Dunedin's wireless community is planning to go one step beyond the simple network by building a mesh network and interest is already running hot.
Under a mesh network wireless clients become not only consumers of data but also network access points. Each device attached to the network acts as a router which enables the network to swell and contract as users log on and off. Mesh networks are supposedly more robust than traditional network architectures because there is no single point of failure.
Dan Clark, network manager for Dunedin-based ISP Scarfies.net says the community will be initially aimed at local businesses and high-end users who use a lot of traffic.
"There are a couple of reasons for starting it. In Auckland and Wellington there are internet exchanges for peering and I thought we could do something like that here for local businesses as well ISPs and high-end users."
Clark says the community would allow these high-traffic users to make better use of their bandwidth. Initially the offering would only cover an intranet, but with the interest he's seen so far he would like to offer internet connectivity as well.
"I'm also looking at cheap domestic bandwidth to offer and possibly an internet-based proxy service."
Clark has already been talking with TelstraClear about such a service after discovering local interest is running high.
"I posted to a local Linux users group and the response from that was horrendous. Heaps of people came back interested. There are quite a few who have been trying to put feelers out about this kind of service. I must have just hit the right spot and all these other people that were looking have said 'we're keen and we've got x amount of people to join to yours'."
Clark's been looking at open source software for a mesh network solution as well and is using Mesh AP.
"It's an interlinking type software. You download it and run it on an access point, basically a Linux box with a PC card in it that actively searches the local 2.4 GHz wireless spectrum for active nodes and asks if you want to become part of this mesh network."
The system also provides back-up links, so if a certain pathway on the network is congested or unavailable it will intelligently route the connection through a less congested route.
"It takes an alternative route automatically. It's a big cost saving really."
Interested parties can sign up for more information here, although Clark does warn users that the website is still under construction.