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Wireless Mesh Delivers Broadband to Underserved Areas in Iceland

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Some 200 remote farms in the Northern Icelandic region of Skagafjordur now have broadband internet access following the deployment of a MESH network from US based Firetide.

Gagnaveita Skagafjardar, which translates to "Data Municipal Service of Skagafjordur," was formed in 2006 with a mission to deliver a fiber connection to every home in the nearby town of Saudarkrokur. The organization, however, soon recognized the need for delivering high-speed connections to the many farming communities outside of town. Too far away from any major urban communications center to get a high-speed connection through telephone lines, these rural businesses have, until now, been restricted to expensive 128 Kbps ISDN.

After reviewing options for delivering high-performance broadband over a large area, the company decided a wireless network using Firetide wireless mesh nodes would be the most cost effective solution.

Aside from a 4 Mbps always-on connection, every farm in the area will also have access to new services such as VoIP and IPTV. Arnar Gunnarsson, system administrator at Tengill EHF. "New applications and speed improvements will enable farmers to remotely monitor their operations. They can adjust the digital engines that power multiple robotic milking systems, for example, or transmit and view live supply-chain data to identify bottlenecks."

Gagnaveita Skagafjardar supplies each home or farm that buys a connection with a remote Firetide mesh node. The farm nodes communicate with additional Firetide mesh nodes at six distribution point locations. One such location, for example, employs four mesh nodes and has eight antennas pointing in every direction. Tengill is currently employing Firetide mesh equipment to connect homes and farms to distribution points separated by distances of up to 7 or 8 miles.

An always-on 4 Mbps connection using Firetide equipment leased from Gagnaveita Skagafjardar and Internet access packages sold by local ISP Fjolnet, costs less than $70 per month. Compare that with the more than $400 per month many farmers were paying for basic equipment and access services - and hourly overage charges - using 64- to -128K ISDN connections.

As of today, Tengill has 30 farms either already using or signed up for network access. Although the cold of winter, which hovers around 0 degrees (Fahrenheit), has made installing equipment slow at times, Gunnarsson says there have been no weather-related performance issues involving the nodes themselves. "So far we have been very happy with how Firetide equipment is handling our weather," he says.

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