Dear GKD Members,

LEARN Foundation is implementing a Wireless Broadband project connecting
7 rural ecosystems in the north eastern part of Bangladesh in the
districts of Sylhet and Sunamganj.

The technology uses Direct Sequence Spread Spectrum (DSSS) between the
Base Unit (BU) -in Sylhet town-  and the Remote Bridge (RB) units,
the 7 rural ecosystems about 50 kms in all directions, operating at 2.4
GHz at the ISM free band. From the RB backbone, 802.11b radios, both
DSSS and Frequency Hopping are being tested.

The hub of these rural ecosystems (each comprising 14-20 villages,
50,000 population, 10 sq km) are the MCNs (Micro Community Nodes)
which links to rural schools & LEARN IT training centers adjacent to
these schools. The remote bridge units (RBs) are being configured around
towers on top of these schools. From the RBs, the last mile proceeds via
three possible access solutions to the end users:

(1) drop down to standard  Ethernet LAN straight to the class rooms,
cyber cafes,computer labs, school office, etc - this is the education
pipe. LEARN joint ventures with SDNP (Sustainable Development Networking
Programme), a UNDP supported project, as its regional node partner to
support this pipe for rural schools. This is the "not for profit"

(2) Through RAS (remote Access server) & PABX, modems & copper wires
extend 2 km to various rural shops, markets, pharmacies or individual
users for delivering email, fax, browsing, SMS, Internet telephony,
telemedicine, software and rural e-commerce, and

(3) use 802.11b compliant radio access devices to other clients within
0-30 km from the RB radio backbone. This would be used where (1) and (2)
are, for any reason, not applicable or could be used in addition to (1)
& (2). This is also an income generating pipe or an education pipe
depending on where the client radios are located. The attached file
shows the ecosystem picture, the 802.11b radios, and the applications
being discussed with the local Alvarion representatives.

We are testing out two systems side by side in the pilot project: (a)
Israel based  Breezecom Alvarion <> and  (b) British
Wavelength Digital <>

Wavelength Digital systems are in use under similar structure using
rural schools as centers by the Initiative Foundation in a project
located in a small town called Sergiev Posad, about 100km from Moscow,

The LEARN project is configured in two divisions: (1) LEARNNET which
comprise the BU, operate and manage  the network  and  distribute
bandwidth to the various remote RBs. LEARNNET buys bandwidth and sells
it to the remote units. (2) The MCN division- are the remote units - 
which would buy the bandwidth from LEARN NET and distribute to users
within the ecosystems.

LEARNNET would use SDNP's DDN link to an ISP gateway in Dhaka but
eventually would set up it's own Internet gateway in Sylhet.

When linked to a VSAT Gateway and Satellite Space Segment to an internet
portal, the technology allows the building of telephony-cum-internet
service capable wide area networks in Zero-Infrastructure situations -
that is, the network can be successfully implemented when it is needed,
where it is needed without any prior basic infrastructure being present.

During the pilot project (12 months), both the divisions operate under
the legal umbrella (auspices) of the LEARN Foundation within an
agreement signed by all stakeholders.

There are four stakeholder groups: (1) The rural IT student group called
TROJANS, 200 of them spread over the 7 ecosystem (2) The IT professional
groups called BULLS (3) The funding group, corporate, individuals, IT
companies, etc called ANGELS and (4) the Foundation. The Angels fund the
entire process through the Foundation - the IT training program, setting
up the infrastructure & finally incubating the business models.

At the end of the pilot phase, LEARN NET division, along with all other
MCN units, are to be converted to private limited companies by the
stakeholders. LEARN Foundation, like any other stake holder, would then
be a shareholder in these companies with representation in the boards.
Management to be handed over to these companies by the Foundation. The
income from LEARN's share in the companies are to be ploughed back  into
education & IT training in new ecosystems.

