Over one billion people lack access to cellphone coverage. Without mobile coverage, people miss out on important services, such as emergency communications, market price information and job opportunities. Yet, the technology exists to build cellphone networks, even in sparsely populated areas.
Lack of cellphone coverage is largely a policy issue. To operate a cellphone network, companies need radio frequency space, known as spectrum. Historically, governments grant exclusive spectrum licenses to a number of mobile operators, and require their specific use of spectrum to avoid interference. But, exclusivity reduces competition and tends to limit coverage to areas where licensed operators can be most profitable.
Computer scientists, with UC Berkeley’s Technology and Infrastructure for Emerging Regions (TIER) group, are addressing this challenge by designing strategies for sharing spectrum. Their approach is called GSM White Spaces. Built on the world’s most widely deployed standard, GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications), GSM White Spaces enables new secondary networks to dynamically share spectrum with primary licensed mobile carriers. In doing so, GSM White Spaces enables organizations to provide mobile service to remote areas, facilitates competition, and increase affordability for people in under-served regions.