One billion people worldwide live out of range of cell towers. Many live in remote rural communities where power infrastructure is weak, and costs to telecommunication companies of expanding service remain prohibitive
To address this challenge, researchers supported by CEGA’s Development Impact Lab (DIL) initiative developed the Village Base Station (VBTS), later termed the Community Cellular Network (CCN). The VBTS is a lightweight “network in a box” that makes it possible to install and operate a community cellular network at a fraction of the cost and power consumption of traditional telecommunications infrastructure.
Between 2012 and 2014, DIL funded a pilot of the VBTS in Papua, Indonesia. The interdisciplinary research team–comprised of engineers, computer scientists, and economists–worked with local implementers to install the VBTS in a village where the closest town with phone service was a two-hour drive away. The technology worked, providing cheap and efficient mobile telephony to the local population. By the end of the project’s performance period in 2014, the network had handled nearly 500,000 communications and was generating over $1,000 USD per month for the local school. The financial viability of the enterprise was encouraging and the VBTS continues to return profits for operators in Indonesia.
The research team has since adapted the technology in other contexts. For more, see our page on the CCN project in the Philippines.
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