OpenCellular was recently introduced by Facebook, with the aim of enabling wireless infrastructures available to communities in remote and extremely rural areas. This wireless platform will allow firms and people, such as researchers and Telecom operators, to provide people in remote areas with the necessary infrastructure to operate wireless.
In a statement made by Facebook, it is said that this platform can be supported by all wireless networks currently existent and therefore, options to which this platform has been made available ranges from LTE to 2G; networks in boxes to access points.
During an interview with Chris Taylor, one of Strategy Analytics’ research directors, he told TechNewsWorld that supporting approximately 45 bands is not cost effective and nearly impossible to be supported by all. According to Taylor, Facebook’s OpenCellular, like Apple has done with their most recent release- the iPhone 6s- should rather focus on half of the bands available and preferably those most popular. Base on Taylor’s opinion, an increase in the cost of materials could be expected either way, however less, should fewer bands be considered. With this stated, Taylor also noted that Facebook’s statement made no specific reference regarding the bands that this platform will be supported by.
In February, the Telecom Infra Project was initiated and the members of this project, together with Facebook, have been working towards developing cellular access technology based on open source communities. Furthermore, they have also been responsible for identifying trail locations, where additional testing can commence. This is due to various elements as well as design aspects still being in the developing phase.
Sue Rudd, another research director for Strategy Analytics, compared the OpenCellular to the base station PC revolution and stated that assembly can be done by anyone. This is as a result of various major vendors already utilizing components available on shelves and the fact that multivendor interoperability is being tested. Additionally, Rudd is of the opinion that turning another market related to infrastructure into a commodity, is being attempted by OpenCellular and this may cause a change in focus of other vendors.
Whether these stations would be able to solve the coverage issues experienced in rural areas, are yet to be determined, stated Rudd to TechNewsWorld. These being actual solutions are strongly dependent on the test conducted, locations chosen for testing and the management of modifications.
Joe Hoffman, one of ABI Research’s practice directors, told TechNewsWorld that similar such mini stations have been created by Nokia and Ericsson. Hoffman also noted that the problem is affordability and relates this to an issue with the business model, rather than problems related to technology infrastructure. According to research conducted by ABI Research, Hoffman said that the research found that a constraint regarding isolated communities in rural areas and reaching these communities remains the backhaul problem.
In another interview with Ronald Gruia, one of Frost & Sullivan’s research directors, Gruia asked some intriguing questions, often not thought of by those with no rural experience. One of the aspects raised was power, since power is not always available in those areas. Gruia also told TechNewsWorld, based on a statement made by Facebook, that even there is no backhaul connection, this system will apparently keep working. Does that count for power too?
Finally, Gruia are of the opinion that Opencellular is very similar to Free Basics also offered by Facebook and even though some countries have banned Free Basics; Facebook is still aiming towards expanding their access globally. This is yet to be determined and remains questionable as to how OpenCellular will be received.