In a fresh move to bring about a change in the lives of 4 billion people who don’t have internet access, Facebook has unveiled OpenCellular.
OpenCellular is open source wireless access platform that can be used to provide a host of wireless services from 2G to 4G LTE and even Wi-Fi access points.
“We have implemented an access platform that can support a wide variety of wireless network standards, from 2G and LTE to Wi-Fi access points,” mentions Kashif Ali in his Facebook blog post.
OpenCellular is a software-defined wireless access platform aimed at improving wireless connectivity across the globe. It is targeted specifically at those areas where there is little or poor network coverage.
By the end of 2015, more than 4 billion people didn’t have internet access and 10% of the world’s population that is about 700 million people were living outside the range of cellular networks.
The blog post also mentions that despite the huge growth in adoption of mobile phones in the last 20 years, the infrastructure required to provide basic cellular connectivity is still unavailable in many parts of the world.
Many a times the cost of acquiring civil and supporting infrastructure including land, tower, power, and backhaul is often greater than the cost of access point itself. Facebook wants to change this with OpenCellular which can expand network capacity and deploy network in places where it is difficult to deploy traditional cellular networks.
Open-sourcing OpenCellular would allow researchers and telecom operators to tinker with the platform and come up with their own optimized versions.
“By open-sourcing the hardware and software designs for this technology, we expect costs to decrease for operators and to make it accessible to new participants,” noted Ali.
OpenCellular system is based out of a box which is almost the same size as a shoe-box. It can provide wireless coverage for up to 1,500 people within 10 km radius.
Facebook is also aiming to work with Telecom Infra Project (TIP) members for building and nurturing an active community for OpenCellular. This would also let them select trial locations for further validation of all other aspects of the platform.
OpenCellular is yet another Facebook investment for boosting internet coverage across the globe. Earlier, the social media giant had planned to offer internet via solar drones and ground-to-air lasers.
The software platform for OpenCellular would soon be available as it is being tested at Facebook HQ right now.
“The first implementation of our platform will be available this summer. But it will be an ongoing effort developed with community support.”
Facebook’s OpenCellular concept doesn’t sound like a novel idea, but nobody else is going to such great lengths for extending internet reach to remote places. Yes, Facebook will try to increase its usage with these initiatives but it will also let the users access the open web. Isn’t it?
"Facebook Unveils OpenCellular: An Open Source Wireless Platform",