As regular readers probably know, I’m a huge fan of the Champaign Urbana Wireless Network (CUWiN) and its co-founder and project coordinator Sascha Meinrath. I was therefore ecstatic to hear that CUWiN
received a grant from the National Science Foundation for $500,000.
I have pushed for support for CUWiN for years as one of the great hopes for open source mesh networking using unlicensed spectrum. To unpack that a little from geek speak, it means using non-proprietary code to create nodes that use unlicensed spectrum to form a network by speaking to each other rather than sending a signal point-to-point from a central “hub” (“hub-and-spoke”). You can find a good illustration of the difference between mesh and hub-and-spoke (and good general introduction to community wireless) on this Free Press page.
CUWiN has spent years developing useful open source software and other tools designed to make wireless networks cheap, ubiquitous, and easy to implement in multiple communities and environments. CUWiN software and methods have created networks in Ghanna, the North Lawndale neighborhood of Chicago, Champaign and Urbana, and the San Diego Tribal Digital Village in San Diego County. Their software is freely available and downloadable fromtheir website.
People who care about creating ubiquitous and affordable wireless broadband around the world should be throwing money at CUWiN hand over fist. Sadly, as with so many good and desperately needed projects, CUWiN has lived starved for funds and hand to mouth.
The NSF grant gives CUWiN much needed money to continue and expand its good work. I’m also hopeful that “money follows money” as they say in the grant world. With this level of support from NSF, I hope CUWiN finds it easier to open doors at other foundations and grant sources.
I reprint the CUWiN press release about the grant below.
Stay tuned . . .
CUWiN/UIUC PARTNERSHIP AWARDED $500,000 NSF GRANT TO DEVELOP NEXT GENERATION
OPEN SOURCE MESH WIRELESS TECHNOLOGIES.
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign partners with CUWiN to build
high-performance, robust open source wireless mesh networking technologies.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded $500,000 in grant funding to
support a research and development partnership between the Champaign-Urbana
Community Wireless Network (CUWiN) and the University of Illinois,
Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). This initiative, “Toward building a
Performance-Predictable Wireless Mesh Network”, focuses on the development of
wireless routing protocols, network testing systems, and gateway discovery in
open-source technology. The grant, part of the Network Technology and Systems
Program of the NSF, provides support over a three-year period.
“CUWiN is building the next generation of mesh wireless technologies. Most
importantly, CUWiN is releasing our software under an open source license —
allowing communities, municipalities, organizations, and individuals around the
world to deploy low-cost alternatives to current proprietary systems.” stated
Sascha Meinrath, CUWiN Executive Director.
Community and municipal wireless networks have gained tremendous attention in
recent years. The ultimate objective of this CUWiN/UIUC partnership is to
incorporate research results and system prototypes into production code to be
widely distributed by CUWiN. With the help of CUWiN, the research to be carried
out by UIUC researchers will make a real impact and effect high-throughput,
cost-effective broadband access both for the U.S. and worldwide.
“I am extremely pleased with the fact that NSF recognizes the importance of
carrying out research on a real multi-hop wireless network. CUWiN provides us
with a city-wide research testbed to understand how, and to what extent,
wireless links are affected by PHY/MAC attributes and other environmental
factors. All the measurements we make on CUWiN will help characterize the
behavior of wireless links and identify control ‘knobs’ in the MAC/PHY layers
with which the network capacity can be optimized.” Principal Investigator,
Jennifer Hou, stated.
CUWiN’s mission is to help bridge the digital divide by developing low-cost,
open source, wireless technologies and making them available to community and
municipal networks around the world. CUWiN networks have been established in
urban settings like Chicago, Illinois, and Washington, D.C., as well as rural
places like the Mesa Grande Indian Reservation near San Diego, California,
and Apirede, Ghana. CUWiN continues to expand its development testbed in
Urbana, Illinois in partnership with the City of Urbana and the University of
“The wireless technologies being developed by CUWiN as a part of this initiative
hearken back to the innovation and vibrancy of early Internet development.”
stated Ross Musselman, CUWiN Outreach Coordinator. “With a focus on maintaining
Internet freedom, these new technologies support digital inclusion around the
For more information on this initiative, contact the CUWiN team at:
Phone: +1 217 278-3933 x31.
Sign up for the once-a-month CUWiN e-mail news list at: