Commercial microwave links are wireless connections which transfer data between mobile phone towers. These links are widely deployed, several tens of meters above the ground, by mobile phone providers all over the world.

In recent years, efforts have been made by the academic community and the private sector to promote the application of this technique in developing countries . However, in terms of scientific publications, until now only a few papers have been published .

In our research venture , we analyse data from a number of mobile phone providers.

An example of such a study recently demonstrated the possible advantage of commercial microwave links, over rain gauges, to detect rainfall in an agricultural field. This was at a tea farm near the town of Kericho, in western Kenya.

Rainfall estimates, acquired by a number of links, were compared with measurements from rain gauges located adjacent to them. While a compelling correlation was observed between the link measurements and rain gauges, the rain gauge method missed a complete rainy episode. Though the gauge is more precise, it provides only a very local observation.

This demonstrates that there’s huge potential in using microwave links in developing countries, where weather monitoring capabilities are often limited.

This research is part of an IFPRI project entitled “Using CMLs to estimate rainfall for agriculture” funded by the CGIAR-Platform for Big Data in Agriculture.