Connecting the next billion with LibreRouter: An Open Source Router for Geek-free Mesh Community Networks – Nicolas Pace [OpenWRT Summit 2018]

Librerouter is hardware and software to improve Internet connectivity.

Consortium of 3 projects: AlterMundi.net works on p2p approaches to satisfy people’s communication needs without big telcos. LibreMesh is OpenWRT mesh network.

A community network is a telecommunication network that bypasses the market companies and builds there own network - mainly for areas where service providers are commercially unviable. ITU published that communities of less than 5000 people are not profitable to connect. That’s 3 billion people in the work. So these people are building their own network. But still only a few communities are doing this.

Where there is no telecommunication, there is usually also not a lot of other things, like electricity. The speed of expansion of coverage has decelerated in recent years. The model of the telcos doesn’t work for these customers. They use many different languages, they are not geeks and are looking for education. They don’t have many resources, but they are resourceful.

LibreMesh.org is a “geek-free” open mesh network: you don’t need an engineer to deploy it (it’s not a reality at the moment, it’s the vision). So all the difficult decisions should be taken automatically, e.g. IP assignment, routing, mesh setup. They only have to give a name to their network. LibreMesh sets up a mesh, and also interconnects these meshes.

To set it up, the device sees that it is the only one in the network and it asks the user for a name. To add a node, turn it on and point the antenna to your neighbour.

lime-sdk is a wrapper around OpenWRT that does a one-line installation of everything.

It has a lot of additional functionalities/services that the network can build on.

Hardware is LibreRouter.org. It’s an open source router for mesh networks. It used to be based on off-the-shelf routers, but because FCC requires lockdown this is no longer possible. So they built their own. It has performant meshing, with 2 5GHz ath9k 2x2 (for meshing) and 1 2.4GHz 2x2 (for access). It’s a non-profit, so you can get it at cost price. Ideally, this type of device would be created by a manufacturer so they don’t have to do it. These 3 billion people might be your clients. A survey in their community shows that there are 4500 routers that can be sold immediately.

Last prototype is going out of factory tomorrow. Needs to undergo an endurance test in 6 villages in Argentina, then global distribution can start.

Next step is to continue the geek-free approach on higher levels.

Also want to add more media and improve the product.

The manufacturer in China takes care of certification for FCC and ETSI, this is enough for most countries.