Facebook Targets OpenCellular Program at Bringing Billions of People Online

by Ostatic Staff - Jul. 07, 2016

Facebook has a new open source initiative that could present some big challenges to the cellular and mobile wireless ecosystems. OpenCellular is an open source hardware and software project targeted to bring more affordable wireless access to remote areas.

Kashif Ali is the engineer behind OpenCellular, and he previously co-founded Endaga, which was developing a similar open initiative. The OpenCellular platform is designed to improve connectivity worldwide since it can be deployed to support a range of communication options, from a network in a box to an access point supporting everything from 2G to LTE.

The system is composed of two main subsystems: general-purpose and base-band 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.

According to a Facebook post:

"We aim to 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...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."

 Facebok's leaders, of course, have been very vocal about efforts to bring billions of people without online access online, and the company obviously stands to gain from such efforts.

"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," the Facebook post adds. "It's often unaffordable for them to attempt to extend network access in both rural and developed communities."

"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."

If you're interested in learning more about OpenCellular, you can send your information to opencellular@fb.com. For more on Facebook's previous open source contributions, see our post here