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What's a FabFi?

FabFi is an open-source, FabLab-grown system using common building materials and off-the-shelf electronics to transmit wireless ethernet signals across distances of up to several miles. With Fabfi, communities can build their own wireless networks to gain high-speed internet connectivity---thus enabling them to access online educational, medical, and other resources.

Project Summary (as of Oct 5, 2011)
  • Production Networks actively deployed in four locations across two countries
  • Afghanistan
    • 45 remote FabFi nodes are currently deployed in and around Jalalabad, Afghanistan
    • Longest link is 6,000m (3.72mi)
    • Data throughput 11.5Mbps
    • System extensible by anyone
    • Materials to make an endpoint link are $60US and available locally
  • Kenya
    • 50 remote FabFi nodes are currently deployed across three sites
    • Longest link is 3,500m
    • 6-hop Data throughput across 2,500m, > 30Mbps
    • System provides WiFi direct to end-users
    • Sytem integrates user accounting and management

Fabfi has been featured in numerous print and online media articles, including the New York Times, and major tech blogs such as Gizmodo.com, BoingBoing.net, and NOS news in the Netherlands.

Fabfi Development

As 2011 comes to a close, the Fabfi team is working on an entirely new architecture. Fabfi version 5 will be a native IPv6 system with multi-radio devices, 802.1x authentication, integrated billing and cloud-management. We envision this system as scalable to thousands of user-installable nodes. Apologies for any gaps in documentation while we're trying up the loose ends. Field testing is under way, and a proper release is expected in Q1 2012.

FabFi Kenya
FabFi technical crew
FabFi technical crew


In the summer of 2010, the Fab team set out to show that Fabfi could be both reliable and sustainable. Choosing Kenya as a pilot site Fabfolk seeded three Fablab students with the hardware to begin deploying a network as a community-operated business. Over the course of the next six months, the team updated the fabfi software and stood up three pilot sites, with the goal of covering their expenses and labor within one year. First expeiences on the ground in Kenya suggest that community networks like this one fill a service and support niche that large providers ignore. Our Kenyan operators are building strong personal relationships with the people they serve, often performing other technical services beyond simple networking support. Feedback from users is overwhelmingly positive. Our Kenyan collaborators are providing a paid internet service using the Fabfi platform under the name JoinAfrica. For the most current info on Fabfi Kenya, check out the JoinAfrica web site.

FabFi Afghanistan
FabFi technical crew


In January 2009, the Jalalabad FabLab demonstrated the capability of the FabFi system by bringing high-speed internet to a village, hospital, university, and a non-governmental organization in Jalalabad, Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan. These low-cost, locally-produced networks can be easily spread across isolated villages and towns, placing them in touch with the outside world and facilitating socio-economic development from the ground up. After a month of intensive training and practical experience, the Jalalabad FabLabbers are well on their way to self-sufficiency in the maintenance and expansion of their own local network, with a long list of locations in line to be linked up.

Jalalabad's longest link is currently 2.41 miles, between the FabLab and the water tower at the public hospital in Jalalabad, transmitting with a real throughput of 11.5Mbps (compared to 22Mbps ideal-case for a standards compliant off-the-shelf 802.11g router transitting at a distance of only a few feet). The system works consistently through heavy rain, smog and a couple of good sized trees.

Community Building

In FabLabs, technology brings people and ideas together. FabFi embraces this same principle. The public hospital, which houses the endpoint of FabFi Afghanistan's longest link, has become a shared community resource, providing downlinks to a growing number of locations in the city center. The shared infrastructure facilitates communication between FabFi users all over the city as they collaboratively grow and maintain the network. The FabFi user group is learning valuable skills that will soon allow them to generate revenue for themselves and the Lab by building, installing and maintaining FabFi links as part of a "FabFi Club" at the FabLab. Pictured below are the two endpoints of the water tower link, FabLab on the left, water tower on the right.

The Big Link

Here's Steve A. with Said-Jalal from Bagrami looking very satisfied after successfully setting up the Water Tower link (2.41mi).

FabFi Cable Guys
A Fab Future
Bagrami Dicovering Wikipedia

Because FabFi is fundamentally a technological and sociological research endeavor, it is constantly growing and changing. Over the coming months expect to see infrastructure improvements to improve stability and decrease cost, and added features such as meshing and bandwidth aggregation to support a growing user base. In addition to network improvements, there are plans to leverage the provided connectivity to build online communities and locally hosted resources for users in addition to MIT OpenCourseWare, making the system much more valuable than the sum of its uplink bandwidth. Follow the developments on the FabFi Blog.

Get Linked!

FabFi is a completely open source system. FabLab Jalalabad invites you to participate in the growth and development of their field-proven system by downloading the technical documents and trying FabFi for yourself. Have changes, questions, suggestions, improvements? Email fabfi at fabfolk dot com

Just want the Basics? Find a high-level technical overview here.


Copyright 2008-2011 by the authors. Reuse of text, and images smaller than 640x480, allowed under CC-BY-SA. A project of Fabfolk, Inc.