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Student-led project deploys community wireless network across the city of Southampton

A community-based wireless network is being developed by a group of University of Southampton students, enabling residents in Portswood and Highfield and beyond to benefit from free wireless access to the Internet in their homes.

The Southampton Open Wireless Project (SOWN) is a community and research project led by students and staff in the School of Electronics and Computer Science (ECS). SOWN is investigating the technologies and infrastructure needed to deploy effective city-wide WiFi network coverage in a domestic area using hot-spots placed strategically to link up to a full-scale network.

In order to create the network SOWN has deployed wireless nodes in student houses around the Highfield Campus. Whilst sharing student’s bandwidth in each house, there is enough left over to allow other people to access the network and therefore the Internet.

‘Relying on community involvement has allowed SOWN to deploy its network in hard to reach places, as well as giving internet access to large swathes of student areas around the city,’ said Stuart Harland, a student in ECS.

Members of the public can gain access to the wireless network by obtaining an account from SOWN, for which there is no charge. In addition to providing a high level of uptime and capability for its users in Southampton, SOWN is a test bed for new technology. The SOWN team are currently working on research on several key areas of wireless technology, including the development of multicasting audio and video streams, 802.1x Authentication, Transparent Mobility, Wireless VoIP, Wireless Location Tracking and deploying IPv6.

According to David Tarrant, SOWN is unique in that it is the only "non commercial, research network, student led, wide scale wireless network" around.

Since it began several years ago, SOWN has amassed a large amount of information on testing wireless devices, implementation of hardware and software solutions, and a whole volume of technical knowledge.

It can be found at

Helene Murphy | alfa
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