The first Tegola testbed network was built starting in 2008 by the communities on Loch Hourn – Arnisdale, Corran, Inverguserain – with the help of the WiMo group in the School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh and infrastructure support from the Sabhal Mòr Ostaig college of the University of the Highlands and Islands.
The initial network consisted in nodes at five sites arranged in a ring: the Sabhal Mòr Ostaig college, Beinn Sgritheall by Arnisdale, Corran, Isleornsay, Inverguserain in Northwest Knoydart and back to the college. At SMO there were actually two separate nodes connected by ethernet, one facing roughly North to reach Beinn Sgritheall, the other facing roughly East to reach Inverguserain. These backbone links use 802.11a wireless ethernet in the 5 GHz ISM band.
Connected to each of these backbone sites are one or more 802.11g access points in the 2.4 GHz ISM band, and end-user client sites connect to these. The access points and client devices for the most part were made by Ubiquiti Networks.
The original network was built using relatively bespoke hardware based on the Gateworks Cambria platform running the OpenWRT distribution of GNU/Linux software. Though it worked very well, it was somewhat difficult to maintain and deploying new nodes required a level of expertise that isn’t present in most rural communities.
Meanwhile, the nearby communities on the Small Isles and South Knoydart – of which more below – began learning from these experiences and building their own communications infrastructure on a similar model with the support and assistance of the original Tegola team. The main difference there being that the equipment was less bespoke and more “off the shelf”. This was possible because by that time the equipment available from Ubiquiti Networks had improved to the point where it was feasible to use it for backbone nodes rather than simply edge distribution and client access.
As the communication facilities that this network affords became more and more important to the communities it was serving, the research activities on the network, whilst very productive, would occasionaly break things, causing outages and disruptions. Though the communities very kindly tolerated this, it began to become somewhat of a strain.
And so in the summer of 2012, with the additional support of the Carnegie Trust and the Department of Mathematics and Computing Science at the University of Stirling, we embarked on a project to do two things:
Build a production network, to operate in parallel with the research network around Loch Hourn. This production network is built mostly using the “off-the-shelf” kit from Ubiqity, which is both faster owing to the advent of 802.11n and more supportable in the long term.
Interconnect the with the neghbouring communities to provide both a faster path for local traffic and to support mutual fail-over for added resiliency in case of failures of up-stream Internet access.
Allanton is a small community in North Lanarkshire that is just starting to develop their network having gone live in February of 2013. More information in the Allanton Rural Community section of this website.
Blair Logie is a small village to the east of Stirling that is in the planning phase for building a network to serve the town nestled in the side of the mountain as well as the north side of the Forth river valley nearby.