Shared Internet access in Finnish housing cooperatives - Connectivity

This is a discussion on Shared Internet access in Finnish housing cooperatives - Connectivity ; This is part one of a longer post on co-operative network activity in Finland. The Finnish model differs from the way Internet services are provided in most other counties. Information on Finnish co-ops has never before been available in English. ...

+ Reply to Thread
Results 1 to 5 of 5

Thread: Shared Internet access in Finnish housing cooperatives

  1. Shared Internet access in Finnish housing cooperatives

    This is part one of a longer post on co-operative network activity in
    Finland. The Finnish model differs from the way Internet services are
    provided in most other counties. Information on Finnish co-ops has never
    before been available in English. Here I have tried to put together all the
    relevant information and experience.

    1 Networking in housing co-ops - HomePNA?
    2 Router issues
    3 Cabling issues - Ethernet on phone wires
    4 Wireless networking

    This message has been cross-posted to several newsgroups. General follow-ups
    to news:comp.networking.connectivity.

    [I am sorry for the repost. My ISP's news server crashed and failed to
    deliver anything. Cancels have been issued on the originals.]

    *** *** ***

    The beginning - Operator-driven networks

    The first Finnish in-house networks were built in the late 1990's when
    construction companies began installing structural cabling in new apartment
    buildings. An Ethernet LAN was used to provide Internet access to residents.

    This brought external service providers in to the in-house network. In this
    business model the operator (telco) would sell the the service directly to
    to the resident.

    Sometimes the building would be connected to the service providers network
    by fiber-optic cable. The fiber would be placed at an early stage of
    construction. The newly formed housing cooperative would pay the full cost
    of the cabling work as sign-up fees for the Internet service. The agreement
    between the co-op and ISP would not allow the co-op to buy Internet service.
    Instead it allowed the ISP to take over the internal wiring and monopolize
    the network. The service provider was free to price the service as they
    pleased. The co-op could not abandon the agreement as it meant loosing their
    large sign-up fees.

    This model did bring residents fast Internet access. It did not however
    bring down the cost of access as the service was always priced at or above
    the price of slower fixed access alternatives. The monthly fee for fast
    Ethernet access in these houses is around EUR 50 with little change in


    A new technology, HomePNA was introduced to in-house networks by
    the Internet operator Jippii (now Saunalahti). Originally Home Phoneline
    Networking (HomePNA) was marketed in the US as a way of building
    home networks by utilizing the multiple existing phone sockets in the house.
    In Asia the technology was adapted for ISP use with the introduction
    HomePNA 1.1 switches.

    In an in-house HomePNA network a stack of HomePNA switches is placed in
    the central telephone wiring closet of the building. Each apartment is
    connected to one port on the switch using the same twisted pair that carries
    telephone traffic to the apartment.

    Internet connectivity is provided by one (or more) ADSL or G.SHDSL

    Operator-run HomePNA networks reached their peak popularity by the end of
    2003. In that year most landlords owning apartment blocks, including
    "council housing", made agreements with ISPs to market HomePNA services to
    tenants at a price of around EUR 35 a month.

    The last year has seen a steady decline in popularity of ISP run HomePNA

    1. A sharp decline in ADSL prices and increase in speeds has made HomePNA
    service uncompetitive against ADSL and cable modem connections starting
    at EUR 19,50 a month.

    2. The business model is unworkable. An infrastructure like an in-house
    network needs "monopoly protection", not market competition. In the
    worst case, one housing cooperative might have two competing HomePNA
    networks installed in the same wiring closet, both networks providing
    service to 2 - 3 customers.

    Also one problem is that often the operator providing HomePNA service is
    also providing ADSL service in the same area. These operators are unwilling
    to push HomePNA prices below ADSL prices.

    Cooperative networks

    In 2000 housing cooperatives in Finland started building their own HomePNA
    networks. In this model the housing cooperative would own the networking
    hardware and pay for the Internet connection.

