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Connecting Android Phones Without Carrier Networks

timothy posted about a year and a half ago | from the breaker-breaker dept.

Android 102

After disasters (or to minimize expensive data use generally, and take advantage of available Wi-Fi), bypassing the cell network is useful. But it's not something that handset makers bake into their phones. colinneagle writes with information on a project that tries to sidestep a dependence on the cellular carriers, if there is Wi-Fi near enough for at least some users: "The Smart Phone Ad-Hoc Networks (SPAN) project reconfigures the onboard Wi-Fi chip of a smartphone to act as a Wi-Fi router with other nearby similarly configured smartphones, creating an ad-hoc mesh network. These smartphones can then communicate with one another without an operational carrier network. SPAN intercepts all communications at the Global Handset Proxy so applications such as VoIP, Twitter, email etc., work normally."

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Bypassing authorized carriers? (3, Insightful)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year and a half ago | (#42872625)

I doubt the tyrants who control them will like that very much.

Batman is a trademark (2)

tepples (727027) | about a year and a half ago | (#42872657)

Nor will Warner Bros., given the name of one of the projects involved in this effort:

movement [of devices] and changes are a constant factor, making the burden of maintaining reliable routing information difficult enough to a inspire a new routing project, called the Better-Approach-To-Mobile-Adhoc-Network (BATMAN).

Warner owns the trademark for BATMAN, and I'm guessing this trademark is probably famous to qualify for dilution protection.

Re:Batman is a trademark (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year and a half ago | (#42872943)

Does the Dark Knight carry packets around Gotham city on his utility belt or something?

Re:Batman is a trademark (1)

Gordonjcp (186804) | about a year and a half ago | (#42873175)

Who cares? They can own whatever trademarks they like, it's not relevant here. It hasn't got anything to do with comic book characters.

Trademark dilution (1)

tepples (727027) | about a year and a half ago | (#42883501)

I'm guessing this trademark is probably famous to qualify for dilution protection.

it's not relevant here. It hasn't got anything to do with comic book characters.

A trademark deemed "famous" is protected from "dilution" [wikipedia.org] , or use by other parties even in unrelated fields of use.

Re:Trademark dilution (1)

Gordonjcp (186804) | about a year and a half ago | (#42884641)

Well, isn't it a shame that the term has been around since long before the comic book was ever thought of?

Re:Batman is a trademark (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year and a half ago | (#42873925)

Warner owns the trademark for BATMAN, and I'm guessing this trademark is probably famous to qualify for dilution protection.

I don't see why a batman couldn't carry packets in his packsaddle. They have been doing this for centuries, haven't they?

Re:Batman is a trademark (2)

ozmanjusri (601766) | about a year and a half ago | (#42878369)

Nor will Warner Bros., given the name of one of the projects involved in this effort:

I think the Serval Project [servalproject.org] would have more right to be concerned, given that it is their work that's being hidden behind the advertising-ridden link from TFA.

It's also unsettling that work from a community project, intended to improve communications for people in need, is in the process of being "embraced" by an organisation like Mitre, funded by, and heavily tied into US Government and military. [mitre.org]

Ad-hoc mesh networks do have the potential to be a game changer in a number of arenas. US government involvement this early is a bad sign for their future.

Re:Bypassing authorized carriers? (4, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year and a half ago | (#42872725)

I suspect that they aren't wildly concerned:

For users on contract or fixed-price month-to-month, carriers often have an incentive to encourage them to use wifi(unless they think you'll upgrade to a more expensive data plan, or get whacked with overage fees, the less data you use the less you cost; but you still pay the same for the service). So long as they want to continue paying, the carriers would probably be delighted to have them drop off the grid and go mesh out to their heart's content.

Also, internet access in itself doesn't provide a phone number(though you can generally get a VOIP line more cheaply than a cell or landline), so only users who don't actually phone with their phones, or are willing to have phone access only when within range of the wifi or mesh, or who are willing to put up with having both a cell and a VOIP number, are likely to jump from their voice plan.

Plus, wireless meshes can, unless conditions are good, exhibit some pretty tepid latency and packet loss numbers. Well worth what you (don't) pay for bulk data transport; but cuts the utility for latency-sensitive applications.

This is hardly to say that meshes are useless(indeed, they are pretty neat, and certainly a good thing to have in place for resilience purposes and various other things); but they aren't a terribly effective direct competitor to contemporary cellular data standards, or to a one-hop wireless link to a hardline of some sort.

Re:Bypassing authorized carriers? (1)

icebike (68054) | about a year and a half ago | (#42875355)

Agreed, probably voice is out of the question, if for no other reasons than bandwidth, to say nothing of getting the session handed off to POTS somewhere if you need to communicate outside of the immediate area.

