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Made in India Magazine | January 20, 2021

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Facebook’s intention to get the whole world onto the internet has gained another dimension with the launch of Opencellular, a device that packs hardware and software into a unit that allows people and small organisations to set up their own mobile networks at low cost. The article has further details.

Social Media giant Facebook has for a long time now been involved in something of a crusade to bring about 4 billion of the Earth’s people who are currently disconnected onto its platform, and by extension onto the internet to reap its benefits. Its flagship product has been and Free Basics, but the program has faced hurdles in countries such as India and Egypt, which have rejected it on the basis of flying in the face of freedom of speech.

Undeterred, Facebook continues to surge ahead in its path. It has recently launched Opencellular, a product that is combination of cheap hardware and free software that becomes a wireless internet access point with a bit of customisation.

Once you purchase opencellular, theoretically you can set up your own mobile network for little to no cost, and become a mobile operator or provider. Currently, mobile operators face large costs and infrastructural headaches in setting up their own networks. This product aims to solve those problems.

The infrastructure – like land, towers and power – that the network needs will be taken by existing frameworks. This is a solution tailor made for the needs of cell providers in remote nations, like villages and small towns beyond the range of cellular services.

The product has hardware that will take power from whatever is available, be it solar, DC, external battery, internal battery or Ethernet. The software is also hardy, in the sense that it works equally well with 2G, LTE and WiFi. Physically, the unit is rugged and built to withstand heavy winds and harsh climate. The base station can be affixed to practically any tall structure, from a pole to a tree.

This is only one of Facebook’s many attempts to increase connectivity to remote areas. Its secretive Connectivity Lab is working on lasers for delivering internet connectivity at gigabit speeds. Facebook is also pursuing millimetre-wave technology to deliver internet to areas where traditional infrastructure like fibre wire and cellular are not feasible.

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