Range Networks which makes open-source cellular systems, announced today that it collaborated with the University of California, Berkeley’s Technology and Infrastructure for Emerging Regions (TIER) research group to deploy a cellular network in rural Papua, Indonesia.
Range Networks, founded by the creators of OpenBTS, claims the network connects more than 140 users within a maximum 5 kilometer radius and was deployed for one-tenth the price of traditional network equipment.
Range uses low power components, and their network runs from a small hydroelectric generator that produces about 5,000 watts. The village, which is a four-hour drive from the nearest town with cellular service, now has both voice and SMS service.
A small satellite dish provides backhaul. After two months of successful operation, the network is profitable and helps fund a local school, the company said.
David Burgess, CEO of Range Networks, said that “underserved markets in the U.S. and around the world are looking for solutions that provide affordable, reliable and easy-to-deploy cellular network equipment.
OpenBTS is based on the 3GPP family of standards, which include the GSM, UMTS and LTE protocols used by most carriers around the world. Developed by Burgess and a partner, it’s controlled by Range but is available in a public release that can be used for experimental networks.
Range says it can build the core of a cellular network for less than $100,000, compared to about $350,000 for gear from the major mobile equipment vendors. The company currently offers networks for 2G GSM and 2.5G EDGE. It expects to come out with a 3G product later this year and LTE early next year. All can use the same core network.
Range’s next target is reportedly North America, where it again will focus on small carriers in sparsely populated areas. Range Networks, using Open BTS, hopes to pursue niche markets in the cellular ecosystem.
The FCC hopes to auction as much as 120 MHz of UHF spectrum, between Channel 31-51, next year. If Range Networks (or municipalities) had “free” access to a 10-20 Mhz slice of that spectrum in the 600 MHz band, some believe they could be a threat to traditional carriers.
Twenty-three companies and organizations from across the world have joined forces to launch the Dynamic Spectrum Alliance – a global organization advocating more efficient and more effective spectrum management that pave the way for innovative wireless technologies to exploit unused parts of the spectrum (white spaces) in a dynamic manner.
For fixed white space devices, the maximum power delivered to the transmitting antenna shall not exceed one watt per 6 megahertz of bandwidth. For personal/portable devices, the maximum EIRP shall not exceed 100 milliwatts.
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