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. With CoLTE, the whole process is 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 writing up recommendations and reviews as we go, and plan to come out with a basic buyer’s guide shortly.
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?”
The CoLTE project itself is hosted on GitHub. The goal of this website is to supplement the codebase with all the other information needed, ranging from a layperson’s overview of LTE to a list of all the things you’ll have to do to setup your own commercial LTE network. Additionally, we’ll be keeping a blog of our adventures as we go about building CoLTE and setting up the first of many sites in Bokondini, Indonesia.