Europe's widest municipal mesh network launched

Wi-Next, the pioneering open-source Wi-Fi company, is to provide broadband access to the Italian region of Alta Langa for the first time as part of Europe's largest ever wide-area Wi-Fi mesh project.

Alta Langa is a mountainous area in North Western Italy that encompasses 21 small villages and a population of over 8,000 spread across a wide-area (218,740 km sq). Due to the economic and geographical constraints of delivering ADSL in the region, the new network marks the first time the region has been able to bridge the "digital divide" by offering wireless broadband access and enabling greater communications between the public administration and its citizens.

The project - which began two years ago - uses Wi-Next's NAAW system, an open-source Wi-Fi mesh technology developed in conjunction with the Automatics and Informatics Department of the Politecnico University in Turin. It completely replaces the need for wireline broadband systems such as ADSL by creating an organic mesh network that every network client to operate as a network node and communicate with each other, allowing the network to be extended quickly and efficiently. Unlike traditional Wi-Fi networks, which use a centralised model with a single access point, NAAW uses a "many-to-many" model that continually reconfigures itself and maintains the network even as nodes are added or

removed.

"We have solved the problem of the 'digital divide' by offering the access to the internet 'always and everywhere', just like in a big city," says Michele Ferraudo, the designer of the installation. "The gap is not only digital, but also cultural. We have developed a real wireless network that allows people to connect to each other, makes communications possible between the Public Administration and its citizens thanks to encrypted VPN, and has the potential to offer many new innovative services as well."

The project was developed in conjunction with the Union of Mountain Communities (UNCEM) and BBBELL, a local operator from Turin responsible for delivering the high-speed radio connectivity for the different villages in the region.

The new NAAW-based network provides the platform for a range of new services that can be rolled out over the coming months thanks to close co-operation between the public (Alta Langa, UNCEM) and private (Wi-Next, BBBELL) stakeholders in the project. New services are expected to include public transport services, hot-spots and low-cost home broadband.

'We have overcome many technical and legal challenges but are now ready to extend services to all citizens and companies in the region," said Alessandro Barbero, the President of Alta Langa. "We aim to offer to every family or company in Alta Langa a tested and efficient broadband service at a fair price."