The Serval Project

The Serval Project has for the past six years been working to create infrastructure-free mobile telecommunications systems, so that people can communicate anywhere, anytime. The progressive locking down of mobile operating systems with regard to their ability for form ad-hoc mobile networks (Symbian, early versions of Windows Mobile and Android all supported this capability), has led us to creating a low-cost OpenWRT-based device that allows nearby mobile telephones to form mobile ad-hoc networks. By incorporating UHF, VHF and/or HF radio modules, these Serval Mesh Extender devices are able to facilitate the formation of mobile ad-hoc networks spanning many kilometres. This talk will discuss the Serval Project, the Serval Mesh Extender, its use of OpenWRT, the challenges ahead, as well as our existing trial activities in the Australian Outback, and more recently, the pilot that we will be running in the South Pacific with the support of Australia’s foreign humanitarian aid program, AusAID. This will include a discussion of the current process we are going through of having designed and manufactured our own custom OpenWRT-based hardware, including a number of design trade-offs that we have had to make for budgetary, and regulatory reasons, in part due to the unique challenges that rapid international humanitarian deployments trigger.

Dr. Paul Gardner-Stephen, Flinders University,

The Serval Project and TU-Darmstadt OpenWrt Summit 2016 — Berlin


It shouldn’t matter whether you live in a city or in the bush.
 It shouldn’t matter whether it is economical for a cellular carrier to provide service to your community.
 It shouldn’t matter whether you can afford cellular rates, or have credit on your phone.

Nothing should prevent you from communicating with those near and dear to you.
 We also believe that people should be able to continue to communicate when they need it most.
 In the face of earthquake, wild fire or cyclone, communications systems should keep working as well as they can, with whatever infrastructure remains available.


Serval is revolutionary, free, open-source software under development for mobile telephones, letting them communicate even in the absence of phone towers and other supporting infrastructure.


Originally published at Aneddotica Magazine.