VillageCell: Localized free cellular connectivity

Summary: Mobile telephony brings clear economic and social benefits to its users. As handsets have become more a fordable, ownership has reached staggering numbers, even in the most remote areas of the world. However, network coverage is often lacking in low population densities and low income rural areas of the developing world, where big telecoms often defer from deploying expensive infrastructure. To solve this coverage gap, we propose VillageCell, a low-cost alternative to high-end cell phone networks. VillageCell relies on software defined radios and open-source solutions to provide free local and cheap long-distance communication for remote regions. Our architecture is simple and easy to deploy, yet robust and requires no modification to GSM handsets. Through measuring the call quality metrics and the system capacity under a realistic rural-area network load, we show that VillageCell is indeed an attractive solution for rural area voice connectivity.



Veljko Pejovic
David L. Johnson
Mariya Zheleva
Abhinav Anand
Arhyadip Paul


Prof. Elizabeth Belding

VillageCell System

VillageCell components:


Short-range base station: a PC with a SDR (USRP2) running OpenBTS GSM stack implementation; converts G.711 encoded voice to VoIP.

Long-range base station: A rangenetworks pre-configured snap unit complete with RF amplifier and RF components in a weather-proof enclosure also running OpenBTS.

PBX: a general purpose PC running Asterisk call management software; uses SIP signaling protocol.


Backhaul network: can be any local network, i.e. WiFi, Ethernet or white spaces. VillageCell can be built on top of an existing community network.

VillageCell system


A.Anand, V. Pejovic, E. M. Belding and D. L. Johnson
VillageCell: Cost Effective Cellular Connectivity in Rural Areas.
ICTD'12, Atlanta, Georgia, March 2012.
VillageCell poster


On this project we collaborate closely with LinkNet in Macha, Zambia.


We are very thankful for the generous support of RangeNetworks for our Villagecell deployment in Zambia. We will deploy RangeNetworks snap units in the 1800MHz band in Macha