    In early networks only those residents interested in the fixed Internet
    connection would take part in the costs. A subscription fee was set up and
    collected monthly by the housing cooperative, along with the maintenance
    fee and any other extras for services like the weekly sauna or parking
    space. The cost of hardware and installation was covered by the fee in about
    two years.

    In these early networks about 50% of residents were connected with monthly
    fees at around EUR 7.

    Some of the first networks were set up in the Helsinki neighborhood of
    Maunula in an government initiated project:

    Internet access to everyone

    Newer networks have adopted a different model. All apartments are connected
    to the network and Internet service is provided without any extra fee. At a
    minimum Internet-service can be provided at around EUR 1 per month with
    around EUR 100 per apartment in initial investment costs.

    Not having to connect and disconnect individual apartments greatly eases the
    maintenance of the network.

    In houses with free Internet access network usage has reached a level of 85%
    of apartments.

    The future of HomePNA

    With "Full Rate" ADSL connections at 8/1 Mbps becoming available to
    consumers at a price of EUR 45 and to housing cooperatives at EUR 115 the
    limited speed (1 Mbps) of HomePNA 1.1 has become a bottleneck.
    To lock the key "heavy users" to the cooperative network faster speeds must
    be available. Construction of new HomePNA-based networks now seems to have
    come to a standstill.

    HomePNA 2.0 at 10Mbps proved to be too prone to cross talk so no switches
    are available. HomePNA 3.0 could provide a speed of 100Mbps but the switches
    have yet to reach European markets.

    At the same time the price of compact ADSL DSLAMs (switches) has dropped to
    almost the same level as HomePNA switches, at around EUR 50 per subscriber.
    The problem with ADSL is its ATM foundation, which causes unnecessary
    configuration issues in an otherwise purely Ethernet-based network. VDSL
    would provide better Ethernet compatibility and higher speeds, but the
    standards are immature and hardware is incompatible.

    Ethernet would provide the best alternative, but usually the wiring is
    missing. Finnish housing cooperatives are now facing a tough technical
    choice between rewiring for Ethernet and adapting ADSL or VDSL technology
    for in-house networks.

    Finnish national policy

    The Finnish national "Broadband Strategy" emphasizes competition to the
    detriment of infrastructure. The aim is to utilize the existing coper base
    of the telephone network to its fullest. In this model each user will have
    an individual subscription with a profit driven telco.

    Virtually no encouragement is given to cooperative networks or even in-house

    The opposition, the "fiber party" is largely concentrated in the
    Swedish-speaking districts of Ostrobotnia. These people believe in
    the importance of infrastructure; fiber-optic Ethernet to every house! (in Finnish)

    Housing in Finland

    Most Finns live in apartment blocks. Finland has the second highest
    percentage of apartments in Europe after Spain. Also, a large proportion of
    Finns own their apartments. Most apartment houses are organized as housing
    cooperatives. The first housing cooperatives were built in Finland around

    Some of the first Finnish Housing cooperatives are located in the
    Katajanokka neighborhood in Helsinki:

    Finnish writers often translate the Finnish word "asunto-osakeyhtiö" as
    "housing company". The term "housing cooperative" is more accurate as the
    form of incorporation of Finnish cooperatives is identical with those in the
    US. In fact, the housing cooperative model was brought to the United States
    by Finnish immigrants.

    "The first true cooperative development in the United States was
    started in 1918 by a group of Finnish artisans-the Finnish Home
    Building Association in Brooklyn, New York. "

    *** ***

    Housing cooperative
    "Housing cooperatives are a form of homeownership where individuals own
    shares or memberships in a corporation that owns or controls the land and
    buildings that provide housing. The ownership of a share entitles one to
    occupy a unit within the cooperative."

    Council housing
    (British term) Social housing owned by the city or municipality.

