Telecomunicaciones Indígenas Comunitarias A.C. — a nonprofit telcoms company operated by and for indigenous groups in Chiapas, Guerrero, Oaxaca, Puebla, and Veracruz — has received a license to operate cellular services in at least 356 municipalities. It’s the first time the Mexican telcoms regulator has given a operations license to an indigenous social group. TIC is the sequel to a network created by Rhizomatica, who installed internet-based telephony in remote communities serviced only by expensive payphones, lowering the cost of calls by as much as 98%.
Kurtis Heimerl enables entrepreneurs to build their own wireless networks. A postdoctoral student at the University of California at Berkeley, Heimerl packed a Linux computer, a 900 MHz power amplifier, and a 2G cellular-network antenna into a microwave-size box called Endaga CCN1. It costs a relatively modest sum of $6,000 and is simple to set up: Plug in power and Internet, mount the unit to a tree or pole, and voilà: connection. Endaga can connect up to 1,000 people within a six-mile radius.
This is one of those fun things that as a geek mom, I had to share. I also think it’s a cool project to do if you have the parts. This is the sort of thing I would’ve loved to have done as a kid. (I do want to get my hands on a Raspberry Pi at some point!) Watch the video in the article. It’s not practical, but it’s still pretty cool.
Even without the Compute Module, software engineer and Raspberry Pi enthusiast Dave Hunt made a lot of headway with his own Raspberry Pi-based cellphone. By sandwiching together a Raspberry Pi Model B, TFT touch screen, a lithium polymer battery, and GSM module, Dave has cobbled together a portable GSM phone that can place calls with a headset.
“It’s more of a proof of concept to see what could be done with a relatively small form factor with off-the-shelf (cheap) components,” Dave says. “I don’t expect everyone to be rushing out to build this one, but I had great fun in doing it, as it builds quite nicely on my previous projects.” The total cost of the PiPhone project? Just $158, no contract required! See it in action below:
Citing freedom and security concerns, the makers of Replicant are calling for donations, we learn from “Fundraising a Fully Free Fork of Android” at Boing Boing. The project hopes to give us all the choice to run our Android-based mobile devices entirely upon free software.
But wait, you ask, isn’t Android is already open source? Well, most of it, but a few “key non-free parts” keep our Android devices tethered to proprietary programs. Such parts, they say, include the layer that communicates with hardware; yes, that would be pretty important.
Also of concern to Replicant developers are the pre-loaded applications that some of us call “bloatware,” but upon which many users have come to rely. The team plans to develop free software that provides the same functionality. (I hope they also include the option to delete applications without them returning uninvited. That would be a nice change.) Furthermore, they have set up rival to the Google Play store, their app repository called F-Droid. That repository, the article notes, works with all Android-based systems.
The write-up summarizes:
“Mobile operating systems distributed by Apple, Microsoft, and Google all require you to use proprietary software. Even one such program in a phone’s application space is enough to threaten our freedom and security — it only takes one open backdoor to gain access. We are proud to support the Replicant project to help users escape the proprietary restrictions imposed by the current major smartphone vendors. There will still be problems remaining to solve, like the proprietary radio firmware and the common practice of locking down phones, but Replicant is a major part of the solution.”
Replicant is underpinned by copyrighted software that has been released under an assortment of free licenses, which their site links to here. This is an interesting initiative, and we have a couple of questions should it be successful: Will Google’s mobile search revenues come under increased pressure? What happens if Samsung or the Chinese mobile manufacturers jump on this variant of Android? We shall see.
Speaker A: My friend is creating a wide-area radio network for Afghanistan.
Speaker B: Afghanistan has no infrastructure — including radio stations. Although radio is popular, it is mostly shortwave, with a few local FM stations for the local Iman. And electricity for radio stations is spotty at best including in Kabul.
Speaker A: Well, I can build really cheap, “ultra” cheap, radio receivers.
Speaker B: As long as you are doing that, why not give them OpenBTS cell phones running on ambient energy, and include a radio app? Then get someone else — Google, Virgin Mobile, the Chinese or India — to focus on all-purpose cellular towers and tethered ballons?