The cost of supplying high-quality Internet access has been dropping for decades, for multiple reasons. To Moore’s Law, which has driven computing performance up, and costs down, there is competition, open source, wireless and untethered access and different access platforms. 

The latest example: Facebook has designed and tested an open source, cost-effective, software-defined wireless access platform aimed to improve mobile connectivity in remote areas of the world. Called “OpenCellular” is a reference model intended to be used by platform suppliers, who can use it to provide lower-cost access, allowing networks to reach rural and hard-to-reach areas, with hard-to-sustain business models.

The model is expected to allow creation of lower-cost access systems. That should benefit mobile operators, but also holds promise for other entities that might want to create Internet and mobile access on a local basis. That might include a single village, some of us would argue. 

In many cellular network deployments, the cost of the civil and supporting infrastructure (land, tower, security, power, and backhaul) is often much greater than the cost of the cellular access point itself. “One of our goals was to make architectural and design improvements that would result in lower costs associated with the civil and supporting infrastructure,” said Kashif Ali, Facebook engineer.

The platform supports a range of communication options from 2G to LTE.

The system is composed of two main subsystems: general-purpose and baseband computing (GBC) with integrated power and housekeeping system, and radio frequency (RF) with integrated analog front-end.

Facebook plans to open-source the hardware design, along with necessary firmware and control software, to enable telecom operators, entrepreneurs, OEMs, and researchers to locally build, implement, deploy, and operate wireless infrastructure based on this platform.

Facebook will  work with Telecom Infra Project (TIP) members to build an active open source community around cellular access technology development and to select trial locations for further validation of technical, functional, and operational aspects of the platform.

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Spectrum Futures, to be held in Singapore, 19-21 October 2016, brings together the whole ecosystem supplying Internet access for everyone across South Asia and Southeast Asia, and features topics and speakers addressing why, how, when and where the most-important developments are happening.

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