Facebook has long been working to reduce the number of people who don’t have access to the internet, and have announced the creation of a new platform called OpenCellular.
The OpenCellular is an open source, "wireless access platform" designed to drive down the cost of setting up cellular networks in places where it has been traditionally difficult to do so. The system is designed to provide the tools to set up a complete network, from the physical equipment to the software that runs it.
Facebook announced that they would be launching the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) earlier this year, with the stated goal of exploring new approaches to setting up data-intensive communications networks, and to "rethink how we deploy existing technologies."
Telecommunications equipment and its installation can be prohibitively expensive
The company noted that expanding cellular access throughout the world has hit some problems, just as the importance of internet access has grown considerably. Some of these challenges are related to infrastructure: the equipment and its installation can be expensive - prohibitively so in rural areas - which in turn limits access.
Facebook describes this device as a "software-defined wireless access platform" that can support several different types of wireless networks, ranging from 2g through LTE, while also providing WiFi and voice calls. The box contains two subsystems: General-baseband computing and Radio with integrated front-end, and is designed to be installed in a variety of harsh conditions. The box is run by an open sourced operating system that can be run from a remote location.
While Facebook has been pushing for expanded access across the globe, it hasn't done so without considerable controversy. Earlier this year, India banned the company from expanding their Free Basics program into the country, while Egypt followed suit in April. It's yet to be seen how this system will be received across the world.
Facebook has been testing the system in their headquarters, and they’re expecting to release the system later this summer.