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This case study highlights our partnership with
the University of California at Berkeley to
deliver cellular service to a community in rural
Papua, Indonesia. The village had no
communications and contacted Technology
and Infrastructure for Emerging Regions (TIER)
research group at UC Berkeley to inquire about
setting up a low-cost cellular network.
Leveraging the OpenBTS software, the TIER
team established a network covering two
villages and serving over 140 people. After two
“Up and running in a day.”
Shaddi Hasan, Researcher, UC Berkeley - TIER
months of operation, the network is profitable
and helps to fund a local school.
In this Papuan community, electricity is scarce. The
source for power is a small hydro generator (5kVA),
which is turned off at night so that the reservoir can
refill. Because the community is small and the nearest
town with cellular service is an unreliable 4-hour drive
away, the population cannot be served profitably with
conventional cellular network approaches.
Papua, Indonesia. “Papua” refers to the western half of New Guinea.
© Range Networks 2013
Led by Researcher Kurtis Heimerl, the TIER team leveraged Range Networks’ open source software and OEM kit to
develop modified software and hardware that met the specific needs of the Papuan community. Many factors
contributed to creating a solution that was economically viable. With respect to capital expense, the Range
Networks system operates as a “network in a box” replacing the need for traditional core network infrastructure
(VLR/MSC and HLR) and driving down capital costs.
With respect to operating expenses, several factors drove down costs. The base station was powered by the only
existing source of electricity, a micro-hydro generator. To further reduce the equipment’s already low power
consumption, the TIER team developed power controls that enabled the system to be put on standby at night.
Control switches were installed around the village so that after-hours, the system could be turned on when
necessary. Range Networks system handles local calls and SMS through local switching, which reduces the need for
VSAT backhaul. The system was operated by locals thereby eliminating costly specialized resources that would be
typical in a traditional field deployment team.
Once the system launched, within weeks, over a hundred subscribers connected to the network and the service was
profitable for local resellers and the VoIP operator.
Local Calls (OpenBTS voice)
Customized Range Networks 5150 Base Station
Global SMS (OpenBTS SMS and VSAT connection
permits global SMS)
900MHz 10W System
2 x ARFCN
Power Consumption: <80W
900MHz Omnidirectional Antenna, Up to 5km of
A break-even ARPU around $2.50 enables a healthy
profitable ecosystem of local entrepreneurs,
operators and even helps fund a local school. After 10
weeks the network operated at an ARPU of $5.30. In
addition to funding the school, the network supports
an economy of primary and secondary resellers.
© Range Networks 2013
Papuan “Pulpa “ (phone credit) ecosystem