graphic by Josh McKibillo
Ubiqutious Internet is something I hope to see within 10 years, but until then this is a proof of concept. In short this backpack gets Internet through a cell phone, beams it out over WiFi, and powers itself using the Sun. The process is detailed in this Popular Science article, which I hear about via Lifehacker. Right now it’s big, hacky, and expensive, but things should get smaller and cheaper. The Internet comes from a 3G network in the states called EV-DO, which Sri Lanka doesn’t have yet. Dialog is doing something, but I dunno how fast it is. You plug the cell card into a Junxion WiFi router and then you have an instant hotspot. The solar power is a bit of a vanity plate, but useful if you want WiFi absolutely anywhere.
EV-DO is about $80/month and really fast, I hope Sri Lanka gets something similar soon.
using BroadbandAccess (EV-DO), you feel as if you’re hooked up to a cable modem, even when you’re sitting on a beach, your deck or a speeding commuter train. When your signal is strong, you get Web pages in a flash, file attachments in no time and video feeds without a hiccup. (New York Times
If you plug an EV-DO card into your laptop or PDA you can get fast Internet all over the States as is. The WiFi backpack here means that you could use one card and provide access to a whole office or classroom. Seeing as the cell-phone network pushes out much faster than land-lines, this is a way to reach rural and poor areas with Internet. People in China and Africa are among the fastest adopters, so it’s a much faster vector for Internet than PCs and landlines. As cheap EV-DO networks get more popular, you could start getting Internet as easily as cellular signal.
A more developed ‘backpack’ might be a solar-powered phone that also transmits WiFi. Of course, it’s unclear that companies want you giving out free Internet – but getting one cell-phone and some cheap Indian laptops would be a faster way to network a classroom in Batticaloa than waiting for a cable rollout.