Just before Christmas last year Eric & Sean completed phase 1 of the Camp Arapal network. This consisted of the installation of an Aruba Networks controller, 2 wifi access points and a 3G router in one of the buildings at Arapal. Details on phase 1 can be read here. The 3G router was only a temporary means of backhaul (and insufficient at that, but the only option) while we shipped in VSAT equipment from Dubai. This equipment arrived in Manilla on December 26th but took over a month to clear through customs. Yes, even this type of equipment gets delayed by customs. But that’s a different story..
The equipment finally arrived at Arapal Camp on January 30th and shortly afterwards, on February 5th,our Dutch volunteer Hans Raymakers arrived in Arapal Camp to start the installation of the dish & terminal. As the images at the end of this update will illustrate this was quite a task. Arapal Camp is in a very remote, rural location and the physical task of installing the dish involved the cutting down of quite a substantial amount of foliage and the digging (with hand tools) of a 5 feet deep hole in the rocky hillside. In addition to that Hans came down with some sort of flu/cold in the middle of this. However he struggled onwards and completed the whole project together with the help of local tradespeople. All that’s left now is some aiming & configuration work before we can proceed with phase 3 of the project which will see the extension of the WiFi network across Arapal Camp.
This project is different from our normal rapid response work. We originally went to Arapal Camp to assist in their short-term communication needs. However it quickly became obvious that Arapal Camp was a unique location serving as a disaster response hub but also as a community hub for the wider area providing basic necessities but also addressing longer term needs such as education and employment. Arapal also served as a hub for at least half a dozen relief and aid organisations. As the area was a communications black hole (with no outlook of improved services) the benefits of providing a permanent means of communications were obvious. While Mike Baumgartner from Disaster Assistance CoC donated funds for the purchase of the VSAT equipment we arranged transport from Dubai, installed the equipment (and the local WiFi network) and lastly secured the actual VSAT service. Once phase three is completed the majority of the buildings in the camp (including the school) will have wireless internet access inside and outside.