Nepal Wireless Networking Project: Elevating community Internet usage in mountainous regions!
The Nepal Wireless Networking Project started in 1996, initially with the goal to bring a telephone line and an Internet connection to the Himachal Higher Secondary School in the remote district of Mygadi, Nepal. Today, the Nepal Wireless Project (NWP) has wired over 200 villages throughout the country and continues to connect more areas.
Nepal, a population of 28.7 million people, is considered one of the most mountainous countries in the world with an average elevation of 3,265m. Of the 28.7 million inhabitants, 70% reside in rural or remote areas making the development and deployment of telecommunication infrastructure difficult. As a result, national broadband penetration is around 14%. Villages are often “off” the electrical grid, and, in order to provide connectivity, alternative energy sources (solar, hydro-electric) are needed to provide power. Source: World Bank, International Telecommunications Union, GSMA, Portland State University
Another obstacle to network deployment is the lack of domestically produced equipment needed to deploy these networks. Most equipment is imported and causeing delays adding additional costs and incurring import fees.
Twenty-five percent (25%) of the population falls below the poverty line, and infrastructure also needs to be cost effective and affordable in order to promote usage and to be sustainable.
The Nepal Wireless Project sought to initially connect schools, community centers and clinics to provide education and telemedicine services. The initial Mygadi project took 6 years (1996- 2002) to complete due to the obstacles mentioned above. Since then, through practice and careful planning, 42 villages were connected by 2008. And, today, 200 villages are connected.
NWP projects rely on 2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz frequencies to connect villages and base stations with most of the network backbone supported by Motorola Canopy Radios. These are dependable radios and avoid signal interference. Last-mile connectivity uses 802.11b/g standard wireless Ethernet, making it affordable and providing a minimum bandwidth of 1MBp/s that can be used by many different interfaces.
The project charges a small service fee to the communication centers to cover operating costs thus ensuring the sustainability of the network. This method also empowers the community to be the decision makers in the running of their networks, providing opportunities for entrepreneurship. Some villages have produced e-commerce initiatives -- promoting tourism in the region and developing mechanisms for online money transfers. Education and rural health has also been improved through online learning in schools, and the use of telemedicine has allowed physicians to treat patients remotely from larger hospitals with greater expertise in care.
The Nepal Wireless Project has provided invaluable knowledge to the networking community by successfully providing remote villages in a harsh climate with low-cost networks and by building capacity to allow the community to manage their network and promote entrepreneurship opportunities