Cambium and Disaster Tech Lab expand wireless comms in Greek refugee camps

Building on the wireless networks set up a year ago, DTL and Cambium have expanded the networks and are providing ICT training to refugees so they can help with maintaining and running the communications

Cambium and Disaster Tech Lab expand wireless comms in Greek refugee camps

Cambium Networks has significantly expanded its work with the non-profit organisation Disaster Tech Lab (DTL) in connecting 18 refugee camps across Greece with wireless communications.

DTL deploys Wi-Fi to reconnect disconnected communities in disaster zones across the globe. DTL also supports other NGO’s and disaster response agencies by providing IP-based communication services.

In this instance, Cambium Networks and DTL are providing the necessary network equipment and training to the camps, enabling communications and access to information and services. The two organisations are providing an invaluable lifeline to people in need who are looking to connect with family members and loved ones.

According to a study by the United Nations, many refugees consider Internet connectivity as essential to their livelihood as food, water, and shelter.

Cambium has worked very closely with DTL to construct and provide wireless networks and resources to people who have been torn from their homes by disasters and tragedies all over the world. The networks also provide connectivity for aid organisations and local government agencies to provide a safe environment.

In addition to the network equipment, engineers from Cambium Networks and DTL are providing information communications and technologies (ICT) training to refugees with previous communications experience. This unique programme includes education and hands-on training on the configuration and maintenance of Wi-Fi and wireless backhaul networks.

Once trained, these participants become key members of DTL’s on-site volunteer team, supporting the network infrastructure of their camps and providing a much-needed service to their fellow counterparts in the camps spread throughout the Greek island of Lesvos.

“Disaster Tech Lab has been helping people in Greece since this crisis started almost a year ago,” said Evert Bopp, founder of Disaster Tech Lab. “The wireless communications from Cambium Networks enabled DTL to rapidly build a high-speed network that has been performing perfectly. With the cnMaestro network management system, we are able to monitor the network performance from our offices anywhere – including from Ireland and Canada.

“People in our volunteer team on Lesvos are quickly able to understand the network design, installation, and operation. An additional advantage of choosing to deploy equipment from Cambium is that their team worked very closely with us and responded quickly to our questions and requirements.”

“Through this programme, residents of the refugee camps are empowered to build the broadband connectivity that they need,” said Atul Bhatnagar, president and CEO at Cambium Networks. “They can extend coverage and use data, voice, and streaming video capability to stay in touch with family and get medical support.”

In addition to providing training and equipment for previous network deployments, Cambium Networks has now helped extend the wireless network tenfold with cnPilot E500 outdoor and cnPilot E400 indoor enterprise Wi-Fi solutions; and completed a high-speed link between Lesvos and the University of the Aegean using the long-range PTP 650 to further extend and enable the network.

Speaking to Wireless about the project in the Greek refugee camps, Scott Imhoff, VP of Product Line Management, Cambium, explained: “What we do is provide fixed wireless broadband networks for organisations around the world. The solution we offer is an alternative to wired networks, which means it can be deployed in different geographies and topologies without the need to lay fibre or bury it.

“We have solutions that transmit very short distances in camps, for example, or very long distances; up to 245km. Both kinds are being used by DTL. The advantage of our products is that they can be deployed rapidly to provide reliable networks with scaled deployments. That fits really well with disaster recovery situations where you need a quickly deployable communications network.

“Internet access is a heartbeat away from becoming a human right,” continued Imhoff. “The refugees need it to communicate with loved ones, but also to communicate with disaster relief agencies, and to find out about and register their refugee status. In addition, DTL provides communications for relief agencies.”

Imhoff said that Cambium is not doing anything particularly specialist in the camps. It is simply transferring what it does for commercial applications to charity support, but the technology itself is used in the same way as an oil company would use it, for example

“It is easy for us to provide support to DTL as their staff know what they are doing,” said Imhoff. “We can see events happening around the world; Evert will reach out and we engage with DTL and plan our support.”

One of the key differences this time is the training and enabling of refugees to maintain the wireless networks in the camps. “That brings skills to the refugees and gives them some pride in terms of self-sufficiency and maybe they can use those skills in the next stages of their lives,” Imhoff suggested.

Cambium provides three layers to the network: the core; high capacity backhaul; and bridges from points of presence to a distribution point in that network, perhaps to a fibre drop point, for example, where it can be extended using point to point (PTP) links.

Point to multi-point (PtMP) technology can then be used as an efficient way to distribute the network capacity to multiple locations. “PtMP could be the point of access to the network for a subscriber going to a switch at a hospital or registration centre, or it could be used for PtMP CPE to a Wi-Fi access point for direct access by refugees themselves,” said Imhoff.

Cambium’s equipment is almost exclusively used for outdoor deployments, so it is designed to operate in extreme temperatures and that includes the components inside and not just the equipment housing. The products are designed to IP66 and IP67 protection standards for dust and water penetration.

“We also have to think about the resilience and reliability in the RF,” said Imhoff. “We embed a number of techniques to deal with interference, so it is consistently available and we have ways to deal with things like electrical surges (caused by lightning, for example). We are looking to deliver five nine availability.”

Summing up, Imhoff said: “We are very pleased to provide this support to Evert and his team. They are doing the hard work and dealing with the emotional side of the refugees.”

Disaster Tech Labs is a non-profit organisation and depends on volunteers and donors to carry out its work.


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