Range Networks deploys cellular network in Southern Zambia

Range Networks deploys cellular network in Southern Zambia The deployment enabled villagers to make and receive local calls and send and receive local SMS text messages. (Image source: Ryan Greenberg/Flickr)Open-source cellular systems provider Range Networks has announced that it has successfully deployed an experimental cellular network in a remote village in Southern Zambia

The Range Networks deployed its Snap Network and OpenBTS software to provide voice and SMS service in the village of Macha as part of a study carried out by the Mobility Management and Networking Laboratory (Moment Lab) at USA-based University of California Santa Barbara (UC Santa Barbara).

David Burgess, CEO of Range Networks said, “In partnering with universities like UC Santa Barbara we have enabled communication in remote communities around the globe, bringing affordable cellular service to those disconnected from each other and the rest of the world.”

The deployment provided the remote village with the capability of making and receiving local calls and sending and receiving local SMS text messages. Additionally, the network allowed for outgoing global calls and outgoing global SMS text messages on a trial basis.

The Moment Lab team used the deployment to study rural cellular networks and as a proof-of-concept project for future deployments in Zambia and other remote regions.

The average income of the Macha community is reported to be approximately US$1 per day so the network, which was set up as a free service using open source software, was used to study the feasibility of low-cost systems to potentially cover billions of people around the world without cellular access.

According to Range Networks, the network uses free open-source software and generic wireless IP backbone and operates as a self-contained local loop replacing the need for expensive cellular-grade interconnections, hardware and software.

The low-power consumption incurred by the Snap base stations further reduces the cost associated with power and maintenance. Additionally, the network operates remotely and is maintained by local resources, reducing downtime, the company added.

Mariya Zheleva, PhD student at UC Santa Barbara said, “Networks such as this one can be used to improve healthcare, education and support of local businesses. Through its OpenBTS software and its low-cost equipment, Range Networks provided us with the resources we needed to bring communication to this remote region. Service for low income, low population density areas, such as this Zambian village, is now a possibility.”

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