DIY Broadband With The WAN Wizards

Since we moved house two months ago, I’ve struggled to publish a daily podcast without even a telephone in the house, not to mind broadband. With the launch of An Líonra Sóisialta next month it could not be sustained under those conditions.

“So why did you move to an area without broadband?”

It’s a reasonable question! However, broadband is not the only factor governing choice of home! (No, really! 😉 ) To be honest, it’s more a question of timing: I fully expect commercial broadband will be available in my area within a couple of years. And anyway – I had an alternative in mind!

For many years now, amateur enthusiasts have been building private wireless networks all over Ireland. They’ve been especially active in my part of the country: Clare, Galway and Limerick.

Last Saturday I had a visit from two local wireless experts, Dave and Bushy. By the time they left, I was connected via another node 20 miles away across the Shannon Estuary.

Now I’m a member of a private network. It’s kind of exciting – like being on an old BBS! I’ve even got internet web acess via a number of proxy servers provided by other members.

Those servers are a courtesy, as are the backhaul links on the network. I must be careful to respect these community resources. Also, I don’t have access to other internet services such as FTP, Skype or even basic email (web-based gmail is OK). And while there is plenty of activity such as gaming on the private network, I can’t access Second Life or even the iTunes music store.

My next step is to work with another member to provide me with full internet access via DSL at his end. If your interested in more geeky details, check out the Flickr pictures. Or visit the community at where you’ll find some seriously smart and commmitted people working for their communities and for their own enjoyment. Thanks lads!

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8 Comments on “DIY Broadband With The WAN Wizards”

  1. Aloha Conn, very interesting stuff. I’m in the same situation myself. We built our home in an area sans cable service and too far away from a telco switch to get DSL. We hoped that eventually cable would make it to our area (a cable company employee lives not far from us, but in 7+ years it has failed to materialize. At least we do have POTS. There is a company offering wireless broadband in our area, but it’s a minimum of $500 and average of $750 for them to set you up.

    There is a fellow on our island who began a project very similar to yours five or six years ago. He was actually feeding a school in Kona from his home in Waimea (about 40 miles line of sight), and eventually was able to soot a feed across the channel that separates Hawai‘i island from Maui.

    His website is at though I’m not sure if it’s been updated in a few years.

  2. Across the Shannon Estuary,…. to where Conn? I met up with a few of the IrishWan lads a few years back and we organized a meeting with Aughinish Alumina near Foynes in the hope of using their rather high chimney stack (or whatever the industrial name is for the thing) to use as a relay point. Unfortunately their IT manager wasn’t having any of it eventhough their PR people loved the idea!

    After getting the use of DSL at a relative’s house I lost interest in the IrishWan project but I’d still be very interested to know if its finally found its way into north west Limerick?

  3. Donie Says:

    Hi all
    To answer James’s question, we have made it north west of Limerick as Conn himself lives in that general direction.

    Getting great sites is still a problem and always will be. We were recently followed by the council for installing a 12ft mast as somebody objected to its location. We have to work around issues like this to bring broadband to the west of Ireland where the government doesn’t seem to care what happens. From my experience the most brilliant people have come from the west and to deprive them of a 20th centruy technology in the 21st century is criminal. €ircom doesn’t care. When it was sold along with it’s copper infrastructure it was the most backward thing for any government to do. If that was not the case the West would have some hope.

    But we will do what it takes to bring the technology to those willing to fight for it. We are not a WISP and never will be. We are completly non-commerical through necessity. We will never “roll out” broadband to the masses, only those willing to seek us out and do their part for our vision…

    I’m delighted Conn was connected. He is an asset to the WAN and I wish him many days of blogging and podcasting over the Irishwan network.


  4. Sorry James, I should have been clearer! By “Across The Shannon Estuary” I meant, East-West, not North-South as you would reasonably expect by that statement!

    I’m in West Clare, towards the toe of the county, and the node I’m connected to is in East Clare, on the heel!

    As Donie suggests, however, it is possible my location may have some strategic value for North West Limerick? I don’t know yet – I’m still very much a newbie!

  5. Brian Greene Says:

    Interesting. What are the signals like in rain (west of ireland rain) and in fog. when you say 500kbits is that up & down? next you will be setting up little soviets, pirate RnaG and community TV! oh the west did that years ago!

  6. Actually Brian, I’ve misunderestimated (!) the speed. I got that across the WAN one night – and of course it’s limited by the capacity of the slowest link. But I think the link between me and the guy I’m connected to may be much faster. I’ll post more when I actually get around to testing it.

  7. bushy Says:

    To answer Brian G’s questions , the rain wouldn’t really be a problem with a good link , and unless the fog is really dense it won’t bother it too much.
    As for speed point to point , good links might give you 10megs without too much hassle.
    With more processing speed at each end , the same stuff should give 50megs.

  8. […] Eircom “Split Line” Issue Can Be Overcome I spoke for 60 seconds on Raidio na Gaeltachta this morning!  I was prompted to call in response to a discussion about rural broadband, a subject of which I have had some experience. […]

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