A former Facebook engineer wants to help you create your own cellular network
Kashif Ali previously worked for Facebook as an engineer. Now, he is at the head of a new company called Ukama. The latter offers devices that allow you to stream your home internet connection as LTE. Ukama’s goal is for people to use its devices to build a participatory cellular network. These devices are therefore dedicated to people and companies who wish to have their own networks.
To pursue this goal, Ali launched a crowdfunding campaign on the engineering and manufacturing site, Crowd Supply. The devices in question include the Tower Node, which is designed to be mounted externally and which incorporates an amplifier; the Home Node, dedicated to indoor use and a base module for a build-it-yourself cellular radio. All of these parts cost a few hundred dollars each.
How do these devices work?
It is through these aforementioned devices that you will be able to gain access to the nodes. Moreover, the latter are described by Ukama as being a ” plug-and-play, just like a Wi-Fi router, or fully customizable like a software-defined radio “. Nodes can be managed locally, either using an API or with the company’s cloud-based service. The latter has notified that this service will always be free for their users.
The Ukama SIM card, physical or digital, is required to connect to the network. When you are within range of your node, the SIM card is responsible for routing your calls and SMS to your usual operator, while ensuring that your data goes through your personal network. When you’re out of range, you have the option of switching back to your usual carrier or signing up for Ukama’s data roaming plan.
The limits of the service
According to The Verge, building a cellular network isn’t easy. Dish and Rakuten Mobile, for example, are developing open radio access networks to facilitate network deployment, in pursuit of the same goal as Ukama. However, the equipment and technical expertise are far beyond the reach of average consumers.
Also, by using Ukama’s products, you are likely to have some issues with your ISP. Without forgetting that crowdfunding is generally used by companies in order to obtain financing.