Towards Scalable Community Networks
- Author(s): Hasan, Shaddi
- Advisor(s): Brewer, Eric
- et al.
Over 400 million people live without access to basic communication services, largely in rural areas. Community-based networks, and particularly community cellular networks, can sustainably support services even in these extremely rural areas where traditional commercial network operators cannot. However, community cellular networks face a variety of technical, business, and regulatory challenges that hamper their proliferation.
In this thesis, we aim to develop approaches to enable scale within and across community cellular networks. Through a mixed-methods study of more than 80 rural wireless Internet service providers, a related class of network operators, we identify key scaling challenges rural network operators face. We next present two approaches for addressing these challenges in the context of community cellular networks. The first, GSM Whitespaces, demonstrates that rural community cellular networks can safely share spectrum in bands occupied by incumbent mobile network operators, removing a key barrier to independent operation. The second, CCM, shows how community networks and incumbent mobile network operators can cooperate to share resources to extend service. We will explore each of these approaches through practical systems and longitudinal deployments of community cellular networks in Southeast Asia that provide service to thousands of rural people.