What Is SOWN
SOWN (Southampton Open Wireless Network) is a student led project supported by Electronics & Computer Science (ECS) at the University of Southampton. It is also an offshoot of the Southampton University Wireless Society (SUWS).
SOWN aims to provide and develop an infrastructure for both learning and research into networking and wireless technologies. It also aspires to provide community-based wireless coverage for the city of Southampton.
SOWN's primary aspiration of providing community-based wireless coverage for the city of Southampton is enabled through a wide ranging set of technologies. These broadly breakdown into four separate areas, each of which is discussed in the following four presentations:
- Building Distributed Networks using VPNs
- Firmware Development for Embedded Devices
- Mechanisms for Global Distributed Authentication
- Administering the SOWN Network
SOWN has been under deployment since 2001. Over the years it has evolved from an original envisaged Mesh network to a more distributed network approach since 2007, as described in the first presentation above.
Much of our work goes into developing various wireless technologies, testing hardware and software and deploying infrastructure in the form of wireless access points around the city. We also work on our wired infrastructure, as we have a number of core servers dedicated to providing the various services to allow the network to work. As can bee seen in our network topology.
Nodes and access
Currently. SOWN only provides wireless coverage (with Internet access) through its SOWN[at]HOME nodes. These give authenticated access to the node hosts Internet connection (i.e. ADSL, Cable, etc.) and the SOWN network. The goal is to have enough of these nodes deployed to provide widespread wireless coverage in areas of Southampton most frequented by students.
Previously, we have provided wireless coverage around the University of Southampton Highfield campus, through several Campus Nodes. We currently only have one campus node, ZeplerNode. This was deployed in September 2017 with its new hardware. I will provide wireless coverage using both 802.11ac and 802.11n Wi-Fi protocols to allow staff and students to get Internet access for outside areas of campus that are not well covered. However, this is not yet operational. This campus node is also a receiver for Amateur Radio frequencies using a couple of USB Software Defined Radios (SDRs).
What are these SOWN[at]HOME nodes and who can use them?
Specific instructions on how to get on the network can be found on our How to Connect page.
SOWN[at]HOME nodes are basically just wireless access points, often referred to as Wi-Fi hotspots. They offer authenticated use of the host's Internet connection. We have designed them to be Plug'n'Play devices. which are centrally managed and maintained. They allow their hosts to set the maximum usage of their Internet connection in a rolling 30-day period, to prevent excessive usage.
Authentication is handled using 802.1X technology. All requests are sent to SOWN's  server, which is peered with the UK's Eduroam peering service that then distributes requests to individual institutions, such as the University of Southampton, as described in the Mechanisms for Global distributed authentication presentation. This allows any user with an account for an institution that is part of Eduroam to gain Internet access.
What else does SOWN do?
SOWN has a number of current projects working towards providing further services and applications, both hardware and software.
Interested in Joining?
We are always looking for new members. We hold fortnightly Meetings, where we discuss the latest issues relating to the development of SOWN. We also run Workshops every other week where we get the chance to get our hands dirty and play with the various hardware/software involved. We also occasional have longer workshops at weekends to work of more involved tasks.
For further information on SOWN[at]HOME Nodes, visit the SOWN(at)HOME Node page.
If you wish to know which areas are covered by SOWN, you can look at our Map.
For more technical information, try checking out our Technical section.
We also have an external links page.