The peer-to-peer mobile phone has arrived.
TerraNet, a Swedish company, has developed technology that allows users to speak on handsets without the need for a mobile phone base station. That makes it ideal for more remote regions, as the company is finding with trials in Ecuador and Tanzania.
Each handset is adapted to become a peer, enabling it to be a node between other handsets, so each set extends the range of the system; currently each set has a range of about a kilometer. Switch on a TerraNet phone and it searches for others, then as it finds them it connects and adds to the network. The more phones, the greater the network, as each set effectively doubles the 1km. distance. Dial a number and if the person is within range, the call is completed.
The bonus to all this is that this method of routing means that calls in the network are free. That’s a huge plus in many poor areas of the world.
"If you look at places like Africa, South America, India, China, we’re really for the first time giving people a digital identity," said TerraNet founder Anders Carlius. "Peopleare able to talk to other people using a phone number. With our stuff, we are giving the low-end man or woman the chance to talk locally for free." Additionally, TerraNet access pointscan be established wherever a computer with Internet access is available. All it requires is a TerraNet USB dongle. A handset communicates with the access point and with other phones in themini-network, which lets any user in the network set up free VoIP calls via the Internet to users in other TerraNet clusters, and via low cost VoIP dial-out services to fixed line phones and mobilephones anywhere in the world. TerraNet currently requires a special handset, but it’s hoped that in time it might become a feature on all phones. However, that might present a problem tothe industry, since a peer-to-peer network without base stations challenges the established GSM model that’s the industry standard. But some obviously believe in it – Ericsson has invested about $6 million in TerraNet.