Thursday, January 14, 2016

A Universiy of Havana hot zone?

A Cuban WiFi zone on and around the University of Havana?

Alejandro Ramos Encinosa, from the University of Havana, has written a short description of a campus WiFi project that would bring connectivity to the UH campus and nearby neighborhoods. Ramos says there are over 25,000 students on campus and only about 3,000 computers in labs. Like ETECSA's public WiFi hotpsots, students will access the network using their own devices, saving the university capital and maintenance costs.

It is noteworthy that they plan to offer access to non-students who are near the campus. A few Cubans have been able to gain unauthorized access to the networks of universities and other organizations, but it sounds like the university intends to provide open access in this case.

It is not clear whether the off-campus access will be paid or free. (I assume it will be free for students). The only free public access project I know of in Cuba was a hotspot opened up by the artist Kcho, but that was more of a symbolic photo op than meaningful infrastructure.

Free or paid, if 25,000 students and the public are to use this network, it will need a fast connection to the Internet (or even the Cuban intranet if that is the intention). I assume that backhaul capacity would have to be provided by ETECSA, in which case they might charge for public access as they do with their existing hotspots.

<random speculation>
Since I don't know what is actually planned and what the status of the project is, I can offer some highly speculative suggestions. Might students be involved in the installation of the network -- something along the lines of Net Days, which I described in a post on connecting Cuban schools? If there is sufficient backhaul capacity, could they deploy mesh networks in the neighborhoods around the campus -- perhaps look at Guifi Net or the adhoc "street net" LANs in Havana.
</ random speculation>

If you are familiar with the project, let us know about what is planned and its status.

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