All day to day operations are carried out by the Trojans under
supervision of the Bulls  and peer support from the Angels and the

The Trojans are a special breed of rural teenagers. They are trained
(over 4 years ) in Internet technologies, data communication, software,
multimedia & business processes. A Trojan's mental vision scans the
rural landscape in radically different ways. For example, a rural hut
will be read as  WCP (Wireless Client Point) instead of mud and straw, a
concrete building would read as WSP ( Wireless service point), a rich
farmer as an e-CRM target , a village pharmacy as a TMDP Telemedicine
storage delivery point) and a rural school as a KDP (knowledge diffusion
point ).

The theater space encompassing more than 100 villages, 2500 sq km of
densely populated rural landscape in northeast Bangladesh,  where the
Trojans live, their relatives farm, shop and trade may be viewed as a
microcosm of a wider transformation of the global ecosystem comprising
of 4 Billion inhabitants (4B) ..whose average annual income is US$365
($1 per day) !

We tend to think that the world economy and the Internet revolution
by-passes them. Think again..and think different.

However poor they may be, yet they transact: in food, in trade, in
health, in education, in communication and, yes, in entertainment .
worth around 4Bx $1 - 4 billion dollars a day!

We think that creating demand for information and delivering the supply
in the context of highly cost effective emerging technologies leads to
long term sustainable business processes through innovative partnerships
with the inhabitants of 4B..

Engineering the need for and delivery of real time information in these
value systems (education, health, trade, communication, entertainment,
advertisement) with wireless technologies can lead to cross
fertilization of traditional value chains, release trapped values from
existing ones or even unleash new to the world value chains that could
fast tract the overall development processes of these mainly agrarian

The challenge lies in imagination as much as in examination of these
value system vectors, their points of intersection juxtaposed against
the Internet canvas, monetization of these value propositions and,
finally, marketing these to the target communities as tangible brick and
mortar outcomes that impacts and improves their day to day lives.

Managing (as well as providing & supplying) the information
infrastructure as scalable business model is as important as simple
monetization (and identification) of real time information that impact
rural lives. There is still considerable gap between players who can
'deliver' and players who will 'use'.

The glimmer of hope lies in the fact that the gap has narrowed down to
changing 'mind sets' rather than overcoming questions ( and doubts )
about economic & technical viabilities. What we are trying to do here is
get both the users and the suppliers in the same boat ( both contribute
equity ) and see how it sails.

If the voyage succeeds then it would be an eye opener in the sense that
the digital divide would actually be closed not because of altruism but
for profit...

Compared to cable networks we believe that in rural Bangladesh wireless
Internet over 2.4 Ghz ISM Spread Spectrum radio backbone with 802.11b
compliant client solutions offer greater promise..

There is a web site coming up on this project soon which would actually
depict the day to day progress.

Imran Rasheed
Executive Director & CEO,
LEARN Foundation

"Venkatesh (Venky) Hariharan" <[EMAIL PROTECTED]> wrote:

> I am with Media Lab Asia ( and we are exploring the
> use of 802.11 technology for rural networks. However, we envisage these
> as small village telcos that will be set up by rural entrepreneurs.
> Decades of experience with Universal Service Obligation etc makes it
> clear that the big telcos are not be interested in providing
> telecommunications to rural markets. I recently met someone from
> Malaysia who said that his country has around $300 million earmarked for
> USO but there has been little progress till date. The story in India is
> also the same.
> A better alternative may be to follow the growth of cable networks in
> India. Most cable networks in India were set up by small local
> entrepreneurs. Since cable networks were unregulated, they grew at an
> astonishing rate and soon outnumbered the number of telephone
> connections in India! It may not be possible to replicate this success
> in the telco sector which is far more regulated than the cable networks
> in India but there is a good chance that local entrepreneurs would be
> far more interested in providing telco services in rural areas than the
> big telecom companies. This may be a win-win for everyone -- small
> entrepreneurs, large telecos and national governments -- because these
> village telcos may most likely operate their services under franchise
> from a larger teleco, thus providing connectivty to the disconnected,
> additional revenues to larger telecos and help governments fulfill their
> USO dreams.

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