But text chats (google talk, twitter, etc) and email are probably enough in situations like this, as long as one of your mesh partners somewhere along the line has a working internet connection.

The problem here is that nobody will have this set up ahead of time. So nobody will be able to download what ever is necessary, nor do the research
to find out how it works. Basic Chicken/Egg problem, unless it comes pre-installed, or geeks adopt it widely.

Unless or until there is a one-stop App you can freely install, configure, and test ahead of time, its not likely to happen. You would think FEMA would mandate this sort of thing if they weren't so busy worrying about Control instead of Assistance.

Re:Bypassing authorized carriers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42872835)

Yeah those evil commercialistic tyrants who put the money in the research and development of the technology, then spending countless dollars and man hours putting this high technology out into the world for use. Those tyrants that pay endless government fees to use airwaves and operate within the law. Those evil tyrants who make the technology, distribute, and maintain the technology.

Those tyrants.

Re:Bypassing authorized carriers? (4, Insightful)

mcrbids (148650) | about a year and a half ago | (#42872963)

Stating the obvious in a sarcastic way while ignoring the truth: they were *paid in advance* to build out high speed data networks so that everyone would have access to truly broadband Internet and they have implemented only a small part of what was promised.

We have precious little to show for the generous application of public funds except for the raw number of square feet of the executives' gorgeous mansions.

Screw those tyrants, I want my car on-line. (1)

Medievalist (16032) | about a year and a half ago | (#42874793)

My car will bluetooth pair with a phone, and then I can get network access through the phone's data plan.

But, I don't want a phone, dammit. If I had a phone, people would call me. I get enough of that nonsense at work!

All I want is the ability to use my home wifi on the car console when I'm sitting in my driveway. Without paying any monthly bills other than the one I'm already paying for my home Internet connection.

Re:Bypassing authorized carriers? (-1, Offtopic)

ruyagatu (2839505) | about a year and a half ago | (#42874887)

http://www.cloud65.com/ [cloud65.com] my best friend's aunt makes $67/hour on the laptop. She has been fired from work for seven months but last month her check was $13701 just working on the laptop for a few hours. Read more on this web site

Re:Bypassing authorized carriers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42883179)

i'm not one of the tyrants in control and i don't like this. it's stupid if you're just trying to save on cellular data usage. instead, have some software in the phone that will try to use wi-fi first then cell for data. having my traffic pass through some strangers phone is not appealing.

How will they deal with people moving around? (1)

Dancindan84 (1056246) | about a year and a half ago | (#42872645)

But in an ad-hoc mesh network made up of mobile phones, movement and changes are a constant factor, making the burden of maintaining reliable routing information difficult enough to a inspire a new routing project, called the Better-Approach-To-Mobile-Adhoc-Network (BATMAN).

The GODDAMN BATMAN!

Re:How will they deal with people moving around? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42873743)

But in an ad-hoc mesh network made up of mobile phones, movement and changes are a constant factor, making the burden of maintaining reliable routing information difficult enough to a inspire a new routing project, called the Better-Approach-To-Mobile-Adhoc-Network (BATMAN).

The GODDAMN BATMAN!

The goddamn batman? Sounds like it doesn't work too well, then...

UMA what happened to it (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42872697)

As far as i know only T-Mobile in the USA can use it. It is a nice feature when you are in a poor coverage area. Or traveling internationally.

Re:UMA what happened to it (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42872767)

UMA?

Unified managed account? Ukrainian Museum-Archives? Unidentified Mysterious Animal? Please update the Wikipedia with your meaning, because it is powerless here.

Re:UMA what happened to it (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42872895)

Unlicensed Mobile Access will be what he's talking about. Let's you use your mobile number whilst connected over WLAN for example. Basically a tunnel back from your mobile device to it's home network.

Re:UMA what happened to it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42872959)

UMA is unlicensed mobile access, basically its just like voip.

Re:UMA what happened to it (1)

Hadlock (143607) | about a year and a half ago | (#42873975)

UMA is wifi calling for blackberries, at least on T-Mobile

Re:UMA what happened to it (1)

sexconker (1179573) | about a year and a half ago | (#42874105)

It was a big thing with Blackberry back when Blackberry was a thing.

Re:UMA what happened to it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42878353)

And it was also on the (HTC) G2.

It's crap (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42872733)

That only works on rooted phones

Re:It's crap (2)

Nerdfest (867930) | about a year and a half ago | (#42872947)

So people shouldn't be allowed to have administrative acces on their own computers? You're adapting nicely to the direction that computing is headed.