    Multi-Dwelling Unit

    In-house network
    A LAN connecting apartments in an apartment block and providing Internet

    Internet connection sharing
    In English parlance "connection sharing" is often used to refer to
    sharing your Internet connection between multiple computers. In this
    text it refers to sharing one WAN connection and possibly one IPv4
    address between multiple subscribers.

    In the US often referred to as "carrier". A large telco offering
    telephone and ISP services.

    Euro (EUR)
    The European Currency Unit, now rated at about US $1.32 to one Euro.

    Petri Krohn
    Helsinki Neighborhood Networking Association
    HelsinkiOpen --

  2. Shared Internet access in Finnish housing cooperatives

    [Part 2: Router issues]

    Bandwidth-sharing problems

    Early HomePNA networks suffered from bandwidth-sharing problems.
    In an shared Internet connection bandwidth usage between different users
    may differ by over one thousand fold. The heaviest traffic is caused by file
    sharing and other p2p-programs.

    Without any bandwidth limitations or priorization two or even one BitTorrent
    user can disable a network and block net access to all neighbors. In an
    asymmetric ADSL-connection saturation of the uplink will cause the free
    capacity of the downlink to become unusable. Network latency (ping) grows
    to over 1 second, practically freezing all other traffic.

    ISP:s and housing cooperatives took very different approaches to solving the

    In ISP-run networks the built in bandwidth limitation features of HomePNA
    switches were taken into use. Per user bandwidth was throttled down to a
    minuscule 128 or 256 kbps.

    Cooperative networks wanted to provide each user the full capacity of the
    network. Artificial restrictions were disliked. The solution was user
    education. Network activists would monitor network traffic, advise neighbors
    on proper usage of p2p-software and even temporarily disconnect users who
    failed to follow the guidance.

    Technical solutions

    Luckily purely technical solutions have become available to the bandwidth
    sharing problem in the form of traffic shapers. One useful alternative is
    the FreeBSD-based firewall distribution m0n0wall with an easily configurable
    traffic shaper:

    A Finnish company, Staselog also produces a traffic shaper for cooperative
    in-house networks:

    Functions of a traffic shaper:
    1.Delay outgoing traffic so the uplink is newer saturated.
    2.Prioritize interactive traffic.
    3.Recognize p2p-traffic and set to lowest priority.
    4.Give each user an equal share of the usable bandwidth.

    Routing with one public IP address

    A shared Internet connection will typically use only one public IPv4
    address. A router has to perform Network Address Port Translation (NAPT)
    between the internal network and the Internet. Normally NAPT blocks all
    users from running servers on their PC:s. This is a problem for p2p
    applications and may block VoIP services altogether.

    A solution is to open a fixed set of port mappings in the router. A set of
    ports is allocated for each apartment. Also a set of fixed private addresses
    is allocated for each apartment.

    Normal users use DHCP to get their IP addresses in the private network. If a
    user wants to run a server or a p2p program in active mode, he configures
    his PC to use his fixed private address. The set of open ports will be
    mapped to this address.

    - address is reserved for apartment 157
    - ports 51570 - 51579 are mapped to address in the
    private network.

    A general configuration of the router can be made that can serve any shared
    residential network. When using m0m0wall this configuration takes the form
    of an XML file that can easily be distributed. (Hope to make this available
    after some more editing :-)


    Security in an in-house network requires that users cannot communicate
    directly through the LAN using local IP-addresses or LAN-protocols.
    All traffic must pass through a router and be based on public IP-addresses.
    The technique to achieve this is to use "port isolation" in the Ethernet and
    HomePNA switches. This feature is available in all switches targeted for
    the MDU-market.

    In-house networks usually share one public IP-address among all users. The
    NAPT router isolates the house network from the Internet and provides a
    built in firewall.

    (Follow-ups to news:alt.comp.networking.connectivity.)

