USAID Funds Community-based Digital Communications

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The NY Times reports the State Department has provided $2.8 million to a team of American hackers, community activists and software geeks to a mesh network, as a way for dissidents abroad to communicate more freely and securely.

The United States Agency for International Development has pledged $4.3 million to create mesh networks in Cuba, a target that is sure to start debate.

Radio Free Asia, a United States government-financed nonprofit, has given $1 million to explore multiple overseas deployments. A mesh network can blanket main areas of town, and users have access to a local server containing Wikipedia in French and Arabic, town street maps, 2,500 free books in French, and an app for secure chatting and file sharing.

The mesh network does not need to be linked to the wider Internet.

Sascha Meinrath, founder of the Open Technology Institute at the New America Foundation, a nonpartisan research group in Washington that has been developing the mesh system.

The Red Hook Network in Brooklyn is a community-led effort to close the digital divide and facilitate access to essential services using OIT’s Mesh system.

It was created by a group of Digital Stewards, local young adults ages 19-24, as part of a year-long job training program. It partners with local businesses and residents to host nodes.

The big advantage of mesh networks is availability. You can set up nodes wherever you can, and they’ll find other nearby nodes and self-organize to route data. It’s particularly valuable in emergency networks.

Commotion’s own site says that it can not hide your identity”, “does not prevent monitoring of internet traffic”, and “does not provide strong security against monitoring over the mesh”.

OTI has partnered with groups around the world to develop the concept of Digital Stewardship, and hopes to refine it as more communities adopt and adjust it for local needs.

Earlier this month, the Associated Press reported that USAID engineered the creation of a Twitter-like communications network called ZunZuneo aimed at giving a platform to political dissent to spark reform.

The “Cuban Twitter”, reached at least 40,000 Cuban subscribers but was retired in 2012 without notice.

The Obama administration said the program was not covert and that it served an important purpose by helping information flow more freely to Cubans. Parts of the program “were done discreetly,” Rajiv Shah, USAID’s top official, said on MSNBC, in order to protect the people involved.

AT&T Expands “Fiber Cities” to 25 Metro Areas

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AT&T today said it will “expand its ultra-fast fiber network to up to 100 candidate cities and municipalities nationwide. AT&T says it now is exploring 25 metro areas for fiber deployment.

The list of 21 candidate metropolitan areas includes: Atlanta, Augusta, Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, Fort Worth, Fort Lauderdale, Greensboro, Houston, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, Nashville, Oakland, Orlando, San Antonio, San Diego, St. Louis, San Francisco, and San Jose.

AT&T says it will work with local leaders in these markets to discuss ways to bring the service to their communities. Similar to previously announced metro area selections in Austin and Dallas and advanced discussions in Raleigh-Durham and Winston-Salem, “communities that have suitable network facilities, and show the strongest investment cases based on anticipated demand and the most receptive policies will influence these future selections and coverage maps”.

AT&T’s GigaPower was first made “available to tens of thousands of households in Austin and surrounding communities in December 2013,” and that number will double this year, the company said. Austin has 325,000 households.

GigaPower Internet-only service costs $70 and has speeds of 300Mbps, which is supposed to be upgraded to 1Gbps this year. TV and voice packages bring the price up to $120 or $150 a month.

AT&T’s fiber announcement comes two months after Google announced that it will try to bring fiber Internet to 34 cities in nine metro areas. Google’s “gigabit” Internet service already offers service in Kansas City and in Provo, Utah, and is building a network in Austin.

Google presented the cities with a 29-page checklist of needs (pdf) – and a May 1 deadline to respond. The city of Portland is trying to match the company’s stated requirements with city rules and resources, reports The Oregonian.

Google, for example, wants to put small networking cabinets in the public right of way around the city. They’re small – two feet on each side and four feet high – but it’s not the sort of thing Portland currently allows. And Google wants to install bigger boxes, what it calls “network huts,” on public property to house its equipment and fiber. Each is 12 feet by 28 feet, meaning they’re too big for the right of way along public streets.

Portland is being a pushover to snag Google Fiber, writes Seattle Times columnist Brian Dudley. Or is it sour grapes from Seattle’s failed Gigabit networking plan?

Google and AT&T may be just as interested in providing fiber backbone to small cells and WiFi hotspots.

Cloud-based Radio Access Networks allow small radio heads to be mounted on utility poles and other public locations. With capacity demands of hotspots and cell sites hitting 300-600 Mbps or more, the only practical way to feed them is fiber. The major difference between AT&T and Google may be their business model – Google generates almost all its revenue through advertising while AT&T generates its revenue though subscriptions.

Related Dailywireless articles include; Gigabit Squared: DOA?, Gigabit Seattle: Late Paying Bills, Seattle’s Gigabit Fiber CityNet, Gigabit Seattle: $80/mo, Chicago Announces Free WiFi in Parks, Chicago Gets 24 Broadband Proposals, Google Fiber Launches in Kansas City, Street light Provides Wi-Fi, Cell Coverage, Hotspot 2.0, Intel: Basestation in the Cloud,

3D Map with Realtime Shadows

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The F4 Map is a 3D map where the shadows on the map are displayed in real-time and reflect the position of the sun. The shadows move throughout the day. The map includes 3d buildings and trees.

Dynamic Holland Shading is another map that includes dynamic hill shading based on the date and time of day. Move the date and time of day sliders and you can see the hill shading update instantly on the map. The dynamic hill shading is powered by a combination of MapBox’s dynamic hillshading and the SunCalc library.

You can view 360 degree imagery shot by Photo Sphere posted on Google Maps and Views. With an Android Jelly Bean 4.2 Nexus device, you can contribute your own photo spheres.

