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Dili Village Telco in 2011

The Internet Society funded phase of the Dili Village Telco project is drawing to a close. However the Timorese team members are so pleased with the network that they are planning further investment in 2011 to improve and expand the network.

The Timorse team is based at Fongtil, an umbrella organisation that helps various NGOs throughout Timor Leste. Fongtil are helping their member organisations install Mesh Potatoes to provide inter-office and across town communications.

Some problems with Wifi interference remain, so Fongtil are experimenting with highly directional cross-town links using 5GHz Wifi to provide reliable backbone nodes.

three men setting up wi-fi receiver

Demand for the Dili Village Telco is high. GSM telephone calls are expensive in Timor Leste so a free local telephone call has very high value. This demand helps build the Village Telco network, adding more nodes and increasing the value through network effects. More information and many more blog posts are available on the Dili Village Telco Wiki.

Posted: 12 February 2011 by David Rowe

Dili Village Telco Spreads

Since our last blog post the Dili Village Telco project has grown to include two other towns in Timor Leste, Ermera (10 nodes), and Baucau (10 nodes). We also have 40 Mesh Potatoes installed in Dili. These are being used every day for free phone calls between between NGOs in Dili.

We decided to expand the trial beyond Dili due to demand and the opportunity to test the Village Telco technology in rural areas with less Wifi interference than Dili.

Something very exciting happened in Baucau. Alipio Simoes, a Timorese IT guy, trained other Timorese in how to set up a Village Telco. No highly skilled Wifi/VOIP people involved at all. They now have 9 nodes running in Baucau and are asking for more. This is exciting because until a few months ago Alipio had never seen a Mesh Potato. This shows how easy the Village Telco system is to set up. It means the Village Telco has the potential to spread virally – no expensive 1st world or highly skilled IT people are required.

Here are some Timorese ladies being trained in Mesh Potato configuration:

two women receiving training using computer

Ermera is a really interesting application for Village Telco technology. It demonstrates the “market segment” for local calls. In Ermera there is no effective telecommunication. People literally have to walk hours to communicate on foot. No GSM or land lines. This is hard to imagine for people in the developed world. It’s one of the reason Beta deployments like the Dili Village Telco are so important. We have discovered the simple magic of a local call.

In Ermera Anders the talented Anders Hofstee from Catalpa International is using Mesh Potatoes to communicate between the Police, hospital, and ambulance stations:

woman talking on the phone

Interested in learning more? Here are some detailed blog posts on the Ermera Village Telco and Baucau Village Telco networks.

Dili Village Telco Roll Out

The Dili Village Telco project is installing a community telephone network, in Dili, Timor Leste. The project uses the Mesh Potato, a Wifi router with telephony that has been specially designed for the developing world. Mesh Potatoes connect to each other and form a community telephone network that does not require cell phone towers or land lines.

The Timorese part of the team (from the Fongtil organisation) is performing part of the Mesh Potato assembly in Dili, Timor Leste.

men assembling mesh potato

A 10 node pilot network has been operating in Dili since May. The Fongtil team are now deploying 90 more Mesh Potatoes in Dili. This blog post describes the excitement behind the Mesh Potato roll out.

Posted: 31 August 2010 by David Rowe

Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.