    Petri Krohn
    Helsinki Neighborhood Networking Association
    HelsinkiOpen --

  3. Shared Internet access in Finnish housing cooperatives

    [Part 3 Cabling issues - Ethernet on phone wires]

    "Helsingin Alueverkkoyhdistys" (Helsinki Neighborhood Networking
    Association) is a group of local volunteers and activists with the
    altruistic aim of providing "free"¹ Internet access to everyone.

    The ultimate goal is to build community owned fiber-optic networks in
    residential neighborhoods. Equally important is an open network of wireless
    access points. We believe that universal free and open WLAN access is only
    possible, if its backed up by an solid infrastructure of shared wired

    The first stage is to build in-house networks in the apartment blocks and
    housing cooperatives. Only when we reach a critical mass of in-house
    networks can we start connecting them into neighborhood networks. Housing
    cooperatives are important also in the sense that they can easily be
    persuaded to give away the free bandwidth needed for the open wireless

    ¹ Free in this case means free as in "free lunch"; there is no such
    thing. Someone will have to pay for the service, or better yet
    build the infrastructure that provides the service. The idea is to
    make Internet access a basic infrastructure like streets, electric
    lighting and running water, available to everyone in need of it.
    This infrastructure should be provided by the same people who
    provide these basic services, in most cases the property owners.

    Activity has been greatest in two new Helsinki neighborhoods, Ruoholahti and
    Pikku-Huopalahti. These neighborhoods consist of prefabricated concrete
    apartment blocks built mainly in the early 1990's with anywhere between 30
    and 170 apartments each.

    Ethernet everywhere!

    From the start the aim has been for higher speeds, thus the focus on
    Ethernet technology.

    It was felt that if the slow but popular HomePNA technology would be used
    for in-house networks, it be a serious hindrance to fiber-optic neighborhood
    networks. The limited bandwidth that can be delivered by HomePNA can always
    be served by ADSL or other technologies over coper.

    Also the focus has been on finding cheap or "zero-cost" solutions for
    Ethernet. Housing cooperatives may be willing to invest more heavily, but in
    Helsinki all new neighborhoods are mixed neighborhoods with both
    resident-owned co-ops and city-owned social housing. The technical solutions
    should be so cheap that they can be adopted by council houses with very
    limited budgets.

    Add-on cabling

    The standard way of rewiring houses in Finland has been to use diamond
    drills to pierce floors and walls. Heavy-duty aluminum profile conduits are
    installed in stairwells to house new cabling. In apartment buildings this
    effort was only taken up in conjunction with other renovations, like
    renewing the electrical wiring.

    Rewiring for the sake of Internet access had not taken up. The only
    residential buildings where the effort was made where student dormitories.
    The costs would be around 400 euros per apartment. We started looking for
    cheaper, lighter alternatives.

    Telephone and central antenna cables to apartments are typically enclosed in
    20 mm plastic tubing. This would leave space for an other cable in the same
    conduit. Also, there should be no need to remove existing telephone wire to
    provide the additional Ethernet access.

    Initially there was a great distrust that new wire could be pulled alongside
    in the same conduit. The only reference was an undocumented 1995 effort to
    rewire the dormitories of the Helsinki University of Technology with Cat-5
    cable. This was done by student volunteers.

    The first houses were rewired in 2003 by volunteer residents. When it was
    established that the technique can be utilized, this approach was also taken
    up by a large wiring contractor. Several houses with hundreds of apartments
    have been wired with a 100% success rate.

    Inside the apartment the Finnish legacy telephone socket in one room is
    replaced with a new faceplate with RJ11 and RJ45 connectors. The cost
    estimate for this type of "add-on" wiring is about ? 150 per apartment.
    Success requires that the original construction is up to standard.

    Horizontal access

    Horizontal telephone cabling in Finnish houses is often done with direct
    burial cable. There is no horizontal conduit connecting the splices in
    different stairwells. Even worse, a housing cooperative might consist of
    several detached buildings separated by an asphalt covered courtyard.

