) appears uniquely capable of spuriously supporting Hay-on-Wye of the "Clyro Hill group" and may well have marginal coverage to the Tirabad and Llanwrtyd Wells telecentres.


Options for Test:

Finding suitable applications which really stretch the speed capabilities of a new inter-telecentre 11 MB/sec data link requires some imagination.

It is thought that a 2Mbits/sec "Astra" internet downlink somewhere on the new Telecentre WLAN network (for £150 per year) will provide an impressive and useful low-cost addition if this is not already available.

The best strategy is to demonstrate something which cannot be done without the WLAN. High quality video conferencing and "WebCam" video clips transmissions are ideal for this.

Its a WebCam... Its a Portable Camera... All in One!! Use it for NetMeeting® videoconferencing or video capture, then simply unplug the WebCam Go and go! Take it anywhere, photograph anything, and bring the pictures back to your computer to share with the world.

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Price £69 inc. VAT & Shipping


Figure 5. Creative WebCam


Installing a FREE video conferencing "booth" in a number of telecentres allowing high quality face-to-face meetings between people many miles away, should prove very popular with people who wouldn’t normally use computers. People will learn very fast how a face to face videophone meeting or interview can save many miles of unnecessary journeys.

Free two-way television should prove instantly newsworthy and provide the main long term promotional impetus for expansion of the WLAN (if so required) to homes and business locations in surrounding areas adjacent to the telecentres.

A WebCam in each meeting room can initiate new service activities, such as arranging local on-line public meetings. e.g. Friendly and informative meetings with Public Officials / Councilors / MPs +etc.


Fig.6 Video Conferencing (Intel Proshare 500)


Future development

A successful demonstration will pave the way for "The Telecentre Powys WLAN" to be developed connecting all existing telecentres as suggested in Fig.7. An important aspect of this development is that while the Telecentres may retain their existing ISDN type ESP9 network as a private and back-up resource, the new WLAN system is essentially open and public. Any computer enthusiast within sight of one of the proposed 15 new WLAN "Telepoles" or line of sight to the rooftop omnidirectional antenna on a local telecentre will be able to access this new network (requiring only a WLAN adapter, rooftop antenna and User Permission).

Figure 7. Telecentres Powys 11,000Kbits/sec WLAN - Complete.


Methods of security developed for the Internet are applicable for the use of WLANs since the threat of interception of microwave carriers is the same.

Whilst general access to a network can be open to the public as "Guest Users" permission to fully use the WLAN and "User Permission" must be obtained as with any other multi-user system.

Regarding "eavesdropping" or "misuse"; that small number of possible unwanted users and destructive "hackers" can be dealt with under the same recent legislation which protects all unauthorized access of networks.


Wider Applications:

There are many economically important but non-profit-making WLAN applications sectors such as:-

Amateur Athletics & Sport

Parent/Teachers - Education & Academia

Medical Research & Electronics

Charitable Research

Religion & Social

Community Organisations

Theatre, Music & Arts


Wildlife & Environmental Surveillance

Community and Hospital Radio & Television

Local Government & Traffic Management

Voluntary Safety & Rescue Services (St. John Ambulance/Mountain Rescue etc)

And not least of all our wonderful institution The BBC. It is believed that Education and Medical sectors alone spend some 15% of UK GNP.



Community owned and managed WLANs now offer open un-metered access, free from call charges yet presently can provide superior internet access to all internet services than any existing technology possible over telephone wires.

It will be of enormous benefit to children and young people who are typically today without even basic telephone or ISDN. Additionally for this group free local broadband can provide the physical medium for enabling entirely new and exciting ventures in Local Community Radio and Television, Free Local Telephone and free face to face Videophone Communications……..

Free broadband access can give the lowest possible cost access to quality internet based video conferencing, virtual face-to-face counseling and promote initiatives in widespread and affordable Distance Learning.

Community Broadband can encourage interest and self training in all aspects of Community Media (providing unlimited outlets for Amateur Radio & Television Productions) as well as providing opportunities for amateur level hands-on technical Network Administration and Systems Development (as a strategic wealth-creating self-training activity like Ham Radio) hitherto not seen since perhaps the Amateur BBS FidoNet days.

