Facebook unveils its open-access source wireless network

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As part of its latest effort to bring Internet connectivity to remote parts of the world, Facebook this week revealed OpenCellular, an open wireless network infrastructure, Forbes reported. By Staff Writer

Forbes reported that the first design of the OpenCellular wireless access point is a shoebox-sized device that can support many mobile technologies, from slow 2G connections and super fast LTE to Wi-Fi.

This device was designed to withstand harsh conditions like high winds and extreme temperatures and  set-up on a pole, a tall tower or a trees.

“With OpenCellular, we want to develop affordable new technology that can expand capacity and make it more cost-effective for operators to deploy networks in places where coverage is scarce,” Facebook engineer Kashif Ali, told Forbes.

OpenCellular
The first design of the access platform. (Photo by Facebook)

As of the end of 2015, more than 4 billion people were still not connected to the internet, and 10 percent of the world’s population were living outside the range of cellular connectivity. Despite the widespread global adoption of mobile phones over the last 20 years, the cellular infrastructure required to support basic connectivity and more advanced capabilities like broadband is still unavailable or unaffordable in many parts of the world.

“At Facebook, we want to help solve this problem, and we are pursuing multiple approaches aimed at improving connectivity infrastructure and lowering the cost of deploying and operating that infrastructure,” the company said on its blog.

OpenCellular
Components of the system (from left to right): strap, mounting bracket, enclosure, RF board, GBC board. (Photo by Facebook)

One of the reasons the expansion of cellular networks has stalled is that the ecosystem is constrained. Traditional cellular infrastructure can be very expensive, making it difficult for operators to deploy it everywhere and for smaller organizations or individuals to solve hyperlocal connectivity challenges. It’s often unaffordable for them to attempt to extend network access in both rural and developed communities.

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 Facebook.

“With OpenCellular, we want to develop affordable new technology that can expand capacity and make it more cost-effective for operators to deploy networks in places where coverage is scarce. 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.”

OpenCellular
A view of the connectors for power, data, and antenna. (Photo by Facebook)

The hardware was designed with simplicity in mind, to encourage people to deploy their own cellular networks. Many people might not realize that running their own cellular networks is not only possible but also doesn’t require substantial technical expertise.

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