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Low-Power Cell Towers in Indonesia

Development Challenge

Cellular telephony is one of the most impactful technologies ever, with five billion subscribers emerging in just twenty five years. However, billions of people remain without this fundamental service. The Village Base [Transceiver] Stations (VBTS) is a GSM cellular tower designed for low-density rural areas neglected by multinational telecommunication firms. VBTS reduces the cost of a cellular installation, enabling locally-owned cellular systems to operate in areas with limited power or network infrastructure. The infrastructure is capable of running on solar power and being backhauled with wireless technology.  It can operate at less than 65 percent of the total power draw of a traditional "low-power" BTS.  VBTS also provides a set of scripts supporting infrastructure-hosted apps tailored to and supporting the local community and their goals.  The aim of this evaluation is to understand the demand for mobile telephony and associated applications, as well as impact on local business activity, educational outcomes, and community norms.

Results and Policy Implications