Facebook has introduced a new wireless platform – OpenCellular – aimed at improving global Internet connectivity. Facebook numbers reveal that more than 4 billion people are still not connected to Internet and 10 percent of the world lives outside the range of cellular connectivity. In order to solve the connectivity issues and bring as many people online as possible, Facebook is working at connectivity infrastructure and lowering the cost of deploying, operating that infrastructure. Its new initiative is aimed at improved connectivity in remote areas of the world.
In other words, as the social network is saturating its markets in the US and other developed nations, it is now looking for ways to bring more people online from developing markets like India and Africa, which are still struggling with Internet connectivity issues. The open source OpenCellular platform is designed in a way that it can support a range of communication options, be it network in a box or access point supporting 2G to LTE.
Facebook has also planned to outsource the hardware design so that telcos, entrepreneurs, OEMs and researchers can build locally, deploy and operate wireless infrastructure using the platform. “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,” Facebook writes in a post.
The post explains how constraint is one of the reasons for stalled expansion of cellular networks. And, the cost related to traditional cellular infrastructure makes it difficult for operators to deploy it everywhere. The first design of the hardware device reveals roughly a shoebox-like structure that can attached to a tree or lamp post. Facebook plans to open source the design to the world.
The basic design principles are explained here. “We wanted the hardware elements (electronic and RF) to be widely available, inexpensive, power-efficient, and produced from local resources if possible. We wanted to ensure that the device could withstand some of the harshest conditions in the world to give it maximum flexibility for deployment. So we designed an innovative mounting solution that can handle high winds, extreme temperatures, and rugged climates in all types of communities around the world”, Facebook said.
Facebook is currently testing the system in its labs at Facebook HQ and working with OEM and ODM partners to make the OpenCellular platform widely available.