Google photo tours, a feature of Google Maps, guides you through a 3D photo scene. Photo tours are available for more than 15,000 popular sites around the world, from famous landmarks such as St. Mark’s Basilica in Italy to scenic treasures like Half Dome in Yosemite.

Google’s new Camera app, available today for KitKat (4.4), features Lens Blur, a new mode that lets you take a photo with a shallow depth of field using your Android phone or tablet.

Google’s 3D Smartphone: Project Tango

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Google’s Project Tango is putting 3D Point Cloud capture into a smartphone, reports PhoneArena. Using an advanced custom-made processor and Kinect-like infrared cameras, the smartphone can make 3D indoor maps quickly and easily.

iFixit got their hands on a Project Tango device and gave it their usual teardown treatment to expose its internals. They found it contained:

  • Snapdragon 800 quad core CPU with 2 GB RAM
  • 64 GB internal storage, expandable by microSD
  • 5″ LCD screen
  • 9 axis accelerometer/gyroscope/compass
  • The depth-sensing array: an infrared projector, 4 MP rear-facing RGB/IR cameras and a 180º field of view fisheye rear-facing camera

An infrared projector creates a grid of dots. The IR cameras sense depth by dot size.

Perhaps 3D photography and 3D printing will soon become common with computational photography. It may also indicate a working relationship between Google and Amazon, which is rumored to be developing a similar 3D phone.

It may be especially useful for the robot revolution and killer cyborgs. But whether their Cisco and Huawei routers could be freely hacked by anyone is still unknown.

Google Play Revenue Growing Fast

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Google’s application marketplace, Google Play, saw 45% more downloads that Apple’s App Store in Q1, according to a new report from App Annie. However, Apple continues to still be “comfortably ahead” in terms of worldwide revenue“, reports TechCrunch, generating a whopping 85% more revenue than Google Play.

However, Google Play is now narrowing that revenue gap, according to App Annie. Growth in Google Play downloads was driven by explosive growth in emerging markets, with Mexico and Turkey particularly strong. According to IDC, smartphone adoption has grown rapidly in Mexico, increasing around 75% in 2013 and expected to grow by approximately 40% in 2014. Over 65% of these devices used the Android OS, and this proportion is expected to increase in 2014.

Quantenna: 8X8 MIMO WiFi

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Quantenna Communications, a high-performance Wi-Fi chipmaker, today announced that it is developing an 8×8 MIMO architecture with adaptive beamforming that promises significantly higher throughput. Using 8 receive antennas and 8 transmit antennas, Quantenna says up to 10 Gigabits/second are possible using their Wi-Fi chipset and 160 MHz channels.

Quantenna claims to be the first to deliver 4×4 chipsets for the 802.11n and 802.11ac Wi-Fi standards, and the first to support Multi-User MIMO (MU-MIMO), for transmitting data to multiple devices at once. Multiuser MIMO can increase transmission speed by increasing the number of antennas at the base station, without consuming more frequency bandwidth.

“This architecture will also significantly enhance the capabilities of MU-MIMO, allowing it to support interference-free transmission to many more devices simultaneously,” said Andrea Goldsmith, Stephen Harris Professor of Electrical Engineering at Stanford University.

Quantenna’s 8×8 MIMO is not going into smartphones or USB sticks anytime soon. But 8×8 MIMO Wi-Fi could be useful for applications that require solid, ultra high-speed wireless performance.

Of course bonding 8, 20MHz channels to achieve 160MHz of bandwidth will leave just two non-overlapping channels in North America – presumably one for Comcast and one for AT&T.

Mimosa is using Quantenna Wi-Fi to deliver innovative outdoor wireless solutions.

Qualcomm this month launched three-and four-stream 802.11ac MU-MIMO chipsets for routers and gateways, and will launch two separate chipsets for enterprise access points. The company also announced new Wi-Fi/Bluetooth chipsets for end user mobile devices. MU-MIMO requires an enabled chipset in both the Wi-Fi access point and the client.

Broadcom today announced the company’s 5G WiFi XStream chip platform, which will include what they said is the industry’s first six-stream 802.11ac multiple-input, multiple-output (MIMO) offering.

Broadcom says it delivers data rates up to 3.2 Gbps. The new platform is designed to double the performance of current WiFi devices for high-definition streaming and data, and has twice the bandwidth of existing (3 stream) 802.11ac routers and gateways.

But Ruckus explains that a network needs to have client devices that all support 80/160 MHz channels (in 5 GHz) and 3/4 spatial streams.

In reality nearly every WiFi network will have:

  • Some single-stream client devices, like mobile phones and tablets.
  • Some two-stream client devices, like tablets and many laptops.
  • Some 11a/g/n devices that don’t support 11ac maximums.
  • Some clients in the service area that aren’t 3 meters from the AP—and thus subject to lower data rates.

If your WiFi network has any of these client types (and it does), then you can kiss any gigabit dreams goodbye.

WiFi Guru Tim Higgins explains Why 802.11ac Will Kill The 5 GHz Wi-Fi Band. Still, 8×8 MIMO might be useful on drones 12 miles up or as a tractor beam for nearby asteroids.

Related Dailywireless articles include; Ruckus Goes AC with ZoneFlex R700, Quantenna: 802.11ac Chipset, Marvel 802.11ac: Now with 4×4 Beamforming, Buffalo 802.11ac Routers, Ubiquiti 802.11ac Outdoor Access Points, Large 802.11ac Installs by Aruba, FCC Authorizes High Power at 5.15 – 5.25 GHz