Re:It's crap (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year and a half ago | (#42872973)

That only works on rooted phones

I can't imagine why a modification to the behavior of a device driver(or possibly the replacement of a device driver, depending on the features of the shipping driver) might require root access... Those lazy developers, they should have just built ad-hoc 802.11 mesh networking support in HTML5 or something.

Why wait for an disaster? (2)

autonomouse (1203262) | about a year and a half ago | (#42872739)

Why wait for an disaster?

Re:Why wait for an disaster? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42872983)

Because VOIP only works over 5 hops of up to 100ft each?

Re:Why wait for an disaster? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42874937)

IMHO, this should be tested at any large event where cell phone service is unreliable. It's a pain trying to find your party amongst a million odd people when text messaging doesn't work. Then expand it to rural areas where another phone (with service) is much closer than another tower. Then to cities where buildings interfere with reception. This concept could solve a lot of the current problems with cell phones.

Actually, it's baked right in (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42872763)

I won't go into details, you all know how to use Google. Most major manufacturers build in the ability to activate a smartphone without a carrier network, you just have to know the secret handshake. It's in there for testing. The wireless providers don't like you doing it, but the handset manufacturers don't care.

Re:Actually, it's baked right in (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42873213)

I won't go into details...

That's because you're full of shit.

Re:Actually, it's baked right in (1)

dargaud (518470) | about a year and a half ago | (#42875165)

Well, I don't know if the GP is talking about the PTT (push to talk) protocol which is a part of the GSM protocol. It's a line of sight communication between two phones over GSM protocol, similar in effect to walkie-talkie. Except that in the only phone I saw that had this capability (an old Nokia), it had been disabled by the carrier.

Don't think we are socially able to use Mesh (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42872771)

I doubt my battery on my phone will like it when you all download torrents off my unlimited bandwidth plan, or anyone else that walks near you. Once people start receiving those six strikes letters they will turn the feature off.

Re:Don't think we are socially able to use Mesh (1)

Scarletdown (886459) | about a year and a half ago | (#42877433)

I doubt my battery on my phone will like it when you all download torrents off my unlimited bandwidth plan, or anyone else that walks near you. Once people start receiving those six strikes letters they will turn the feature off.

I'm sure that is one way the big carriers will spin their BS to discourage smart phone users from doing anything with their property that leaves them out of the loop. If that fails, then they will get the masses to believe that doing this will open them up to liability for whatever the network boogieman du jour is at the time. And failing that, they will just purchase laws to make it outright illegal with hefty fines.

Thank goodness Twitter will be accessible! (3, Funny)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about a year and a half ago | (#42872827)

Let's see... an unprotected ad-hoc network that lets any and all traffic through. What could possibly go wrong?

Re:Thank goodness Twitter will be accessible! (3, Insightful)

fibonacci8 (260615) | about a year and a half ago | (#42873627)

Since it's designed for cases where everything else has already gone wrong, it's not likely to make things any worse.

Re:Thank goodness Twitter will be accessible! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42875601)

Ummmm, doesn't that describe the Internet? I think a better question is, will this lead to a new wireless revolution, much like the Internet has for wired networking?

Re:Thank goodness Twitter will be accessible! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42888091)

Twitter was extremely valuable to rescue workers following the Japanese earthquake.

Sounds like Serval (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42872847)

We already have http://www.servalproject.org/ available on google play.

The next step is WiFi calling (2)

MobyDisk (75490) | about a year and a half ago | (#42872933)

While we are at it, can we make cell phones support WiFi for phone calls?

The phones already have the hardware to do this. People could make calls from places where cell reception sucks but they had Wifi internet. It would also reduce the burden on cell towers as people eliminate landlines and use their cell phones at home, where they probably already have WiFi routers. It also would eliminate the need for those stupid microcells: you could just use your regular wi-fi router for calls without needing to pay for their box.

Re:The next step is WiFi calling (1)

jbolden (176878) | about a year and a half ago | (#42872993)

Home wifi does not have QoS. Jitter is going to be terrible. If you are going to do this you want much more sophisticated software helping the whole thing end to end. Which is essentially what commercial SIP solutions do. Why reinvented SIP?

Re:The next step is WiFi calling (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42873343)

Home wifi does not have QoS. Jitter is going to be terrible.

Going to be? People are already doing this and I hear it works very well. My home wifi has QoS, because I use DD-WRT.

Re:The next step is WiFi calling (1)

camperdave (969942) | about a year and a half ago | (#42873607)

I suspect quite a lot of newer DSL and Cable router/modems and wifi access points have QOS functionality in anticipation of this.

