sustainable manner, OC must support
a variety of different business models
that can cover the diversity of the rural
world. OC enables two key business
models: community-focused and traditional (see Figures 3–5).
In many remote rural areas, much of
the infrastructure is owned and operated
by local agents. Co-production7 is one
model that makes use of this fact, with
core infrastructure such as power and
water built and operated in close collaboration with the populations served. Galperin4 suggested extending local ownership to cellular, with smaller local
telecoms providing service. OpenCellular supports these local business models. CommunityCellularManager (CCM) 3
is one OC-supported software suite that
allows small communities to operate
their own small OpenCellular-based networks. It provides both client and cloud
support for management, routing, and
interconnect. With CCM, the local rural
community can then personally maintain and operate the network.
OC can also operate as a traditional
cellular access point, supporting a variety of open and closed-source base-bands and cellular stacks that when
configured can connect to traditional
core networks (EPC, in case of OC-LTE). This allows existing incumbents
to utilize OC to decrease the cost of
their rural installations while requiring minimal changes to the rest of
While OpenCellular has been designed
with our own rural experiences in
mind, the appropriateness of specific
technologies will vary widely across
areas. For example, OC’s built-in satellite backhaul may be appropriate
where wireless is used for backhaul6
but overly expensive if the installation is backhauled over a more robust
medium such as fiber. Similarly, new
technologies such as 5G or LoRa6 may
see rapid uptake in the next few years
and overtake LTE. For this reason,
OpenCellular needs to be extensible
and customizable to enable new access models and new technologies.
Enabling this customizability in OpenCellular consists of two distinct design
choices: modularity and open source.
The OpenCellular hardware is designed in a modular fashion, with in-
Thirdly, you must design your interven-
tion to sustain. That involves creating
business models that encourage lo-
cal participation and support. While
existing business models for cellular
exist (and are quite lucrative), many
rural areas remain underserved. Even
with the power and network advances
mentioned here, it is always going to be
expensive to send engineers and equip-
ment to remote parts of the country for
installations and maintenance. For
coverage to reach the entire world in a
Figure 3. Handwritten field notes: Current model.
Figure 4. Handwritten field notes: De facto deployment.
Figure 5. Handwritten field notes: Bottom-up model.