[AI] Mobile System Promises Free Calls

shahnaz shycurrim at yahoo.co.in
Fri Sep 14 04:30:46 EDT 2007

BBC NEWS | Technology | Mobile system promises free
Mobile system promises free calls
A new way of making calls directly between phones, for
free, is being trialled by a Swedish company.

It is hoping to dramatically improve communications in
the developing world.

Swedish company TerraNet has developed the idea using
peer-to-peer technology that enables users to speak on
its handsets without the need for a mobile
phone base station.

The technology is designed for remote areas of the
countryside or desert where base stations are

Projects backed by TerraNet recently launched in
Tanzania and Ecuador.

TerraNet founder Anders Carlius told the BBC World
Service's Digital Planet programme that the idea for
TerraNet came when he was on safari in Tanzania
in 2002, and found that poor connectivity meant he
could not ring friends riding in another jeep only a
few metres away.

"I started thinking, 'couldn't we get phone-to-phone
without needing any other equipment, and actually have
real voice communication, like a telephone call,
between units?'" he said.

Digital identity

The TerraNet technology works using handsets adapted
to work as peers that can route data or calls for
other phones in the network.

The handsets also serve as nodes between other
handsets, extending the reach of the entire system.
Each handset has an effective range of about one

This collaborative routing of calls means there is no
cost to talk between handsets.

When a TerraNet phone is switched on, it begins to
look for other phones within range. If it finds them,
it starts to connect and extend the radio network.

When a number is dialled a handset checks to see if
the person being called is within range. If they are,
the call goes through.

While individually the phones only have a maximum
range of 1km, any phone in between two others can
forward calls, allowing the distance to double. This
principle applied many times creates a mini network.

However, Mr Carlius admitted that this has created big
problems with having enough available frequencies.

The system can also be used to make calls to other
TerraNet mesh networks via a net-connected PC fitted
with an inexpensive USB dongle.

"If you look at places like Africa, South America,
India, China, we're really for the first time giving
people a digital identity," he added.

"People are able to talk to other people using a phone

"With our stuff, we are giving the low-end man or
woman the chance to talk locally for free."

And TerraNet phones currently only work with a special
handset - although Mr Carlius said he hopes that it
will eventually be a feature available on all
phones, like Bluetooth.

He said that were this to happen, it could potentially
spell the end for the current Global System for Mobile
(GSM) communications model. About 70% of all
mobile phones use this technology.

Mr Carlius said large mobile firms did not like the
idea of using a peer-to-peer model to make calls.

"One of the biggest things against us is that the big
operators and technology providers are really pushing
against us, saying this technology doesn't work
and it doesn't have a business model," he said.

"This is fine - just join us in Lund and see how the
technology works, and ask our customers how our
business model works."

Mr Carlius said that mobile phone manufacturer
Ericsson had invested around £3m in TerraNet, and this
indicated that the business model for the network
is sound.

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