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My Original Schematic Plan for North Wales

Below is one schematic I drew up before I reached Northern Wales for a more extensive site survey, except for a brief look during my earlier, February trip.

This was before the UK regulatory powers had approved any radios except 802.11b 'wi-fi' and 5.8ghz 'Hyperlan' radios.

And before Bangor University was willing to have its broadband Internet link be connected up by the e-fro Proof-of-Concept project.

In the end neither higher hills - Mynydd or Carnedd were needed - I was able to bypass them.

 

From Bangor to Bethesda

The plan was, first to meet with techies from the area. Many of them attended Bangor University while living in places like small Bethesda, and other villages along the OgwenValley.

We met in a downtown a Bethesda business building, where several small businesses, one - Camre Cymru - involved with tourism were located. They would be possible candidates for the use of the e-fro Community Wireless Network.


Downtown Bethesda. One main road through it. From the second floor of most buildings the close-by (2-3 miles) hills to the south are line-of-sight visible.

 

The e-fro project rented a couple rooms on, the second floor in the Camre Cymru building where we set up the Linux server which David Jr would program and prepare for handling the email, web, and administrative traffic on the "Bethesda community server"

The back of the Camre Cymru building with its view of the south hills where we would put the radio relay. Not shown is the grid antenna we put on the roof, aimed at the hills. One of the owners of Camre Cymru, tourism, which could use the Bethesda Community Wireless Link to the Internet

 

I set out, both on foot through the thick 'heather like' fields as well as up old roads to estimate where the Radio Relay that could 'see' both the buildings about 2 miles away in Bethesda including the one we were using, AND the distant - over 6 miles away - castle-like tower at Bangor College in Bangor.

We lucked out when someone in the town remembered that a descendent-owner of the Slate Quarry on the slopes of one of the mountains. We drove to the sight and I saw it would be ideal for the relay installation while lugging all the batteries, poles, antennas, cases etc through the fields to set up in a meadow would take too much effort.

So we had dinner with that owner that night and he gave us permission to set up - just for the few days needed in 'his' very historic quarry.

 

David Jr and Elen Rhys work on setting up the e-fro Linux server Dave Sr, on the mountain, tests a link to Bangor, 6 miles away

 

Then came the time for me to scout out the Bangor University tower and install a directional antenna in the tower pointed west toward the Slate Quarry, then with a long - four floors down - ethernet cable from an access point radio in the tower to the university data control room and broaband connection to the Internet, complete the loop to the net from Bethesda - with no-cost wireless links.

 

The Highest Point in Bangor - the University Tower Rebecca scouts out the University
The University Techs in the Univ Control Room The 6 miles view from the Tower to relay point
View of the town of Bangor below the parapets My antenna mount in the Tower

 

Meanwhile the Digital College crew, including Elen Rhys herself worked at installing the Relay Point at the Slate Quarry.

In the Slate Quarry - Relay point - higher gain antenna pointed east toward Bangor (to the right), while a lower gain smaller 'rod' antenna is oriented (behind me who took the picture) north toward Bethesda, and the building with the server. Completing the Wi-fi wireless loop. Batteries shown and plastic waterproof box with radio in it.

 

Since the Wireless Demonstration would only have to be up for several days, no solar panels to recharge the batteries were needed. The radios were 12 volt.

The Film crew came up the mountain to document the work and set up for the 'relay' point - which visually makes the 'real wireless network' point.

The 'fan' of the directional link between Bangor and the Relay radio was wide enough (probably 15 degrees) that about any Welsh family or small business building in between - such as the town of Tregarth (see the schematic map at the top) would - with a simple personal computer Wi-Fi radio attached and a rubber duck antenna get the signal, and thus be connected to the Internet - at no cost for the broadband link. (only for a subscription to whatever Internet Service they wanted - even if it were in Cardiff)

And the much wider 'fan' from the rod antenna facing Bethesda - perhaps 45 degrees both ways from center, would cover most all of the homes and buildings in Bethesda, 2 miles away.

I had to insure that the Wi-Fi radio ( 2.483 Megahertz signal) power output plus the antenna 'gain' toward Bangor did not exceed 1 watt (EIRP) to stay within the UK and European Union Regulatory Standards. Lots of calculations. I had to use 'EU' marked Cisco Wi-Fi radios. "US - FCC rules" radios can emit - with antennas - 4 watts EIRP. Thus a pair of Cisco Aironet Radios with directional antennas at both ends, with clear line of sight, can reach, reliably, 20 miles. Needed in rural America. But distances in Wales are much shorter. So EU standards radios can reach the distance - usually 5 miles or less - I kept observing between villages and towns (and Rugby Clubs and Pubs in Wales).

Community based E-fro radios could blanket Wales. Which is what I was 'proving' to Minister Davies, the Welsh Digital College - and the Welsh Language and educational culture of Wales.

It Works!

Friday, the 26th of July, besides the 10 local 'community' members who were scheduled to undergo training by David Jr, a number (I recall six) prominent (if being from small Bethesda can be considered prominent) showed up to see the demonstrated wireless connection to the Internet, the e-fro server, and listen to Elen Rhys explain what the entire setup can do, and what the community needs to do to capitalize on the system.

 

Part of the Locals listening to Elen Rhys Other local VIPS also in attendence

 

Then we switched on the small computer screen, which was attached to the server, and by wireless to the Internet, and called up a series of obviously-remote web sites - like the New York Times.

Somebody exclaimed, in an obviously incredulous voice "IT WORKS!"

The demonstration made its dramatic point. That the smallest farms and towns in Wales could be connected up - not by a large ponderous wired corportate monopoly called British Telecom - but by locally community-bought radios and computers - to the world wide Internet.

e-fro was real. And could be duplicated by any community.

Which did not mean it WAS duplicated. For after the demonstration was done, the equipment broken down, the Bethesda training ended, after a little sightseeing and listening to some Welsh Singers sing, and David Jr and Diana drove across Anglesy to Irish-Welsh Ferry and proceeded home, Elen Rhys admitted to me privately, that the most prominant man present - the one who supervised the expenditure of the Development Agency funds for the demonstration project and all the costs to get my team to and from America - said to her "It worked! NOW what are we going to do??"

It was clear that although everyone in Wales busily worked to make the project, based on advanced even though comparatively cheap - technology, that few key leaders actually thought I could carry it off as promised. "It worked!?!" And now the policy makers were going to have to make a decision on whether, and how, to connect up all Wales, wirelessly.

In the end they didn't. But the project had 'Unintended Consequences.' For all the while we and the Digital College got publicity all over Wales, British Telecom followed us everwhere I made a presentation or demonstrated, and the day after asked its sponsors - such as the Universities and community governments asked them "Are you not satisfied with our BT services. Do you need anything more? etc. etc."

We had brought actual, and real COMPETITION to mighty monopoly British Telecom! And soon after we were back in the US, BT decided and announced that it really would NOT take millions of British Pounds from UK government, or wait for the 'marketplace' to fund them. They could upgrade from ADSL now, cut their rates, and start deploying all of the UK to the Internet sooner than later.

A 50 minute video of the E-Fro for-BBC-Wales story of this project was completed. You can access below in the Trips (7) section. It is in spoken Welsh, but with English subtitles. If you are running Firefox or Mozilla Web browser the video will start playing immediately. If you are using Internet Explorer, it may take several minutes to entirely load the large 100MB file before it starts to Play. Similarly Chrome web browser will take a long time to load before playing. Use download (free) Firefox to your computer if you really want to play this long video which was broadcast in Wales over BBC-SC4 for Welsh audiences for the e-fro project in 2002.

 

 

 

 

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