The UP Electrical and Electronics Engineering Institute (UP-EEEI) hosted a talk on Community Cellular Networks, at the ASTEC Multimedia Hall, EEEI Building, on 30 April 2015.
Dr. Kurtis Heimerl, Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of California (UC), Berkeley and CEO of Endaga, served as the speaker of the said event. He shared his experience and the findings of his team’s longitudinal action researches which aimed to address the primary reasons why rural areas have lack cellular network access. He highlighted three core technologies they had developed and implemented in Papua, Indonesia namely Community Cellular Networks, Virtual Coverage, and GSM White Space.
The high cost of establishing an incumbent network in rural areas and the low return of revenue were addressed by the Community Cellular Networks and Virtual Coverage. The Community Cellular Networks are “small-scale, locally-owned and operated cellular networks; while Virtual Coverage is a “mechanism for reducing the cost rural cellular networks through smart duty cycling.” On one hand, the issue of the cellular regulatory body favoring incumbents to bring coverage and forbidding other organizations to provide networks to underserved areas was addressed through GSM White Space. The GSM White Space is a “technology and regulatory framework for community cellular networks utilizing spectrum sensing available on standard GSM phones.”
“This kind of research needs to be grounded in the real world,” says Dr. Heimerl, as he shared his experience during the implementation of their research. In their case, they let the villagers decide on the best place to install the network, the price range of the credit sales, and many others. He noted that it was important to recognize the “villagers as smarter” to promote local ownership and sustainability of the research.
The event garnered positive feedback as Dr. Heimerl let the students and faculty members raise their questions and concerns during the presentation. Around 90 people attended the talk, mostly students from UP Diliman.
Dr. Heimerl and other researchers from UC Berkeley are in partnership with UP EEEI on a related research project called Village Base Station, which is funded by the Philippine-California Advanced Research Institutes (PCARI)- Institute of Information Infrastructure Development (IIID), through the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).