“Cell Tower in a Box” Could Connect The Unconnected

A cell-tower network in a box may be an affordable method for remote areas to obtain internet access.

GeekWire reports that Spencer Sevilla, a postdoctoral researcher in the University of Washington’s School of Computer Science and Engineering and his team, are developing IslandCell, a cell-tower network in a box that’s the size of a backpack, weighs approximately 20 pounds and is built with commercial grade cell tower hardware. Sevilla received a $25,000 grant from Amazon Catalyst in 2017 for what he characterizes as affordable, flexible technology.

“Internet access is so useful that it becomes a fundamental need,” said Sevilla.

The idea is that rural communities in the U.S. and abroad can pool their resources to buy the LTE device, which allows them to set up their own mini cellular network reaching up to six miles. The hardware connects to the internet through a satellite network or a fiber connection, if available, but can provide basic locally-hosted services even without an internet connection, reports GeekWire.

“We are empowering people to build these tools for themselves,” Sevilla said. “It’s a community ownership model.”

Sevilla plans to travel to Indonesia this month to test the technology in the field. He’s still working out details, including step-by-step instructions to help people set up the equipment; He wants deployment to be as easy as installing WiFi systems, and he’s happy to be tackling an important issue for billions of people, reports GeekWire. “We’re here to make social change,” Sevilla said.

July 9, 2018

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