Building Your Own GSM Network: A Demonstration of the Village Base Station Project

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Jul 15, 2011 recently had the opportunity to test an off-the-grid GSM base station. Kurtis Heimerl presented The Village Base Station (VBTS), (link is a PDF) a low-power means of providing mobile network service without grid power or network infrastructure.

Below, Heimerl demonstrates the basic workings of a GSM networks and OpenBTS, an open-source platform that allows one to set up a cellular network at a fraction of the cost of a GSM network. Heimerl shows how phones find their base towers and settle on a frequency, and how OpenBTS condenses that process into a lower-powered, cheaper network.

The Village Base Station is built around voice and low-bandwidth data transmissions. It is an economical solution for rural residents who are outside of typical network coverage or power access, or for people living in situations where network outages occur. In a white paper presenting the VBTS, Heimerl and co-author Eric Brewer describe the project as, "essentially an outdoor PC with a software-defined radio that implements a low-power low-capacity GSM base station. Long-distance WiFi provides 'backhaul' into the carrier." Below are images of elements of the Village Base Station and screenshots from our 'hackday' in a large American city when we demo'ed VBTS with Heimerl. (Warning: If you try this at home, be aware of your local regulator's potential licensing and other restrictions for setting up such network/connecting to it)

Base Station

Talking About Killing: Cell Phones, Collective Action, and Insurgent Violence in Iraq

Posted by VivianOnano on Jun 07, 2011
Talking About Killing: Cell Phones, Collective Action, and Insurgent Violence in Iraq data sheet 1131 Views
Shapiro, N. Jacob and Nils B. Weidmann
Publication Date: 
May 2011
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

Cell phones are assumed to enhance communication among insurgents, thus making it possible for them to coordinate more effectively. On the other hand, mobile communications can also hamper insurgent activity, by allowing the population to share information with counterinsurgents.

This paper makes a first attempt to provide a systematic test of the effect of cell phone communication on conflict. Using data on Iraq’s cell phone network as well as event data on violence, we assess this effect at two levels. First, we analyze how violence at the district level changes as a result of the introduction of new cell phone towers. Second, using a novel identification strategy, we examine how insurgent operation in the tower’s vicinity is affected by the introduction of coverage.

Taken together, our results show that mobile communication seems to increase the information flow from the population to the military, thus reducing insurgent effectiveness and ultimately, violence.

SMSTester for Android: Project and Source Now Open

Posted by SaferMobile on May 18, 2011

One of the main goals of the SaferMobile project is to release software tools that allow activists and rights defenders to use their mobile phones as network monitors and sensors. The goal is to help them, and the mobile developers, human rights organizations and people on the street they work with, to monitor network performance and proactively detect blocking, filtering and censorship. SMSTester is the first tool we are publicly releasing within this category, and it is free, freely licensed and open-source. Our first trial run with Short Message Service Tester (SMSTester) was completed in April 2011. The results are written up here.

Wanted: New Business Models for Profitable Rural Expansion

Posted by MohiniBhavsar on Jul 09, 2010
Wanted: New Business Models for Profitable Rural Expansion data sheet 1556 Views
Accenture, Ranjan, K., Falk, S., Narsalay, R., O'Brien, D., and Sennik, R.
Publication Date: 
Jan 2009
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

In 2009, Accenture conducted a research study into the future of mobile industry expansion in rural India. We explored the views of rural consumers—both current customers and non-users—and also interviewed senior-level executives from companies that occupy strategic positions across the mobile telephony ecosystem. The key objective of this research was to understand the value proposition of mobile services to rural customers, and also to see how the
potential to serve rural markets is making mobile network operators re-think key elements of their existing business models.

This first phase of this research consisted of 15 in-depth, hour-long telephone or in-person interviews completed in June and July 2009 with executives in India representing mobile operators, handset manufacturers, passive and active telecom infrastructure providers, technology enablers/application providers, and content developers and aggregators. Additionally, in association with an independent research company, Accenture conducted an exploratory qualitative study using a focus group discussion methodology. The focus group invitees included primary wage earners, homemakers and students from rural areas.

For the second phase of the Accenture research, more than 2,400 rural citizens in India were surveyed—802 current mobile customers and 1,634 non-users— to gain a broader understanding of what customers value most in mobile devices and services. The insights drawn from this research can help mobile network operators evolve their business models, and can support more effective design of profitable packages for rural consumers

When a Doctor is Just a Cell Phone Call Away

Posted by CorinneRamey on May 25, 2008

Roberta Lamptey Nartey, a family health practitioner in Ghana, used to rely on the walkie talkies of the security guards to communicate between hospitals where she worked. Once she wanted a woman who had had a severe asthma attack transferred from the Korle Bu Polyclinic to the surgery unit of another hospital. Nartey left a message with the night nurses to transfer her patient and wrote a note in the patient's chart, but to her chagrin, the asthmatic patient never appeared in the surgery unit. "I told the security man at the Surgical Unit to send a message to the security man at the polyclinic using his walkie talkie," Nartey wrote. "The security man at the polyclinic then went to the female ward at the polyclinic to remind the nurses on the morning shift that I was waiting at the Surgery Ward." After several layers of communication, Nartey's patient finally made it to surgery.