EECS Department Colloquium Series

Community Cellular Networks in the Developing World

Kurtis Heimerl

Wednesday, February 11, 2015
306 Soda Hall (HP Auditorium)
4:00 - 5:00 pm

Kurtis Heimerl
Postdoc Rearcher, TIER, UC Berkeley

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Cellular networks are one of the most impactful technologies of the last century, with over 3.5 billion active users in just over 25 years of operation. However, over a billion people, primarily in rural areas, still live without this basic service. There are two primary reasons for this: First, rural areas are extremely difficult to cover profitably, as costs are higher and revenue is lower. Second, only traditional nation-scale telecommunication firms are allowed to bring coverage. In order to resolve these concerns, we propose "Community Cellular Networks": small-scale, locally owned and operated cellular networks. These are economically viable, as local operators are inherently more efficient in their communities, and they also keep revenue and control local. We demonstrate this model of rural access through an ongoing 2 year long installation in rural Papua, Indonesia, which generates over 1000 USD/month in revenue for the local community while supporting over 400 subscribers and handling over 500,000 communications. We also discuss two other technologies: Virtual Coverage, a mechanism for further reducing the cost of rural cellular my limiting power usage and GSM White Space, a technology for regulating these networks through spectrum sensing in the GSM protocol.

Kurtis Heimerl is a postdoctoral researcher in UC Berkeley's TIER group as well as the CEO and founder of Endaga ( Kurtis received his BE in Computer Engineering from the University of Washington and his MS and Ph.D in Computer Science from UC Berkeley under Professors Eric Brewer and Tapan Parikh. Kurtis's research focuses on enabling rural cellular access through empowering local entrepreneurs to set up and manage their own community cellular networks, for which he was named to Technology Review's 2014 list of "35 under 35" Innovators ( Kurtis has previously worked on education (Metamouse, a system for converting single-player educational games into multiplayer games) and crowdsourcing (Umati, the crowdsourcing vending machine).

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