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The University of Southampton

Student-led project deploys community wireless network across the city of Southampton

Published: 11 June 2008

A community-based wireless network is being developed by a group of University of Southampton students, enabling residents in Portswood and Highfield and beyond to benefit from free wireless access to the Internet in their homes.

The Southampton Open Wireless Project (SOWN) is a community and research project led by students and staff in the School of Electronics and Computer Science (ECS). SOWN is investigating the technologies and infrastructure needed to deploy effective city-wide WiFi network coverage in a domestic area using hot-spots placed strategically to link up to a full-scale network.

In order to create the network SOWN has deployed wireless nodes in student houses around the Highfield campus. Whilst sharing student’s bandwidth in each house, there is enough left over to allow other people to access the network and therefore the Internet.

“Relying on community involvement has allowed SOWN to deploy its network in hard to reach places, as well as giving internet access to large swathes of student areas around the city,” said Stuart Harland, a student in ECS.

Members of the public can gain access to the wireless network by obtaining an account from SOWN, for which there is no charge.

In addition to providing a high level of uptime and capability for its users in Southampton, SOWN is a test bed for new technology. The SOWN team is currently working on research on several key areas of wireless technology, including the development of multicasting audio and video streams, 802.1x Authentication,
Transparent Mobility, Wireless VoIP, Wireless Location Tracking and deploying IPv6.

According to David Tarrant, SOWN team-member and ECS postgraduate student, SOWN is unique in that it is the only "non commercial, research network, student led, wide scale wireless network" around.

Since it began several years ago, SOWN has amassed a large amount of information on testing wireless devices, implementation of hardware and software solutions, and a whole volume of technical knowledge. It can be found at:

Notes for editors

  • With around 500 researchers, and 900 undergraduate students, the School of
    Electronics and Computer Science at Southampton is one of the world's
    largest and most successful integrated research groupings, covering
    Computer Science, Software Engineering, Electronics, and Electrical
    Engineering. ECS has unrivalled depth and breadth of expertise in world-
    leading research, new developments and their applications.

  • The University of Southampton is a leading UK teaching and research
    institution with a global reputation for leading-edge research and scholarship.

    This is one of the country's top institutions for engineering, computer science
    and medicine, and home to a range of world-leading research centres,
    including the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, the Institute of
    Sound and Vibration Research, the Optoelectronics Research Centre, the
    Centre for the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease, and the
    Mountbatten Centre for International Studies.

    We combine academic excellence with an innovative and entrepreneurial
    approach to research, supporting a culture that engages and challenges
    students and staff in their pursuit of learning.

    As one of the UK's top 10 research universities, we offer first-rate
    opportunities and facilities for study and research across a wide range of
    subjects in humanities, health, science and engineering. We have over 22,000
    students, around 5000 staff, and an annual turnover in the region of £325

  • For further information contact:
    Joyce Lewis, Communications Manager, School of Electronics and Computer
    Science, University of Southampton (tel. 023 8059 5453; email
    Sue Wilson, Communications, University of Southampton,
    Tel. 023 8059 5457, email:

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