The Community LTE Project (CoLTE) is an open source project that enable anyone to build and run their own small-scale LTE network, for fun, profit, or both. Install CoLTE onto a computer, hook it up to a base station, distribute SIM cards, turn the network on, and watch phones connect. Our end-goal with CoLTE is for the whole process to be as straightforward as hooking up a WiFi router: 100% achievable for a regular person with a little bit of technical skill.
What Is CoLTE?
To setup an LTE network, you’ll need both hardware and software. CoLTE takes care of all your software needs by providing a tightly-integrated set of open source packages that work together to manage everything from network attach and mobility to billing and network management/admin – it’s easy to setup, and runs on any Linux machine. For hardware, we’re always working with various new pieces of equipment, and are making an effort to write up the recommendations and reviews as we go.
What’s The Point?
Right now, approximately four billion people (slightly over half the world’s population!) don’t have any Internet access at all. This population is primarily located in rural and remote areas, where infrastructure is more difficult and expensive to install and maintain. Because these areas are sparsely-populated and often involve rugged terrain, wireless Internet tends to be a much cheaper and better solution than wired. Going further, we were drawn to cellular Internet over WiFi for two reasons: much wider area coverage, the lower price-point of cell phones (compared to laptops), and the increased set of services (voice, text, etc.).
Unfortunately, most cellular networks today are run by large-scale telecom companies that don’t want to invest in rural areas. Combine the increased infrastructural costs with decreased revenue, and this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. There exist several policy-based approaches to subsidize and incentivize rural cellular, but these efforts have seen varying levels of success. This led us to ask the question “how can we help communities start their own networks, instead of just waiting for a carrier to expand?”
Want To Learn More?
The CoLTE project itself is fully open-source and hosted on GitHub. We supplement this project with a blog, buyer’s guide, and all the other contextual information here. Additionally, I’ll be re-posting various articles and our LTE adventures on my personal blog here.