DIY community telephony via Mesh Potato #mesh #wifi #telephony

Mesh PotatoCommunity telephony initiative Village Telco has developed the Mesh Potato – a device for providing low-cost telephony and Internet in areas where alternative access either doesn’t exist or is too expensive. It is a marriage of a low-cost wireless access point (AP) capable of running a mesh networking protocol with an Analog Telephony Adapter (ATA). Wireless APs such as the Meraki or OpenMesh (Accton Mini-router) APs are rapidly gaining in popularity due to their low-cost, relative robustness, and ease of installation. Adding the ability to plug an ordinary telephone into a device like an OpenMesh AP opens up very interesting possibilities.

Each Mesh Potato provides an 802.11bg WiFi router along with  a single fixed telephone line to the end user, and is connected to other Mesh Potatoes via a mesh Wifi network. Mesh Potatoes automatically configure themselves to build a mesh Wifi network, greatly extending the range of the network over regular WiFi. Mesh Potatoes have been carefully engineered to be robust to developing world environmental conditions (e.g. accidental abuse, weather, static damage, poor electricity supply) and are designed for low power consumption (about 2W idle). The firmware is based on OpenWRT and can be configured in minutes using a simple Web GUI or even from a telephone using IVR menus. B.A.T.M.A.N. is used for mesh routing and each Mesh Potato runs Asterisk with a custom FXS port channel driver. The Qty 1 Mesh Potato price is comparable to other outdoor router plus ATA combinations that are closed source, consume much more power, are not engineered for developing world conditions, and provide none of the Village Telco ecology (e.g. community support, billing system and server software, and social mission). Operating profits will be reinvested in Village Telco and Mesh Potato support, maintenance, and development.  Buying a Mesh Potato ($99) helps the Village Telco.  For complete features and specifications, see