    In a prototype house fiber-optic cable was used to connect the
    Ethernet-switches in the different buildings. Volunteer residents dug up a
    ditch for the underground conduit connecting the buildings. Later experience
    has shown this effort to be unnecessary; Finnish telephone cable has proven
    its ability to carry 100Base-TX Ethernet for over a hundred meters.

    The structure for the in-house Ethernet network in a large apartment block:

    1. Place one 24-port Ethernet switch near each stairwell, preferably
    in the electricity or central antenna closet. Usually the Scotchlok
    splice for the telephone wiring is located in this same space.
    2. Pull new Cat-5e cables from the closet to each apartment.
    3. Use free pairs in the direct burial telephone cable to connect the
    Ethernet switch to the central telephone wiring closet at 100 Mbps.
    4. Place the router and central switch at the telephone wiring closet.

    Using Cat-3 telephone cable

    New Finnish houses built after the year 2000 usually have structural
    cabling, that is separate Cat-5e cables for Ethernet and telephone with
    RJ-45 connectors. Older houses houses only have cabling for telephone.
    Although it is not widely publicized, Finnish telephone cable from the
    1990's has a Cat-3 rating.

    Houses built after 1995 usually have three twisted pairs serving each
    apartment. It has turned out to be quite a simple task to convert the
    cabling to Ethernet use. Originally Finnish legacy telephone sockets are
    installed with only one pair connected. This leaves two pairs free for use
    by Ethernet. The transformation consists of exchanging one legacy socket for
    a RJ-11 / RJ-45 combination faceplate and resplicing the Ethernet-pairs so
    that only one socket is connected.

    The biggest problem for high speed traffic is the Scotchlok splices used to
    connect different parts of the telephone cabling. These are not made to
    Cat-3 standards. Practical tests however have shown the connections not to
    be a problem. Most installations have worked flawlessly even at higher
    speeds of 100 Mbps.

    Distances over 100 meters do not seem to pose a problem either. Zero error
    operation has been observed in telephone cable at
    - 100 Mbps for over 100 meters
    - 10 Mbps for over 150 meters

    The trick in running 100Base-TX over Cat-3 telephone cable is to only run
    one Ethernet link in one cable. This way cross talk between pairs is

    Giving up fixed-line telephone

    Houses built before 1994 usually only have two pairs, in the form of a
    twisted star quad, serving each apartment. Using these pairs for Ethernet
    traffic poses two problems:

    1. Star quad has an impedance of 120 ohms, which differs from the twisted
    pair impedance of 100 ohms.
    2. Using both pairs for Ethernet means that the resident would have to give
    up fixed line telephone service.

    In practical tests the impedance mismatch between the pull to the apartment
    and the multi-paired trunk cable has shown not to be a problem. 10Base-T
    works reliably.

    Giving up the fixed phone may not be a problem. Most voice has already "gone
    mobile" i.e. moved to mobile phones. The remaining fixed voice traffic is
    fast moving to VoIP over the Internet. New programs like Skype and VoIP
    gateway service to consumers has made this move possible.

    In a survey of residents in a potential conversion site 83% of residents
    wanted fixed Internet access. Only 45% required fixed telephone service.
    This means that over half of the apartments could be converted to Ethernet
    with about 30% needing ADSL or VDSL service.

    Filtered solutions for POTS + Ethernet

    It may also be possible to run POTS and Ethernet simultaneously on the same
    two twisted pairs. Ethernet would occupy the higher frequency band over POTS
    on the same pair. Splitters or filters would be used in each end to separate
    the two types of traffic.

    A company in the US, Energy Transformation Systems, makes filters for this

    A Finnish company H.Vesala Ltd. also makes a similar filter, although for
    ADSL use.

    A slightly different implementation is provided by etherSPLIT.

    (Follow-ups to news:comp.dcom.cabling and news:comp.dcom.lans.ethernet.)