The birth of free, quality, high speed access to community owned and run Local ICT Networks can attract wider participation in modern neighbourhood community "co-operative" development and above all reduce an anticipated (exponentially growing) pernicious degradation on all aspects of business and social life apparent through increasingly resourced and acquisitive transnational telecoms monopolies.

With low-cost Community WLANS we (as a community) have the immediate capability of operating significant parts of the INTERNET as true municipal and community resources (such as schools, colleges, hospitals, libraries, parks, commonlands, public footpaths and open spaces). Initial studies show that our not-for-profit ethic can deliver end user connections for 7% of the existing for-profit commercial costs. (even at present one-off prices for PC WLAN cards at as much as £85 each......)

These completely NEW possibilities created by "Community WLANs" make feasible a renaissance of local communities, building communications networks with real social value within the community ethos of the liberal writings of Norbert Wiener ("The Father of Cybernetics")..... As socially and technically important as the development of private printing, free speech and broadcast radio & TV media itself.

Figure 8.
Omnidirectional and Dish Antenna (Telepole U.K. "Cityscape")



Acknowledgment & References:-

Creative "WebCam" also for £62 from:- CPC Ltd.

Community Wireless Internet Campaign

Home Counties Amateur Television Group

Intel Proshare 500

Norbet Wiener "Cybernetics" MIT 1948

Planet-Supplies U.K. -

Telecentres Powys

Telepole U.K. "Cityscape" and other products










Glossary of terms


3rd Generation Broadband Digital Cellular (up to 2Mbit/sec).

Adapter PC Adapter - a printed circuit board designed to slot in the internal motherboard "bus" of a PC.

Amateur Radio "For the love of.. L. ama" Radio operation for the self-training and

education of it participants without commercial or pecuniary gain.

ASCII 7 bit (128 char) American Standard Code for Information Interchange

DSL/ADSL New Digital Subscriber Line (up to 2Mbit/sec).

AP Access Point (same as WAP).

Astra Swiss based Direct Broadcasting Satellite (DBS) IAP firm.

BBS Bulletin Board Service (pre-internet amateur dial-up server technology.)

BBS FIDONET Pre internet dial-up amateur international e-mail and news network.

Bit Binary Information Digit (about 10 bits = 1 ASCII character + ctrl)

Broadband Currently taken to mean data transfer of 2Mbit/sec or greater.

BT British Telecom PLC. (Principal U.K. main PSTN operator)

Bus Non type-specific multi-contact interconnection system

(From electrical terminology for a common connection point - Busbar)

Card System on a printed circuit board (also adapter)

CSMA Carrier Sensed Multiple Access (how a single channel is shared by many

simultaneous users without polling).

Dish Dish shaped parabolic curve reflector for high gain microwave antenna


Downlink Data path from a distant computer (cf. Uplink).

DSSS Direct Sequence Spread Spectrum (means of reducing co-channel radio


Ethernet Proprietary name for network standard. Same as IEEE802.3

GHz 1,000,000,000 Hz or cycles per second.

Hackers People who make unauthorized entry to computer systems.

Ham Radio American term for the Amateur Radio Service.

IAP Organisation providing "Internet Access".

ICT Information & Communications Technology (see IT).

IEEE Institute of Electrical & Electronic Engineers (USA).

ISA Industry Standard (PC) Architecture also Instrument Society of America.

ISDN Integrated Systems Digital Network.

IT Earlier used to describe ICT.

LAN Local Area Network.

LINUX UNIX-like operating system for PCs.

Mbit/sec Million bits per second.

MHz Million Hertz (cycles) per second.

NOS Network Operating System (Wireless).

Omnidirectional Omnidirectional: antenna with all round equal response.

PC Personal Computer (IBM originated standard).

PCB Printed Circuit Board.

PCI Current PC bus Peripheral Component Interconnect(ion)

PCMCIA Personal Computer Memory Card International Association

TCP/IP Transmission Control Protocol / Internet Protocol

TEC Training and Education Council

Uplink Data path to a distant computer (cf. Downlink)

Video Television Baseband Signal

WEBCAST Using the Internet (WWW) for media broadcasting

WAN Wide Area Network (usually cable based)

WAP Wireless Applications Protocol also Wireless Access Point.

WLAN Wireless Local Area Network (Typically a high speed co-axial cable

interconnection in the form of a 10-100Mbit/sec Ethernet).