Re:The next step is WiFi calling (2)

phoebus1553 (522577) | about a year and a half ago | (#42873887)

You don't truly have QOS unless you control both ends of the pipe and either everything in between or a very rigid conduit structure. You can get close if you have a QOS trust with your ISP but you only get what they allow you to get.

*** disclaimer: I'm not a network engineer, but I sit next to a few of them.

If you have a home router with QOS you have a priority structure among the devices in your house but once the packet leaves your CPE it is (barring a trust relationship with them) at the mercy of the network operators. If your cable co decides that VoIP is lower priority than streaming Pay-per-view then you're hosed. Beyond that, if you're fighting at the fiber head-end before you get to a piece of equipment that can even QOS tag/prioritize then you can be fighting a losing battle with your bittorrent neighbor for supremacy on the line.

Beyond that, lets assume that everyone is 'trusting' your QOS. You've assigned traffic flow X a priority of 3, now you have to decide how much bandwidth it gets either in % or in througput, whether or not that's a hard cap or it's allowed to exceed if the bandwidth is there, etc.. Your ISP can set their own rules too.

QOS is a fine concept, but one that everyone must be in agreement on.

Re:The next step is WiFi calling (1)

Zymophideth (1658251) | about a year and a half ago | (#42876529)

yeah, but this is already true for people with Vonage boxes at home and they seem to do fine...mostly. I mean you're right and all but the biggest factor is how well your WiFi handles VOIP because you're going to get a lot dropped packets on wireless and voice traffic is connectionless so it'll be noticed.

Re:The next step is WiFi calling (1)

jbolden (176878) | about a year and a half ago | (#42873665)

DD-WRT QoS if it works at all requires you throttle your router for everything. I suspect this is going to be harmless if it implemented right, i.e. when you make a phone call it throttles you hard and stops as soon as the call stops. But I haven't seen it.

But yeah... this is kinda reinventing QoS/ SIP. This is what real QoS used to look like before carriers passed QoS information all the way through the system.

Re:The next step is WiFi calling (1)

Brianwa (692565) | about a year and a half ago | (#42873459)

My old phone had UMA, which let me connect to my carrier network through wifi alone. I generally preferred the call quality through UMA over GSM except when the network was heavily loaded. It also let me take my phone while traveling and still be able to send texts, make calls, and check voicemail from time to time without paying a dime extra or trying to buy sim cards overseas. I think that being unable to charge roaming fees is why most carriers have either discontinued or never even tried to support this.

Re:The next step is WiFi calling (1)

jbolden (176878) | about a year and a half ago | (#42873713)

Really? Wow. Either your GSM network was terrible or the radio on your phone was terrible or... That's interesting though.

Re:The next step is WiFi calling (1)

Brianwa (692565) | about a year and a half ago | (#42875391)

It might just be personal preference on my part. Not many people seem to complain about this, but I am pretty much incapable of deciphering speech when the newer GSM codecs switch to their lowest bandwith settings or try to fill in for dropped packets. To me it just seems like a bunch of speech-like sounds that don't resemble real words in any way. And the ~1 second latency (often times two cell phones) gets bothersome as well.

I only noticed jitter once or twice. It was less severe than jitter I've experienced through normal cell connections (and even on landlines), although I'm sure it could get way worse with bad network conditions.

In any case, that phone is broken and the carrier doesn't offer any UMA-capable phones for almost free with a contract anymore. I don't like talking on the phone anyway so meh.

Re:The next step is WiFi calling (1)

PRMan (959735) | about a year and a half ago | (#42874581)

I've had Vonage for a decade and there's no jitter whatsoever. What makes you think there would be?

Re:The next step is WiFi calling (1)

PRMan (959735) | about a year and a half ago | (#42874597)

In fact, my Vonage calls are actually higher quality than cell calls by far. So I would think that the perceived quality would improve, actually.

Re:The next step is WiFi calling (1)

icebike (68054) | about a year and a half ago | (#42875667)

Home wifi does not have QoS. Jitter is going to be terrible. If you are going to do this you want much more sophisticated software helping the whole thing end to end. Which is essentially what commercial SIP solutions do. Why reinvented SIP?

Actually, home wifi works great for voice. Jitter issues not withstanding.

The built in TALK app in Android can open a voice (or video) chat with any other Android user, and the quality is more than acceptable.

True, Sip is better. Using the built in SIP (Internet calling) feature of just about any Android phone (or any of a dozen such apps on the Play store) you can make calls to any other SIP phone. Calls to Land lines usually requires a sip to POTS gateway subscription somewhere. This is slightly harder to set up, because you have to know a thing or three about SIP to get it to work.

