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The work behind this paper aims at demonstrating innovative solutions for the establishment of sustainable community broadband networks in areas where there is demand but no supply of broadband services. One of the major challenges turns out to be reliable power supply. To overcome this challenge, we explore how to decrease the demand for power as well as the feasibility of using alternative power sources, such as solar and wind, and alternative power storage technologies, such as batteries and ultra-capacitors. In this paper, we present data collected over 2 months from the Serengeti community network in rural Tanzania to discuss the quality of the existing power-grid and the feasibility of using solar and wind energy as alternative energy sources. The network backbone is based on 1Gbps Ethernet links over dark fibre while end-user connections are currently based on WiFi links. Our measurements regarding the quality of the power-grid show up to 21 power-outages in one single day, with an average of 2 outages per day. Some of the outages are due to planned rationing schemes caused by insufficient power generation while some outages are due to poor wiring or installations. Our measurements and analysis of the feasibility of using alternative power sources indicate wind speeds on the average 2m/s and a persistent high-level insolation, making solar energy the prime candidate as an alternative source of electricity. The relatively high cost of solar panels has to be mitigated by increased energy efficiency of the network elements. We also propose power management to be included in the network management system to maximize the availability of the network services and decrease operational costs due to damaged network elements.
Date of Conference: June 28 2011-July 1 2011