Software-Defined Radio Will Let Communities Build Their Own 4G Networks
In The Open: Once cellular networks dotted Oaxaca’s mountain towns, residents soon began asking for mobile broadband service.
Photo: Fairwaves

Conventional cellphonenetworks aren’t for everybody. In the state of Oaxaca, Mexico, rural communities high in the Sierra Juárez mountains have been building their own 2G cellular networks using mostly open-source and low-cost software and hardware. These communities have liberated themselves from dependence on large commercial networks that had neglected their sparsely populated region.

They can do this in part thanks to software able to take over functions that once required hardware and to a parallel movement to make such software open source and almost free. So-called software-defined radios make it easier for tinkerers and researchers to prototype their own components for a 4G LTE technology cellular network. While a full open-source version of 4G LTE is not yet complete, a proposed agreement between some academic and industrial partners would ensure that open versions in the works will be interoperable with commercial systems.

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Why the Internet Needs the InterPlanetary File System

Peer-to-peer file sharing would make the Internet far more efficient

12 min read
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Carl De Torres
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When the COVID-19 pandemic erupted in early 2020, the world made an unprecedented shift to remote work. As a precaution, some Internet providers scaled back service levels temporarily, although that probably wasn’t necessary for countries in Asia, Europe, and North America, which were generally able to cope with the surge in demand caused by people teleworking (and binge-watching Netflix). That’s because most of their networks were overprovisioned, with more capacity than they usually need. But in countries without the same level of investment in network infrastructure, the picture was less rosy: Internet service providers (ISPs) in South Africa and Venezuela, for instance, reported significant strain.

But is overprovisioning the only way to ensure resilience? We don’t think so. To understand the alternative approach we’re championing, though, you first need to recall how the Internet works.

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