Or simply install GrooVe IP [google.com] and you can use your Free Google Voice account to make and receive calls from your cell phone, as long as you have wifi. Calls are free anywhere in north America. This app emulates the Google Chat client found in Gmail and as a stand alone app on windows, to allow calls in and out over wifi (or 3g). Voice quality is exceptional.

(For 38 bucks [amazon.com] you can also use Google Voice with your home phones. For most people this pays for itself in the first month).

Re:The next step is WiFi calling (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42873033)

While we are at it, can we make cell phones support WiFi for phone calls?

The phones already have the hardware to do this. People could make calls from places where cell reception sucks but they had Wifi internet. It would also reduce the burden on cell towers as people eliminate landlines and use their cell phones at home, where they probably already have WiFi routers. It also would eliminate the need for those stupid microcells: you could just use your regular wi-fi router for calls without needing to pay for their box.

This is already in existence for android at least, use GrooveIP and a google voice account. You can receive, send calls any time you want as long as you're on wifi and you keep wifi alive.

I do this with an Optimus V, it works very well..

Re:The next step is WiFi calling (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42873041)

Google voice + GrooVe IP, Skype, or any number of other solutions. What's the problem?

Re:The next step is WiFi calling (2)

mspohr (589790) | about a year and a half ago | (#42873371)

My Android Nexus One runs Skype which works over WiFi for phone calls... it's done this for years.
Is this what you had in mind?

Re:The next step is WiFi calling (1)

MobyDisk (75490) | about a year and a half ago | (#42875571)

No. I want to dial a regular telephone number and have it use WiFi.

Re:The next step is WiFi calling (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42876007)

I believe Skype (with a paid account) does just that.

you miss the point (1)

Chirs (87576) | about a year and a half ago | (#42876727)

He wants it to work with the regular phone dialing mechanism, not by firing up the Skype app and dialing from there.

phone is just a computer with a cell radio app (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42880509)

No he didn't miss the point...

I installed a wifi calling app (fongo - Canada ) and now when I dial a number on the regular phone pad it asks me if I want to use cellular, fongo or skype.
I haven't set it to choose one automatically yet.. getting my kicks in the meantime.

It made me realize that my phone is really just a computer with a cell radio that a program can use to make calls.

Don't tell me your fancy new phone can't run apps in the background.. what's this about "firing up" ? Just don't use Skype.. better options exist.

Re:The next step is WiFi calling (2)

macemoneta (154740) | about a year and a half ago | (#42873401)

While we are at it, can we make cell phones support WiFi for phone calls?

The phones already have the hardware to do this. People could make calls from places where cell reception sucks but they had Wifi internet. It would also reduce the burden on cell towers as people eliminate landlines and use their cell phones at home, where they probably already have WiFi routers. It also would eliminate the need for those stupid microcells: you could just use your regular wi-fi router for calls without needing to pay for their box.

You want Republic Wireless [republicwireless.com] . We have it, and it works great.

Re:The next step is WiFi calling (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42875453)

I got a Republic Wireless phone. This is essentially their schtick. They use wifi when possible and the Sprint network when it can't. The service is cheap as they hope you use your own connection more than Sprints.

In Davenport Iowa, with the best cable broadband in town (the only one), it sucks ass.

The quality of calls on my wifi is crap. Which is odd because Skype does an ok job. Maybe my ISP is being dicks. Or maybe Republic Wireless is screwing something up. I dunno. The Sprint network is kinda patchy in my town.

The phone itself is rather low-end. The wife installed her shmorgas board of random crap that was on her older Droid, and it simply ran out of space. There's just the one option. And apparently the phone is tied to their network so it's useless for resale.

Wifi phones probably are the way of the future. But this foray was a bust. We're switching to... something else.

Re:The next step is WiFi calling (1)

NortySpock (1966236) | about a year and a half ago | (#42873679)

Quality of Service? Users are going to complain about dropped calls and won't connect the dots to things like "turning on the microwave makes a hash out of my wireless signal" or "I live in an apartment with 30 networks interfering with each other".

Re:The next step is WiFi calling (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42873791)

Every smartphone released by tmobile in the past 2 years has supported wifi calling and many well before that. I am sure other carriers must have similar support.

Re:The next step is WiFi calling (1)

Hentes (2461350) | about a year and a half ago | (#42874089)

You mean like Skype?

Re:The next step is WiFi calling (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42875645)

Or talkatone, or nettalk, or several other pure VoIP providers ( those 2 are free to call a cell/landline... unlike skype )

Re:The next step is WiFi calling (1)

PRMan (959735) | about a year and a half ago | (#42874551)

If you have Vonage, you can do this for free with their Extensions app. I'm about to go on vacation in a foreign country, and while I'm there I'll just hop on Wifi and call international numbers in that country for free with their app (it bills against the Vonage World service at home and costs me nothing since the country I'm going to is free on Vonage World).

