View Full Version : Jalalbad gets WiFi

09-05-2010, 03:52 AM
The Jalalabad Fab Fi Network Continues to Grow With a Little Help from Their Friends
by babatim on February 5th, 2010

Editors Note: In this post Keith Berkoben and Amy Sun from the Center for Bits and Atoms at MIT report on the Fab Fi network in Jalalabad. These are cross posted on the Jalalabad Fab Lab blog. Keith is first up with great news on the continued growth of the fab fi mesh around Jalalabad City. Twenty five nodes up and running simultaneously a pretty impressive. Amy Sun follows with a solid demonstration of using keen insight, humor and classic leadership skills while working through language and cultural difficulties to do a little problem solving.

When we first brought FabFi to Afghanistan we brought our own idea of the best solution. It looked something like the photo below. With a little training, our afghan friends figured out how to copy reflectors like the one in the photo and make links. Thats super cool and all, but you cant always get nice plywood and wire mesh and acrylic and Shop Bot time when you want to make a link. Maybe its the middle of the night and the lab is closed. Maybe you spent all your money on a router and all you have left for a reflector is the junk in your back yard. That, dear world, is when you IMPROVISE:
Pictured below is a makeshift reflector constructed from pieces of board, wire, a plastic tub and, ironically enough, a couple of USAID vegetable oil cans that was made today by Hameed, Rahmat and their friends and It is TOTALLY AWESOME, and EXACTLY what Fab is all about.

For those of you who are suckers for numbers, the reflector links up just shy of -71dBm at about 1km, giving it a gain of somewhere between 5 and 6dBi. With a little tweaking and a true parabolic shape, it could easily be as powerful as the small FabFi pictured above (which is roughly 8-10dBi depending on materials)

For me, the irony of the graphic above is particularly acute when one considers that an 18-month World Bank funded infrastructure project to bring internet connectivity to Afghanistan began more than SEVEN YEARS ago and only made its first international link this June. That project, despite hundreds of millions of dollars in funding, is still far from being complete while FabLabbers are building useful infrastructure for pennies on the dollar out of their garbage.


I havent been in Afghanistan since September, missing my January window of opportunity this year. Fortunately, our Afghans have discovered Skype and the FabFi-GATR-internet has been sufficiently stable that I havent missed much.

Having Afghans with high speed internet and skype is pretty much like having TV (something else we dont have by choice, like heat). The intrepid FabFi team in Afghanistan (now exclusively Afghans) have been expanding at a quick pace and everyone wants to gab. As long as the connection is up it seems at least one is online and wants to chat. Some of it is utterly content-less and we patiently plod through with the idea that its good English practice. Keith is fantastic at half-rolling out of bed in the morning for a couple hours of conversing a Im just not socially presentable until theres at least a couple cups of coffee in me.

Previously on that Afghan Show.

One night around 2300 Afghan time, our friends Hameed and Rahmat wanted to video skype with us but the city power isnt on then. So in the darkness they went to the hospital water tower and climbed the 5 stories to the tippy top and chatted with us from the windy roof of Jalalabad in the middle of the night. We couldnt see them so well since they were only lit by the light of their own laptop but they could see and hear us which made them silly happy. I hope that gives readers a decent impression of the security situation its not a war zone everywhere. In some places, its like any other city with people that just wanna reach out and chat with their friends.

Logistically the FabFi mesh network is hampered by difficulties in obtaining routers in country. This is completely my fault though I thought that I had verified that you could get these routers on my first trip. But progress is occurring even though sometimes its hard to see. We have discovered that the Afghan fab folk can get joint personal bank accounts at the Jbad branch of Kabul Bank which is backed by some German bank. Ware able to wire transfer funds to and from each other. Now, Afghans can wire us money to purchase routers which we ship to them. In theory, anyway, next week going to try to transfer a small sum to see how it goes. Its a sore point in our project because it takes local shopkeepers out of the loop and creates a large reliance on from America.

09-05-2010, 04:06 AM
Kheruna da wi..............