Posted by Michael Kanellos
Pietrosemoli, president of the Escuela Latinoamerica de Redes (which means networking school of Latin America) established a Wi-Fi link between two computers located in El Aguila and Platillon Mountain, Venezuela. That’s a distance of 382 kilometers, or 238 miles. He used technology from Intel, which is concocting its own long-range Wi-Fi equipment, and some off-the-shelf parts. Pietrosemoli gets about 3 megabits per second in each direction on his long range connections.
Most Wi-Fi signals only go a few meters before petering out. Conventional WiFi transmitters, however, transmit signals in all directions. By directing the signal to a specific point, range can be increased.
Honing the signal, however, means that the receiver and transmitter have to be aligned. Trees, buildings and other objects that get between them can sever the link. The curvature of the earth, mis-alignment between the transmitter and receiver, as well as shaking and any sort of movement at the transmitting or receiving end can also impair the signal. (To ameliorate some of these factors, Intel has created a way to electrically steer the signal, which in turn increases bandwidth.)
Geography was on Pietrosemoli’s side. El Aguila and Platillon Mountain sit in the Andes, which form fairly jagged peaks in this part of the range.
The old record was 310 kilometers. Swedish scientists made a link between a balloon and an earth-bound station. We say “apparently’ on Pietrosemoli’s record in case there’s someone out there we haven’t heard of that?s done better.
More details can be found in an article at the web site for The Association for Progressive Communcations. (Mark Summer, co-founder of Inveneo, which is trying to bring PCs to emerging markets, co-founder told us about Pietrosemoli’s achievement.)
Intel along with organizations like Inveneo are testing the feasibility of long-range Wi-Fi as a communication link in Uganda and other emerging nations. Long-range Wi-Fi isn’t as robust at WiMax, but the towers cost a lot less. Some hobbyists have done long range Wi-Fi, but with low bandwidth.
There are experiments going on in the U.S. as well. A long-range Wi-Fi link connects Intel’s Berkeley lab and a lab in Sun Microsystems on the Peninsula more than twenty miles away on the Peninsula.