Communicating in Extreme Environments

ICTP runs a workshop on bringing internet access to remote locations  
Communicating in Extreme Environments
Photo credit: Bijay Yadav, Pixabay
Charlotte Phillips

Inequalities in global internet access reinforce differences in information and technology availability on country and local scales, compounding economic, political, and social inequality. The worst-hit places are rural and remote areas, where access is most limited. With this in mind, the Science Technology and Innovation unit at ICTP is running an event this week entitled Workshop on Communication in Extreme Environments for Science and Sustainable Development. The event brings together researchers and practitioners to explore this topic, and gain insight into the various challenges that extreme environments pose for both the network and users.

The workshop kicked off with a welcome message from Vint Cerf, vice president and Chief Internet Evangelist for Google, who is widely recognized as one of the forefathers of the internet for his work on developing the Internet protocol suite, a framework for organizing internet communication protocols:

The main purpose of the workshop is to discuss the latest technologies available to extend internet connectivity to more people and places. “With the advent of the Internet of Things, we now want to reach places where interesting/challenging phenomena take place,” says Marco Zennaro, head of the STI section and local organiser. “These are usually hard to reach places and we need more research to develop technologies able to reach them.” 

The workshop will also focus on ways to provide higher speed and lower latency for people who are already connected. “As Prof. Slim Alouini from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology says, ‘Super-connecting the connected and connecting the unconnected,’” adds Zennaro. Alouini is a co-organizer of the workshop and fellow of The World Academy of Sciences. As a world expert in 6G, he will give a talk on ways to use 6G to connect those with no internet access.

The workshop is spread across five days, in which a range of speakers cover diverse topics such as long distance wireless planning, connectivity using low-Earth-orbit satellites, delay tolerant networking, underground and post-disaster communications, and long-range (LoRa) radio communication. One highlight will be a whole day devoted to delay tolerant networking (DTN; an approach to computer network architecture that seeks to address technical issues in networks with discontinuous connectivity).

“DTN is a way of sending data over networks that have frequent interruptions, long delays, or low bandwidth,” says Zennaro. “It uses a store-and-forward approach, where data is stored at intermediate nodes until a suitable connection is available. It can be used in developing countries to send email messages but also for interplanetary networking. DTN can cope with the challenges of interplanetary communication, such as high latency, frequent disconnections, and asymmetric bandwidth. DTN can also support applications such as scientific data collection, remote control, and emergency communication.”

The workshop was co-organized by the Interplanetary Networking Special Interest Group, which was founded in 1998 by Cerf and researchers both within academia and at NASA/JPL. IPNSIG aims to realize networking at interplanetary distances, to ensure that even in space, “The Internet is for Everyone”.

Publishing Date