It is safe to say that Facebook is no longer just a social media giant. Indeed, the company has already launched drones powered by solar energy and have the ability to connect to one another by way of lasers. Facebook also has launch new antennas that cover urban and rural areas. Now, its latest effort sees Facebook launch OpenCellular, a new open source hardware and software platform that aims to deliver more cost effective wireless access to remote areas.
According to Kashif Ali, an engineer at Facebook, the biggest obstacle to cellular network expansion is the lack of a wireless ecosystem that can provide adequate coverage to users wherever they may be. And it does not help that traditional cellular infrastructure is rather costly to build, which means that wireless carriers can not just roll them out anywhere. The most affected are often those mobile users based on remote or rural areas who often get overlooked because for operators, deploying expensive cellular infrastructure in far flung places may not be worth all that trouble.
Ali used to be with Endaga, a firm that he co-founded that was trying to find a solution for deploying inexpensive network expansion projects. Endaga has since been acquired by Facebook in October of last year. One of the objectives of the projects that Ali was involved in was to come up with a system that has no extensive physical requirements, and can make use of any network infrastructure that is already available.
Thus began OpenCellular. It will consist of a couple of primary subsystems -- one for general use and base band coputing, while the other takes care of the actual radio. Quite cleverly, these two subsystems come with a sort of modular design, e.g. the radio subsystem could be based on a software radio or system on processor arrangement. Obviously, the point of OpenCellular is to provide wireless access to the web over a 2G network or LTE, but if users want to use for a local network, they can do so, too.
Because rural and remote areas tend to have tougher environments compared to urban locations, Facebook’s OpenCellular platform is also expected to be designed with durability in mind, which means that it must be able to handle very high or very low temperatures and even extreme weather conditions. And because it is open source, telecom operators, businesses, researchers, and even mobile manufacturers will be able to fashion their own version from the basic design.
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