Irish charity brings broadband to refugee camps on Lesbos

6 Oct 2015

Disaster Tech Lab is connecting two refugee camps on Lesbos with free Wi-Fi

While Mark Zuckerberg and Bono lobby the UN to bring free Wi-Fi and broadband to Syrian refugees, an Irish-based charity, Disaster Tech Lab, is already doing it.

The Galway-based charity is building a wireless network that will provide internet access to over 7,000 refugees in two camps – Moria and Kara Tepe – on the island of Lesbos, off Greece.

Broadband is vital for enabling families affected by the war in Syria and who are fleeing to Europe to stay in touch with loved ones.

The wireless network will also serve all NGOs, as well as local authorities working with the refugee camps.

A wireless lifeline

Evert Bopp from Disaster Tech Labs explained that equipment is being mounted on 6-metre tall poles and that the service is fully solar powered. Backhaul is 50Mbps.

Bopp explained that local authorities, such as the police at Moria, had no reliable internet service to access, so the infrastructure is being welcomed.

“We are examining the need for internet access on the Northern end of the island in the areas where the refugees are landing, as well as smaller areas where they are congregating.

“In addition to that, we think it’s a good idea to set up a combined medical and rest post halfway between Skala and Mytilini.”

The team is using Wi-Fi equipment by Cambium Networks, solar equipment by Goal Zero and satellite phones by Globalstar for team communications.

“As Mark Zuckerberg announced that he was lobbying the UN to provide internet access to the refugees after we had already started this, we have reached out to Facebook and invited them to join us in this project.

“They haven’t replied yet,” Bopp said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years