The N4D Lab

The N4D Lab conducts research on understanding the fundamental challenges of providing universal Internet access and explores technological solutions to solve some of the challenges. The lab's mantra is to follow a cross-disciplinary approach cross-cutting Computer Science, Social Science, Economics and Regulation to conduct cutting edge user led technological research that can demonstrate socio-economic transformational impact. The N4D lab is led by Arjuna Sathiaseelan from the Computer Laboratory, University of Cambridge. The lab's activities are funded by the EU H2020, FP7 and EPSRC grants. Arjuna Sathiaseelan is also the Chair of the Internet Research Task Force (IRTF) Global Access to the Internet for All (GAIA) Research group.

Our works spans different research areas: exploring the role of future Internet architectures in solving the universal Internet access problem, enabling decentralised access and service infrastructures, measurement based studies, socio-economic modelling of the different stakeholder value chain etc. We were involved with the Asian Institute of Technology to deploy the first rural village community network in Thailand. We closely work with several research organisations such as the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP), Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in Africa etc to deploy some of the solutions developed in the lab.

We are always on a lookout for excellent PhD students with a good systems background interested in working on Internet access related problems. We are also interested to host short term visiting researchers who can contribute to the lab activities. If you are interested, please contact Arjuna Sathiaseelan.

Projects

EU H2020 aRchitecture for an Internet For Everybody (RIFE)

February 2015 - January 2018

The vision of RIFE is to address the problem of providing affordable and sustainable access to the Internet by realizing an architecture for an Internet for everybody that enables access to information and services at economically sustainable price points unmatched by today’s technologies while also catering to challenges, such as intermittent connectivity, posed by the varying environmental challenges that are imposed on those who want to connect.

The RIFE project will provide innovations for an Internet for everybody, building on prior academic work and producing the following major outcomes: 1) the definition of a unifying architecture with clear interfaces provided to application developers and component manufacturers, 2) the development of novel dissemination strategies that jointly optimise bandwidth, storage and computation resources available, integrating diverse network environments into the single RIFE architecture, and 3) a set of service and applications functions that will enable full utilisation of the RIFE architecture in real-life settings. RIFE will provide points (1) through (3) within 4) a RIFE prototype platform that will be implemented and tested against key performance indicators in both test bed and emulation settings as well as 5) in an operational trial within a community network that is linked via real-life satellite connectivity. Finally, we will 6) evaluate the commercial viability of the RIFE platform to provide the basis for a sustainable value chain, and 7) establish RIFE as a key driver in the wider community of practitioners and researchers in this space.

EU H2020 Universal, mobile-centric and opportunistic communications architecture (UMOBILE)

February 2015 - January 2018

Cars, sensors, home appliances, every device in the daily life of citizens is becoming a constituent in the Future Internet, adding to the need to reconsider requirements and assumptions in terms of network availability and affordability to support the ever increasing traffic demand. Still, the current Internet can only evolve adequately, if its infrastructure can be devised to accommodate the emerging services. The increased cost of adding new infrastructure and capacity has a drastic effect on rural and remote communities as well as nomadic users as they become marginalized by not gaining access to crucial Internet services. Our goal is to make the Future Internet universally pervasive supporting a diverse set of services. To achieve this, we develop a universal mobile-centric and opportunistic communications architecture, which integrates the principles of Delay Tolerant Networking (DTN) and Information Centric Networking (ICN) in a common framework. We utilize the benefits of both ICN and DTN to enable resource exploitation at minimal bandwidth, opportunistic access to information and more localized access to information through novel caching strategies. UMOBILE focuses on assisting users in getting access to the content they want or content that may be of shared interest to their trust circles. By relying on an instance of the UMOBILE architecture, users are able to share information directly with other peers without relying on infrastructure or expensive connectivity services. The proposed architecture targets the mobile part of the networks, extends Internet connectivity to regions that are not typically covered enhancing network resilience and is fully backward compatible with the current Internet architecture.

EU FP7 COSMOS (Part of the EU FP7 CONFINE)

February 2014 - January 2015

Universal access to Internet is crucial. There have been several initiatives to enable wider access to the Internet. The Public Access WiFi Service (PAWS) is on e such initiative that enables free Internet access to all and is based on Lowest Cost Denominator Networking (LCDNet) – a set of network techniques that enable users to share their home broadband network with the public. LCDNet makes use of a portion of the available unused capacity in home broadband networks and allows Less-than-Best Effort (LBE) access to these resources. The PAWS testbed is currently under deployment in a deprived community in Nottingham with a further planned deployment in rural Scotland.

However, PAWS has faced ongoing deployment challenges such as limited coverage and most importantly due to home user sharing patterns. The underlying problem with PAWS or any crowdshared network (such as FON) is that they serve as single point of access to users within the coverage of the wireless router and hence have no provision to extend the coverage or to provide any redundancy during unavailability of the routers. A potential solution to these problems would be to extend the PAWS network as a crowdshared mesh network where home broadband users share part of their own broadband connection to the public for free while such home routers are also connected to each other as a wireless mesh providing extended coverage as well as offering redundant paths to the Internet backhaul.

Extending PAWS to a crowd-shared mesh network departs from the norm: multiple users from different network operators/ISPs form part of the mesh network to provide free Internet connectivity while most wireless community mesh networks today are run by a single provider (either a network operator or an organization). This raises important questions: Who would be responsible for setting up, managing, resolving serious issues/tussles in such networks? What are the benefits or incentives for the various network operators to be involved as part of a community crowd-shared mesh network?

With the advent of Software Defined Networking (SDN), there are more opportunities for network operators to deploy and manage in large scale such open public wireless networks and to resolve the above mentioned tussles. The COSMOS project aims to investigate experimentally the feasibility and any potential benefits of enabwork techniques that enable users to share their home broadband network with the public. LCDNet makes use of a portion of the available unused capacity in home broadband networks and allows Less-than-Best Effort (LBE) access to these resources. The PAWS testbed is currently under deployment in a deprived community in Nottingham with a further planned deployment in rural Scotland.

EPSRC Public Access WiFi Service (PAWS)

November 2012-April 2014

The Public Access WiFi Service (PAWS) project aimed to utilise the unused capacity at home broadband networks to provide free Internet access to all to access essential services. The project extended the stakeholder value chain for incentivising Internet access deployment by including more than the two traditional parties (consumer and Internet service provider), for example, adding local government, who have a vested interest in decreasing the cost of human-centered service, and replacing these costly interactions with online services, which already prove popular with existing Internet users. This project was funded by the EPSRC.