    Petri Krohn
    Helsinki Neighborhood Networking Association
    HelsinkiOpen --

  4. Shared Internet access in Finnish housing cooperatives

    [Part 4: Wireless networking]

    Free wireless access

    One of the ultimate goals of this co-operative networking activity is to
    cover neighborhoods with a "cloud" of free wireless Internet access.

    Wireless WLAN networks should not be seen as a primary means of net access,
    but as an alternative and additional form of access, more like the ultimate
    icing on the cake.

    Giving out free bandwidth requires a fixed backbone with bandwidth to spare.
    Also the networks need to be based on a culture of sharing.

    In the Helsinki wireless "model" open wireless access will be provided by
    housing cooperatives. Access points are placed in elevator machine rooms
    with strong sectoral antennas placed on the roofs. In concrete buildings it
    is difficult to cover the apartments from with in the building but a
    directional antenna can easily reach neighboring apartments through windows.

    Full coverage requires thus cooperation between neighbors. In an reciprocal
    agreement neighbors can grant each other access to their networks. The
    practical solution goes even further. A central registry of co-op residents
    is maintained in a Radius server ( All housing
    cooperatives share this database for access control. The added value is the
    ability to freely roam inside and between neighborhoods. Roaming agreements
    between other networks will further expand the area of movement.

    Giving free and uncontrolled access to everybody might seen like an even
    better idea. This is a much more difficult concept to sell to co-op
    management boards. The chief concern is not bandwidth usage but security.
    Network operators want to be able control who uses their network and to keep
    out spammers and an abusers.

    To gain access it is thus not necessary to be a member of an organization
    giving reciprocal service. It may be sufficient to be a member of an
    organization who will authenticate you. In the Oulu public access wireless
    network everyone who is a customer of the public library can gain access to
    the free network.

    The technical implementation of access control can also be done with the
    m0n0wall firewall. M0n0wall has a built in captive portal that connects to
    an external Radius server.

    VoIP roaming with DECT handsets

    (This an idea for future development.)

    It would be highly useful if VoIP based telephony service could be provided
    to roaming wireless users. The radio access network should be free of any
    charge for all authenticated users. (The users would of cause pay their VoIP
    gateway operator for any calls they make to fixed phone lines.

    WLAN based VoIP handsets have been expected on the market for several years
    now. It now seems that WLAN may not be the right technology for mobile VoIP
    services after all. A far maturer technology is DECT (Digital Enhanced
    Cordless Telecommunications). These cordless phone products have been on the
    market for over 10 years with cheapest handset + base station sets available
    for under 30 euros.

    The DECT Radio or "air" interface provides roaming capabilities similar to
    the GSM network. DECT roaming is in fact limited by the tie up of DECT
    handsets to individual base stations.

    For true roaming to be enabled the base stations need a complete redesigned.

    1. POTS connectivity replaced by Ethernet/IP-connectivity.
    2. Authentication of handset moved to central
    authentication server or Radius server.
    3. DECT roaming mapped to some IP-based
    roaming scheme, possible mobile IP.

    The North American counterpart of DECT, "Personal Wireless
    Telecommunications" or PWT newer got of the ground. Instead a DSS based
    system operating at 2.4GHz has gained popularity.

    Building combined 2.4GHz WLAN + cordless phone base station might be easier
    in the US as one antenna might be used to serve both networks. However, the
    price of 2.4GHz handsets far exceeds the price of DECT handsets. 2.4GHz
    cordless handsets may not be competitive against true WLAN + VoIP handsets.

    (Follow-ups to news:alt.internet.wireless.)

    Petri Krohn
    Helsinki Neighborhood Networking Association
    HelsinkiOpen --

  5. Re: Shared Internet access in Finnish housing cooperatives

    yes now i see you are spamming because you are reposting the same stuff
    over again, so please stop dude. you are doing no good for anyone, but
    in fact you are totally harming usenet.

+ Reply to Thread