Low-Cost Internet Connectivity for Remote Locations

31/08/2021

Instituto Atlântico of Brazil was selected as one of the winners of the FRIDA Grants Program with their proposal to develop a low-cost device to create Internet interconnection infrastructure for people living in remote and disconnected areas of Latin America, such as the northwest of Brazil.

Mesh Connect, as the project is titled, seeks to bring the Internet and connectivity to remote areas of Brazil using a device with low installation and maintenance costs and which can be used to provide a basic network service. The prototype is also intended to be used in the event of natural disasters which affect existing Internet services, said Lucélia Saraiva, project manager at Instituto Atlântico.

What can you tell us about your proposal to develop low-cost devices for the construction of Internet interconnection infrastructure?

The solution is based on the creation of a mesh network where each device cooperates with others within the reach of a network that uses a physical medium based on wireless LoRa and WiFi (802.11) technology. By creating this mesh, packets can be routed through the Internet Protocol (IP), thus allowing the infrastructure to be connected to the Internet and guaranteeing the interconnection of various networks.

End users can access the network — and potentially the Internet — through WiFi hotspots that ensure interoperability with the users’ own devices. The project will try to produce a prototype of this open-source, low-cost mobile device that will allow users in remote areas to access basic Internet services such as instant messaging applications.

The prototype can also be used in the event of a natural disaster that compromises the primary infrastructure.

What are the goal and the scope of your project?

The goal of the project is to build a device with low installation and maintenance costs, and which can be used by public or private actors to provide a basic network service to people in remote locations.

Which areas would you be able to reach with this technology?

We will be able to reach areas where the population is underserved, not necessarily because they are far from urban centers, but because they lack the resources needed to connect to the Internet.

Who will benefit from this experience?

People who live in remote locations or far from urban centers. It is also intended for natural disasters that compromise the primary Internet infrastructure.

Can the project be replicated in other parts of Brazil or in other countries in the LAC region?

Yes. This solution can be applied in regions without connectivity, a common problem worldwide and particularly in countries with low levels of socio-economic development. It requires a single point of connection to the Internet, so it can be used to connect remote areas by installing MeshConnect devices that use communication channels based on LoRa to allow long-distance, solar-powered communications with low-cost, energy-efficient devices.

How do you feel about your participation in LACNIC’s FRIDA Program? Replying to the call for proposals and having our project selected have been extremely important to Instituto Atlântico and to everyone involved in the project, as we are passionate about research, development, and innovation. The execution of the project supported by LACNIC reinforced our mission of contributing to social development, progress, and well-being.