Re:The next step is WiFi calling (2)

complete loony (663508) | about a year and a half ago | (#42876219)

I'm working for the Serval Project, our main focus is offering phone calls, text messaging, file transfer and other communication services over whatever network is available. While a phone call requires a usable realtime path between the end points, we're trying to build other services that use a Delay Tolerant Networking protocol.

The services we're building will attempt to use any available network to discover other devices running our software and relay data. We've also been experimenting with using 915Mhz ISM band radios that could be attached to a small openWRT router running on battery power.

While we do attempt to get adhoc wifi working on android, the approach we're using obviously only works with root permission. And since google have removed adhoc support completely at the kernel level, our approach only really works on handsets running older android versions. In future, I think the best approach is going to be getting adhoc support into every custom android rom we can.

We've been talking to the SPAN project and would like to build a one-stop-shop app / web site with an automated process or manual instructions for how to get an adhoc wifi network working on any android device. That might entail the approaches we've been using on older hardware, or instructions on building a replacement kernel or a custom rom that is known to work.

Re:The next step is WiFi calling (2)

twostar (675002) | about a year and a half ago | (#42877375)

Most T-Mobile android phones have wifi calling built into them. great for calling when outside the US and not paying roaming fee's.

Re:The next step is WiFi calling (1)

Troll-in-Training (1815480) | about a year and a half ago | (#42880313)

While we are at it, can we make cell phones support WiFi for phone calls?

The phones already have the hardware to do this. People could make calls from places where cell reception sucks but they had Wifi internet. It would also reduce the burden on cell towers as people eliminate landlines and use their cell phones at home, where they probably already have WiFi routers. It also would eliminate the need for those stupid microcells: you could just use your regular wi-fi router for calls without needing to pay for their box.

T-Mobile USA already does this - They call it WiFi calling and it is present on almost all of their internet enabled phones at no extra charge. It is the best reason to buy a T-Mobile branded smartphone rather than an unlocked one like a Nexus if you are going to use T-Mobile prepaid as it is only baked into their branded roms. They do however charge you for minutes or text at the same rate as your regular plan (they treat WiFi calling the same as connecting over a cell tower) if you have an unlimited plan it's free. It works fairly well, and in theory even allows you to connect to their servers from an international WiFi router to make calls to the US without roaming charges.

completely off topic... (-1, Offtopic)

Titus Groan (2834723) | about a year and a half ago | (#42872951)

but I'm seeing "Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive. -- Shakespeare" at the bottom of this page as the "fortune" quote? Can an admin or editor please update this to show who the quote is actually by? It's Sir Walter Scott if you don't already know.

Terrible coverage (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42873009)

If you're close enough to have an ad-hoc network on the crappy wifi signal a phone has, you're close enough to not need to use your phone to talk to them.

Re:Terrible coverage (1)

icebike (68054) | about a year and a half ago | (#42875733)

If you're close enough to have an ad-hoc network on the crappy wifi signal a phone has, you're close enough to not need to use your phone to talk to them.

You don't understand Mesh networks. Go read up on them first, then post back.

Hint: you only have to be close to ANY mesh access point to be able to get to EVERY other access point, and then bridge to the first working broadband connection, which could be a long way away.

two things (1, Insightful)

fermion (181285) | about a year and a half ago | (#42873023)

1) on the iPhone the cellular can be turned off so it can be used as a WiFi only device. Skype can be used to make calls.

2) I thought the whole advantage of an Android phone is that it was not locked down like an iPhone, so could always be used to as a router to accept connections, i.e. tethering. That is what the ads and everyone on /. says when they say that iPhones suck.

Re:two things (1)

pr0nbot (313417) | about a year and a half ago | (#42873203)

Android is less locked-down in certain ways (e.g. you can install apps from anywhere), but it's still ultimately locked down, by carriers in some case, and by Google. E.g. it isn't possible to remove certain apps - like Facebook (on my old t-mobile phone) and the Google apps (on a Nexus 4). You need to jailbreak it (root it) to do the really interesting things. If you care about such things: http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2011/sep/19/android-free-software-stallman [guardian.co.uk]

Re:two things (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about a year and a half ago | (#42875325)

I can disable the carrier's pre-installed apps so that they no longer appear on my android. They're not uninstalled and erased from flash but you can essentially forget their existence and never get reminded about upgrades.

