Making HF Useful 365 Days a Year, to Make Sure it Works the one day you Need it

Ghassan Al-Nuaimi, Hugo Dupre, Jeremy Lakeman, Paul Gardner-Stephen, Matthew Lloyd

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


High-Frequency radio (HF) is well known and well used in post-disaster communications. We estimate that there are several hundred HF radio installations in the South-West Pacific Islands alone. However, HF as ordinarily used has a major problem: It can only be used by the people who own and operate the system, and it requires trained operators. Where systems for automating HF radio exist, such as Barrett's 20-20 email-over-HF system, this in practice requires the use of specially configured computers, that are effectively tied to each HF location, so that messages can be correctly delivered. This has meant that mobile devices could not be used, and that casual citizen-To-citizen communications using mobile telephones has not been possible. In this paper we present preliminary results from the further integration of the Serval Mesh with HF radio, allowing exactly this use case: The use of ordinary Android phones, which are common in the region, allowing NGOs, government and the general public to make use of existing HF radio communications every day of the year, and without any special training, and without the need for the HF radios to be attended. Specifically, we present our refined Serval Mesh to HF radio interface, that automatically uses heuristics to determine the probable location of each subscriber in a multi-station and potentially multi-hop HF network, and automatically prioritizes and delivers messages over this backbone. From the end-user perspective, they simply continue to use their existing smart-phones and Serval Mesh Extender devices to send and receive both social media and private messaging content. From the perspective of the government or agency who deploys the HF radio, they are able to transform their asset from an emergency-only facility to a facility that is used orders of magnitude more, thus increasing RoI, but also helping to ensure that faults are discovered between disasters, rather than during them. For particularly remote locations, this also offers the potential to provide communications into and out of such locations on a cost-effective basis for the first time. This ability to provide affordable communications using infrastructure that is typically already installed has the potential to radically improve the resilience and socio-economic opportunities for people in remote communities. By working with mobile carriers to implement a Serval Mesh to SMS gateway, which has already been designed, it would be possible to provide global two-way communications into even the most remote locations on a much cheaper basis than installing cell towers, thus greatly expanding the area of communications coverage that can be provided on an economically sustainable basis.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGHTC 2018 - IEEE Global Humanitarian Technology Conference, Proceedings
PublisherInstitute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc.
Number of pages8
ISBN (Electronic)9781538655665
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jan 2019
Event2018 IEEE Global Humanitarian Technology Conference - San Jose, United States
Duration: 18 Oct 201821 Oct 2018
Conference number: 8

Publication series

NameGHTC 2018 - IEEE Global Humanitarian Technology Conference, Proceedings


Conference2018 IEEE Global Humanitarian Technology Conference
Abbreviated titleGHTC 2018
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Jose
OtherNow in its 8th year, the IEEE GHTC is an international flagship conference on the application of technology to meet the needs of underserved populations around the world and in support of United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDG).

To this end, a major focus is on cross-discipline/multi-discipline activities in the Sustainable Development and Humanitarian Technology space. An important focus is on community building. Humanitarian Technology/Engineering involves the application of technology to improve the quality of life of the underserved populations, and to meet the challenges of both natural and man-made disasters.


  • High-Frequency radio (HF)
  • Communication
  • Limitations


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