InfoLab21 at Lancaster University is a bold new award-winning international centre of excellence for research in information and communication technologies. InfoLab21 researchers have helped Wray achieve what could be a world first for cricket fans. The thwack of leather on willow from a village cricket match will be broadcast live over the Internet on Easter Monday thanks to superfast broadband provided by Lancaster University as part of a long term research project looking at providing broadband and wireless networks to remote places. University researchers and engineers have provided a 100Mbps fibre connection into the Village Institute at Wray, Lancashire, and supplied special boxes to homes across the village to create a ‘mesh ‘network providing Internet access to hundreds of homes. The community has campaigned hard for internet access to support their village and the University was happy to help as computing researchers are using the network for research purposes. Video footage from the village cricket match can be uploaded thanks to the fact the new network can upload and download content equally quickly and the idea has caught the imagination of media, bloggers and tweeters including Stephen Fry. InfoLab21′s Dr Nicholas Race, who leads the Wray research at Lancaster University, said: “We first began working in Wray in 2003. At that time the community had no access to broadband, and so the idea was that in building a wireless mesh network around Wray we could offer the community Internet access but at the same time use that infrastructure for research at Lancaster. “Since then the activities in Wray have really gathered momentum, and the University is working with the community on a whole range of research projects.We’ve also recently deployed a next generation broadband network in the village, which provides the community with access to one of the fastest Internet connections in the region. The symmetrical nature of this connection – enabling people to download and upload at equal speeds – is really important in allowing users to become producers of content.”
The work in Wray has been partially funded by the European Union project P2P-Next which is building a platform to support the future delivery of television over the Internet. Lancaster’s role within P2P-Next is in evaluating this technology with real users as part of a large-scale technical trial, known as a Living Lab. The infrastructure in Wray forms part of this Living Lab, enabling villagers to watch and broadcast TV quality content – such as the cricket match – from their armchair or even the village green. The P2P-Next integrated project will build a next generation Peer-to-Peer (P2P) content delivery platform, to be designed, developed, and applied jointly by a consortium consisting of high-profile academic and industrial players with proven track records in innovation and commercial success. The current infrastructure of the Internet is not suited to simultaneous transmission of live events to millions of people (i.e. broadcasting). The problem is that a dedicated stream of data must be sent to every single user. With millions of potential users, the simultaneous streams of data will easily congest the Internet. For several years, we have been told that the answer to this problem is “multicasting”, whereby the data stream is distributed to many local servers that subsequently “re-broadcast” the content to local users.