Lancaster University

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Lancaster Computing Researchers at Westminster

03/13/2007 11:26:35

Lancaster University researchers who helped bring about an IT revolution in a rural community are set to present their work in the House of Commons this month.

Computing researchers Johnathan Ishmael and Dr Nick Race have been
selected to present their work to a panel of judges on March 19 as part of SET for Britain - an annual event showcasing the work of Britain's top early-stage research scientists, engineers and technologists.

The researchers were part of a project which enabled an entire Lancashire village to get online and also provided a unique opportunity for the University to carry out research into an emerging technology.

Villagers in Wray in the Lune Valley had been waiting to receive broadband for years when they hooked up with computing experts based in InfoLab21 - Lancaster University's world-class research, development and business centre in Information and Communication Technologies (ICT).

Before the project began in 2004 the only Internet access in Wray had been a slow, often unreliable, dial-up service.

University researchers were keen to discover how wireless technology performs in remote, rural environments so when they heard of the village's campaign to get on line they decided to offer wireless broadband to the village as a free service and use the network as a research test bed.

The network has provided an Internet connection to more than one hundred homes, transforming everyday life in the village and promoting local business and education. Researchers at Lancaster University have also been able to gather important information on how the network operates.

Johnathan Ishmael, who has been completing a PhD based around the Wray network, said: "Even in rural areas that are fortunate enough to have a broadband internet service, it typically does not match the speed and reliability of urban broadband connections.

"Advances in wireless technology meant that it was theoretically possible to connect rural areas where there was little or no infrastructure using a chain of small mesh boxes. These mesh boxes are able to communicate with one another, linking up to form a wireless mesh network.

"We were keen to discover how this emerging wireless technology performed out of the laboratory environment in the real world - particularly in remote rural areas. The project at Wray provided us with a unique opportunity to do exactly that."