Mongolia Surfs the Net
Surplus butter and
an NSF-funded research project have created a state-of-the-art Internet
connection in Mongolia. The project evolved as the once-secluded country
opened its doors for numerous scientific studies including some on the
ecology of Mongolia's ancient lakes.
The scientists working there needed an Internet
connection, NSF's Steven Goldstein told MSNBC. Goldstein is the
international coordinator for NSF's NSFNET Program.
Setting up a network of Internet connections in
a place where telephone lines are of inconsistent quality is a tricky
proposition. The answer turned out to be a new, spread spectrum wireless
The wireless Internet project is part of the combined
efforts of NSF, a private Mongolian Inter-net company called DataCom,
and the Soros Foundation, which helps countries of the former Soviet
Union develop technology. The project was completed last October when
research and academic institutions in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar
used the new modems to network their computers.
The institutions are also connected to the Internet
node itself, which was the result of an earlier project. In 1994, the
U.S. Department of Agriculture sent surplus butter to Mongolia where
it was sold. DataCom used the money to get a loan for a satellite dish
and then established an Internet node.
While developing the radio modems, NSF and others
found that the technology can be useful in other settings, such as schools
and remote areas.
"Spread spectrum is a good choice for Internet
access even here in Boulder," Steve Wulchin told MSNBC. Wulchin
is president of Colorado-based FreeWave Technologies, the company that
built the modems. In Mongolia, where there is limited infrastructure,
radio modems work well. "We use them here," says Wulchin, "because they
move data faster than phone lines. There are potential applications
in a lot of different countries...highly developed or not."