The vienniese FunkFeuer project has managed to significantly expands its coverage in Vienna recently. A meeting in the MetaLab enabled me to have a quick talk with Aaron Kaplan – here goes:
0at City Wide WLAN for Vienna   FunkFeuers Aaron Kaplan interviewed

Please tell us a bit more about yourself
I am one of the founders of the FunkFeuer initiative. FunkFeuer is a wireless community network that currently covers Vienna, Graz and other parts of Austria.

What is FunkFeuer all about?
FunkFeuer…umm..first of all..the name is one of the few words that English speakers can never pronounce. It is made up from the words Funk and Feuer; the combined word means as much as aircraft beacon signal. But we aren’t talking about aircraft here…but rather about a citywide mesh network.

Mesh networking means that a bunch of access points are linked together – and as long as one of them has internet uplink, packages are routed around wirelessly from router to router.

In the end, it becomes one huge city-wide WiFi network…

Does this mean that we are talking about municipal WiFi?
At the moment, we are still mostly a research network. We cover the whole city, but only on rooftop level – we don’t quite penetrate down to the floor yet.

But – on a long-term view, this is definitely where we are heading to!

What do you need in order to log in?
At the moment, we still wish the network to grow. Thus we require people to install the so-called optimized linkstate network protocol stack. Once the program is up and running, your device becomes part of the network.

We may eventually open the network to all clients – however, as of now, we do not want freeloaders and thus do not allow anyone to connect.

For what platforms is OLSR available?
First of all, you need WiFi.

We currently have the program running on Nokia 770, apple iPhone/iPod touch and a select few Symbian phones.

At the moment, we still are very focussed on routers. However, crosscompiling the software should be easy – it’s open source and pretty portable.

As already said, this is a community project – if you feel like giving it a pop, just download the sources and get it compiling!

You mentioned power consumption before – what were you talking about exactly?
As of now, WiFi still is very power-hungry. However, we expect powersaving chips to become available soon, which will cut power consumption significantly.

Additionally, OLSR is permanently being optimized for lower power consumption – we permanently work on reducing the power need of the protocol (stack).

Are there similar installations existing where everyone can connect?
Please let me emphasize this once again – we COULD turn this feature on any time. However, as of now, we want to keep the network growing. Later on, enabling this is a matter of running an access point service next to the mesh routing daemon…as said, we could do it any time.

What are the future goals?
First of all, power consumption awareness and universal compatibility with mobile devices. In order to achieve that, we need to reduce our CPU utilization(something we have done very effectively in the past, reducing client overhead from O=n*n to O=n*log(n)). Additionally, we also plan to experiment with routing metrics…and…last, but not least, complete coverage down to street level…

Anything you would like to add?
Yes – visit www.oslr.org to check out the current development status!

Should you have any questions, please leave a comment – Aaron is an avid reader of this blog!

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