Summary: VillageNet is a holistic concept for rural area connectivity. It harnesses software-defined radios using white space frequencies for better coverage, employs a traffic localization system to minimize gateway traffic and provides a low-cost implementation of localized free-to-air cell phone coverage.  The VillageNet project is sponsored by NSF.


Current People:

David L. Johnson
Paul Schmitt
Morgan Vigil
Mariya Zheleva
Abigail Hinsman (Film and Media Studies)
Sarah Jones

Prof. Elizabeth Belding
Prof. Lisa Parks (Film and Media Studies)

VillageNet Architecture

VillageNet consists of three projects: VillageLink, VillageShare and VillageCell.


VillageLink, our solution for wireless backhaul connectivity, uses frequencies between 50 MHz and 700MHz, bands that have recently become available due to the analog to digital TV transition. These bands are ideal for rural areas as they have good propagation and foliage penetration properties. A novel adaptive probing system is used to find the ideal channel and set of OFDM sub-carriers to use in this wide frequency band.


VillageShare is a mechanism to ensure that content destined for local users does not traverse the satellite gateway multiple times, as is currently the case with the widely used Skype and Facebook applications. Static content, such as images and music, is shared using a localized Facebook application. Dynamic content, such as voice and instant messaging, is automatically re-routed using machine learning techniques.


VillageCell uses an open-source implementation of the GSM protocol stack running on a software-defined radio. It enables users to make free local calls within a village and uses VillageLink for backhaul between cells. Users are able to source and sink calls or instant messages between GSM handsets and VoIP software running on any platform.

VillageNet Architecture


M. Zheleva, A. Paul, D. L. Johnson and E. M. Belding.
Kwiizya: Local Cellular Network Services in Remote Areas.
ACM MobiSys, Taipei, Taiwan, June 2013.

V. Pejovic, D. L. Johnson, M. Zheleva, E. Belding, L. Parks and G. van Stam.
The Bandwidth Divide: Obstacles to Efficient Broadband Adoption in Rural Sub-Saharan Africa.
International Journal of Communications, 6, 2012, pp. 2467-2491.

D. L. Johnson, V. Pejovic, E. M. Belding, and G. van Stam.
VillageShare: Facilitating Content Generation and Sharing in Rural Networks.
ACM DEV, Atlanta, GA, March 2012.

D. L. Johnson, E. M. Belding and G. van Stam.
Network Traffic Locality in a Rural African Village.
ICTD, Atlanta, GA, March 2012.

A. Anand, V. Pejovic and E. M. Belding.
VillageCell: Cost Effective Cellular Connectivity in Rural Areas.
ICTD, Atlanta, GA, March 2012.



On this project we collaborate closely with LinkNet in Macha, Zambia and the Meraka Institute, CSIR, in Pretoria, South Africa.