Re:two things (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42876921)

The big thing though, is that the Nexus 4 doesn't fight you if you want to root it. The process is well documented and not difficult to do, and doesn't rely on exploiting bugs that Google may have forgotten to patch. I did it as soon as I got mine. I can easily remove the Google apps if I want to, but for now I find them more useful than not, so I don't bother. Other Android handset manufacturers have the same blinkered idea as Apple of locking away root and all that, so I voted against them with my wallet.

Missing the point (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42873249)

Yes, Android can tether, but that's not the point of this project. Standard tethering is mostly a spoke-hub [wikipedia.org] type of model, where one user acts as the access point and others use said access point. The SPAN project appears to be about using WiFi to set up a mesh network [wikipedia.org] when other means of communication are unavailable, so that everyone in the mesh can communicate to peers (or, if at least one user has access to the Internet, to anyone anywhere). This would allow for a much larger area of coverage when traditional networks are down. TFA references the events following the Haiti earthquakes as a potential use case. There are many possible issues to consider such as security, nodes moving around or dropping out of the network, etc.; but this still seems to be a pretty interesting new use of technology. I'll certainly give it a try.

Re:two things (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42875631)

Tethering wont get you phone service tho. Which i think was the main thrust of the topic. ( i could be wrong tho, it was poorly worded. )

And yes, android can tether, be it rooted or not. Last i looked the iPhone *had* to be jail-broken to tether without carrier approval and your choices were limited.

Re:two things (1)

complete loony (663508) | about a year and a half ago | (#42876051)

cellular can be turned off so it can be used as a WiFi only device

On android, put the phone in flight mode, then turn wifi back on.

what do you think (1)

Frontier Owner (2616587) | about a year and a half ago | (#42873099)

Will there be a law against this faster than it can be implemented?

Re:what do you think (1)

icebike (68054) | about a year and a half ago | (#42875757)

One could make the case that there should be Laws FOR this, and that FEMA should be tasked with making sure it works and that apps are available.

(Not that anyone is likely to trust FEMA to do anything right).

So it's like the internet (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | about a year and a half ago | (#42873183)

You mean that you're creating an internet of wireless devices. It's mostly useless, or at least just a curiosity or specialty tool, until it hits critical mass. Then it becomes a parallel internet, but requiring proximity to the network peers. It will even have a functional equivalence, as everybody in the middle of nowhere will still be fucked, but if you're clustered in a population hub, the connectivity will allow high bandwidth applications.

Re:So it's like the internet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42873585)

From the article: "In theory, with a good routing protocol and some sufficiently large number of nodes, towers would not be needed to operate a mobile network."

Yeah, so it's a hippie commune kind of network! Let's go for it now & screw the cell telcos!!!

Re:So it's like the internet (1)

Max_W (812974) | about a year and a half ago | (#42875393)

In the middle of nowhere there are no towers anyway, they are not profitable to construct there. Still the messages will not be lost in the internet of wireless devices. As almost everywhere one meets people.

The protocol should use the last know geo-location of a wireless device and route a message to it to the nearest wireless devices in the area (in the encrypted format certainly).

There are only 3 numbers for the last know location: latitude, longitude and time. The protocol can use the excellent free map: www.osm.org

For example, if I am hiking here http://www.openstreetmap.org/?mlat=42.157&mlon=-75.256&zoom=9&layers=M [openstreetmap.org] then my location on the planet is defined just by 2 numbers: 42.157 and -75.256 . And I cannot be on another planet.

Speaking is another story, but messaging is most important. Who speaks from the blue now? People first exchange messages and arrange a talk. So one can move closer to a WiFi spot to talk then. But robust messaging is quite doable in the internet of wireless devices. We have a lot of memory in our devices. I have 32 GB from which I use 1%.

All is need is the protocol and we will get the free mobile communication for the whole planet, just like we've got Wikipedia or OSM.

Re:So it's like the internet (1)

icebike (68054) | about a year and a half ago | (#42875839)

Mesh networks can carry quite a load.

You are right or course, it needs to be installed and turned on over a significant number of devices. Some think this software should be mandatory [cnet.com] .
Even if only for disasters or power failure, it would be worth while.

Theoretically, mesh networks, if done properly can manage bandwidth demands based on the number of working broadband connections. If not, text messages get through and voice becomes hopeless, but people adapt. In disasters, all you need is one working cable modem somewhere.

As for the guy sitting in the middle of nowhere, they are always screwed in a disaster, so no change there.

Mobile Emergency Communications Project (4, Interesting)

talmage (223926) | about a year and a half ago | (#42873185)

I've organized a similar project, the Mobile Emergency Communications Project [github.com] . It builds on NRL OLSR [navy.mil] , NRL SMF [navy.mil] , and NORM [navy.mil] and comes with some rudimentary graphical applications for testing and for file sharing. The applications are written in C++ and QML [digia.com] using the Qt framework [qt-project.org] .

