TOULOUSE, France, 02 May 2006
A detailed study of Venezuela’s topography, a trip to Italy, some pieces of ‘public domain’ software, satellite dishes that cross mountains on all-terrain trucks, cables, generators. This is neither a capricious list nor are its elements surrealist digressions. The elements that we have just enumerated are part of an ambitious endeavour that recently became a reality: to break the world wireless connection record by establishing a 279 km long link.
The goal of this impressive task is not to become immortal by appearing in the Guiness Book of Records, but rather to show the possibilities of wireless networks and to foment increasingly ambitious initiatives in the area. The parties responsible were Ermanno Pietrosemoli and Javier Treviño of EsLaRed – the Venezuelan member of APC – and Carlo Fonda, from ICTP (Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics).
In 2005 a group of North American radio-aficionados managed to establish a 241 kilometre wireless connection. Why not try to go beyond that in a country like Venezuela, where mountains are natural transmission towers? That is how the project got underway. With the help of Radio Mobile, a free and open source software, peaks were identified. These Pico del Águila and the Baúl summits had the least obstacles between, allowing for the free transmission of waves.
Second phase: define adequate technology. Antennas, reflectors and other instruments – technical details of which can be found in the complete report – were tested on site. The project gradually took shape as the enthusiasm of the individuals responsible for it grew. Nevertheless it still needed the definite push.
In February 2006, Ermanno traveled to Trieste to participate in a wireless network training. It is not surprising that his colleagues for ICTP, an institution associated with EsLaRed with which it has been collaborating for over ten years, were more than interested in the Venezuelan’s initiative. This was particularly so in the case of Carlos Fonda, from the ICTP’s Aeronomy and Radio Laboratory. The head of the laboratory approved financing and Carlos started to pack his bags. Two months later, he arrived in Venezuelan lands.
There were materials still left to be obtained and this was done. There were details to be adjusted and adjustments were made. There were trips to be taken and trips were made. Any obstacle dissolved when faced with the desire of advancing the project. The big day arrived: April 13, 2006. Technicians were stationed at each of the summits and after overcoming various technical problems, they were able to emit and capture waves that travelled the 279 kilometres that separated one antenna from the other without any major inconveniences.
Wireless connections still have a long way to go. Initiatives like this one are a good shortcut.