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Why this company wants you to build your own mobile network

Why this company wants you to build your own mobile network

Why this company wants you to build your own mobile network

Experts say building your own mobile network is easier than you think and could give you more privacy than commercial providers. And, it’s something you might want to consider using.

The company Ukama launches a crowdfunding campaign which aims to enable you to be your own mobile operator. It plans to sell various pieces of equipment that will allow you to build your own network.

Why this company wants you to build your own mobile network
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

But why build your own network when cell phone companies willing to rent their services? For consumers, the primary reasons to have a personal mobile network “would be to have reliable and cost-effective coverage where it is most needed, e.g. indoors, in large agricultural areas, huts or remote places,” Kashif AliCEO of Ukama and former Facebook engineer, told Digital Trends in an interview.

Bring your service

If Ukama’s crowdfunding campaign is successful, the company plans to ship its devices next summer. However, the system will not be cheap. You’ll need a $799 Tower Node that’s mounted outside on a roof or building so it can broadcast your home Internet connection. Don’t forget the $549 amplifier for the Tower Node, the $599 Home Node for indoor use, and the $499 module that serves as the basis for a DIY cell radio.

Connection it claims Home Node is “as easy to use as setting up a home Wi-Fi router. Within minutes you can have free mobile data for your smartphone or IoT devices.”

One of the reasons you might want to build your own mobile network is security. But he said Ukama’s network would offer better protection than commercial services, adding that “the data never leaves your premises”.

Mobile phones for children

Privately 5G networks also offer greater range than Wi-Fi, Matt Horany, head of enterprise mobility management services at Stratix, a mobile solutions provider, said in an interview. He said private networks offer the benefits of 5G, such as speed, lower latency and the ability to connect more devices.

“Private cell phone networks work in the same way as public networks, but the owner has the right to prioritize access and limit who connects,” Horany added. “They may use small towers or microcells, while others provided by large operators use existing infrastructure. Depending on your setup, you may also need routers that support 5G and mobile devices that accept it User-provided SIM cards.”

Personal cellular networks (PCNs) have their drawbacks, David Witkowski, the broadband strategist and senior fellow at IEEE said in an interview. He noted that PCN equipment is expensive compared to even high-end Wi-Fi routers. Installation and adjustment, especially for optional outdoor units, require technical expertise. Also, most smartphones now support Wi-Fi calling, so it may be hard to justify the extra cost.

Someone is holding an iPhone 14 to their ear.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

“PCN vendors are talking about sharing scenarios where devices will connect to other hosts’ PCN nodes or to commercial mobile networks via roaming agreements, but until these are implemented, PCN users will need to have a second SIM or eSIM for continuous connectivity” , Witkowski said. “PCNs require the host to provide broadband and electricity and a suitable location for installation.”

Witkowski said PCNs could be helpful for homeowners facing poor cellular coverage if they have access to wired or fiber broadband. Witkowski explained that private cellular networks use the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) to create a low-power cellular network. Many modern devices, such as smartphones and tablets, support CBRS. The device uses its own SIM card to automatically connect to nearby PCN host nodes in the same way it would connect to a commercial cellular network.

Choose your own plan

Ukama isn’t the only option if you’re willing to go to the expense and potential headache of building your own cellular network. But keep in mind that most PCNs are for organizations, not individuals, Horany said.

“If an organization has the resources, it can build its own using licensed or unlicensed spectrum,” he added. “There are many contractors who are engaged in the business of setting up private networks. Major carriers such as AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon also offer private network services.”

woman looking at mobile phone

Although anyone can purchase the components to build a private network, such systems are typically intended for organizations that require more reliability and control over their wireless network than can be obtained from commercial providers, Julie SongCEO of Advanced RF Technologies, a maker of wireless solutions, said in an interview.

“For example, healthcare facilities that want to perform operations remotely or factories that need to allocate a certain amount of bandwidth to support a fleet of autonomous robots,” she added.

“In private networks, data traffic does not have to travel back and forth to the core as it would in a public network, which reduces latency and enhances security.”

Thanks to new companies like Ukama, more organizations will be able to roll out LTE or 5G networks, Marzieh Veyseh, co-founder and CTO of SiTune Corporation, said in an interview. The networks “would not only expand the coverage area and improve the bandwidth and latency of connections, but also use AI technologies, data analytics services and other cutting-edge solutions in a larger-scale environment.

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