The project runs on Linux and on Nokia's N900 and N9 phones. I'm looking for help to port it to Symbian, Android, and iOS devices.

HMSS Mesh (1)

A10Mechanic (1056868) | about a year and a half ago | (#42873277)

This concept is very much like HMSS ad-hock mesh networks used in ham radio. Self-discovering, auto-configuration, and self-healing. Except we use old linksys routers, instead of cell phones, and operate under different FCC rules. YMMV

Re: ham? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42873429)

never heard of ham radio. did a search and found the American Radio Relay Leauge. http://www.arrl.org/what-is-amateur-radio

thought ham was related to a cut of meat in this instance. lol

thanks for teh info.

Re: ham? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42873543)

Lol, hacker pupae.

usa a 802.11b/g/n router somehow? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42873393)

i was gong to suggest buying a linksys router and some netbooks or tablets, but agencies might not want to buy extra equipment; they want to use existing smartphones. although after a disaster internet access can be overloaded or even completely cut off. if an emergency agency wants internet access when there is little or no wifi or 2g/3g/4g cell phone service, they could use satellite internet. hookup a dual band g02.11 a/b/g/n router to the satellite modem. but satellite internet could be expensive. just a thought.

Currently a *very* limited replacement (1)

mt42 (1906902) | about a year and a half ago | (#42873399)

From the article: "Each smartphone in the network can operate up to about 100 feet away from its nearest neighbor. VoIP works over up to 5 hops."

By my maths, that gives phone calls over about 500 feet (152 metres). Point to point communication using cheap PMR446 [wikipedia.org] radios would do a better job if the mobile network went down, with a range of up to a few kilometres in open space and a few hundred metres in the city (though channel collisions might be more of an issue than with VOIP over wifi). These are as cheap as £15 for a pair [amazon.co.uk] . Heck, I could probably just about shout over 150 metres :oP

I will grant that the key benefit of this approach is that it works with the phone you have, and working with the equipment you have is pretty much the only option for communication for the general populace in an emergency (such as the earthquake in Haiti that motivated this work). However, you would need to have a suitable ad-hoc VOIP system that can run on a local (not connected to the internet) network and ideally connect using mobile phone numbers as VOIP identities (a bit like a distributed version of Viber [viber.com] ).

However, the article notes that the mobile infrastructure was still operational, just overwhelmed by sheer weight of traffic. It is therefore also likely that some internet connectivity remained as both often rely on similar backhaul connectivity. In this case, having phones that can connect to the mobile network via wifi access points (e.g. UMA [wikipedia.org] ) would also have helped, assuming that the network "crash" was a bandwidth or connection density issue and not a crash of the backend subscriber management systems. Orange in the UK have this technology deployed, but the number of compatible handsets is very low. As pointed out by others, offloading a portion of calls and data over internet connections makes sense for the operators in non-disaster conditions too, reducing contention for limited bandwidth. I for one would like to see UMA technology become standard in all wifi capable smartphones.

Actual GitHub Link from the developer... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42873987)

https://github.com/ProjectSPAN is actually where the SPAN code is hosted. The repo listed is outdated and really just for conference presentation materials. Thanks for the interest and or hate. - @m0nk_dot

Cool idea. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42874317)

This, in conjunction with a solar charger, would make a nice addition to anyone's emergency kit.

Yippie! (1)

AndyKron (937105) | about a year and a half ago | (#42874705)

Walkie Phonies!

It's been done for years with different RF devices (1)

poofmeisterp (650750) | about a year and a half ago | (#42875327)

Ask an amateur radio operator how to do it.

They've been actively helping in disaster situations since the early 1900s, digitally since the 70s.

So unless someone wants to patent an idea, just ask old HAMs for excellent working designs and units; it's a quick set of technological changes to use WiFi handheld devices.

Native VoIP (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42875597)

Mine has it. I also have a service ( which will remain nameless so they don't get slammed ) where i get 1000+ minutes free a month ( which i don't use, as i don't normally call people voice ). AND it ties to my Google number so its all part of the same ecosystem. ( for better or worse.. i have tossed my eggs in the Google basket. )

Winternet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42875677)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portmanteau

I'm trademarking this word right now.

It will never be allowed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42876873)

After all, two people might be able to have a conversation without it getting routed through Langley first.

Sounds Familiar (1)

brisk0 (2644101) | about a year and a half ago | (#42877853)

Reminds me of the Serval Batphone [servalproject.org] . In fact, this sounds like a slightly more ambitious version of the exact same premise (Disaster area phone-to-phone [heh, P2P] communication via mesh).
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