Internet For All. Facebook’s OpenCellular Goes Open Source

Facebook’s OpenCellulaEver heard the phrase “if it isn’t on Google, it doesn’t exist” or even more preposterous “Google is god”? Well, it turns out; there is a lot of stuff that isn’t on Google. Oh yes, one of that stuff is people.

Recent data shows that there are more than 4 billion (that is 4,000,000,000. More simply, a four followed by a whopping nine zeroes) people around the world who simply do not have, what us common folks, call the internet.

They don’t even have basic internet access and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wants to change that situation. Facebook by far is the largest and more active social media platform in the world)

Facebook OpenCellular

OpenCellular is the Facebook latest attempt to provide internet access to all remote areas of the world. Not only that, but OpenCellular is also a wireless access platform that is open-source and which is specifically designed to achieve that target (providing internet access to poor people) economically.

The Facebook OpenCellular is basically a device that is comparable in size to a standard box (about 30 cm by 18cm by 13cm) and it can provide internet access to people living in third world countries (and beyond) who normally struggle to keep themselves hydrated with clean water.

The device can support up to fifteen hundred people who can be as far as 10 kilometers away from the device itself.

The Facebook OpenCellular’s internet providing capabilities range from 2G to a much faster LTE.

As mentioned before, it has been widely reported that by the end of 2015 there were more than four billion people on the planet that did not have means to basic internet services and thus were missing out on what more and more people are starting to consider, a basic human right i.e the internet.

But more than that, there are more than 700 million people who don’t live even near to an area that can provide some sort of cellular connectivity.

What does all that mean now? Well, as of now, that means that there are about four billion people on earth who cannot access Facebook. The other 700 million people mentioned, can log successfully into Facebook but face difficulties.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wants them to be able to share their stories, their family photos and other important pieces of information with the world as the rest of us do on a regular basis. Perhaps we should all remember that Facebook isn’t just a website that allows Facebook users to share cute cat pictures with your friends and family.

Last year, during Paris terrorist attacks, people actually shared vital pieces of information on Facebook that allowed police officers to better judge the situation at hand. And more than that, people also shared information about people who went missing (or were found) during those attacks that immensely helped the family of those that were affected.

The Facebook OpenCellular software platform’s initial version would be available around summer time. In fact, at the moment Facebook is actually testing out the device boxes at its headquarters in Menlo Park, California in the United States.

OpenCellular will allow researchers, scientists, entrepreneurs, telecom operators and even unskilled people who dare to fix or mend their electrical equipment to build on its design when it finally goes open source in the future.

Facebook and Telecom Infra Project will work together with each other to support and build a community around OpenCellular that is active and makes significant contributions.

This would allow the project to pick up pace and more people will be able to engage and come up with their own ideas about how to utilize this technology according to their own needs.

OpenCellular, FacebookKashif Ali, a Facebook engineer, wrote earlier that with OpenCellular, Facebook wants to develop affordable new technology that can expand capacity and make it more cost-effective for operators in different regions of the world to deploy networks in places where coverage is scarce.

He also wrote about how most people involved in the industry do not understand how expensive it can be to provide internet access to people of remote areas under current circumstances.

And one of the objectives of making OpenCellular so light, robust and affordable was to make sure that it could work in harsh environments and unpredictable weather conditions in developing areas where the cost to set up equipment for internet access is prohibitively large, even larger than the cost of providing actually internet to the concerned population.

Kashif Ali also wrote. “Traditional cellular infrastructure can be very expensive, making it difficult for operators to deploy it everywhere and for smaller organizations or individuals to solve hyperlocal connectivity challenges. It’s often unaffordable for them to attempt to extend network access in both rural and developed communities.”

OpenCellular, as it turns out, is only one of many projects that Facebook has initiated to enhance and solve global connectivity issues. Some of those projects include Aquila, the much hyped, unmanned, internet-distributing, solar-powered plane, and internet lasers.

Conclusion

The efforts of Facebook of providing internet access to the poorer parts of the world need to be commended. It was only last month that United Nations affirmed once again that internet access was a basic human right in a resolution that mentioned people’s rights online and offline should be protected. The resolution further stated that freedom of expression must be protected.

The resolution was non-binding, however. So the efficacy of the said resolution can’t be judged until concrete steps are taken by governments all over the world in ensuring proper internet access to all people.

The resolution also expressed strong disapproval of governments that have censored internet access to their citizens. Whether that condemnation is justified or not, we’ll leave it up to the readers to decide for themselves.

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