Range Networks Introduces First U.S. Open-Source Cellular Platform

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2013-05-09 Print this article Print

The only potential drawback for Sprint is that the Range Networks products are currently GSM-only. But considering how long it's likely to take to unsnarl the Sprint merger, there's probably plenty of time.

Outside of the United States, there's no need to wait. The rest of the world uses GSM anyway, as do AT&T and T-Mobile in the States. For those companies the Range Networks system can be used as-is. This is important now that governments in the EU, New Zealand and Australia have banned or are about to ban Chinese telephone and networking equipment because of security concerns.

It's the security issues that are making it hard for companies such as Huawei and ZTE. Following reports that their networking products were caught in the act of sending traffic to servers in China, these companies are being frozen out of one market after another. Unfortunately for carriers trying to keep their costs down, these equipment makers were frequently the low-cost alternative, which means that costs could rise for companies buying new networking hardware and software.

The introduction of open-source products by Range Networks comes at just the right time for these carriers. But it comes at the right time for other types of carriers as well. Those carriers include companies that serve rural areas in the U.S., and those which serve communities where the cost of wireless calling is simply beyond their means. Burgess said that his company's equipment is already operating in locations such as sub-Saharan Africa and New Guinea where operators are seeing per-subscriber costs below $2 per month.

By being open source and industry-standard, Range Networks is able to keep costs down through both lower personnel costs and lower operating costs. For example, the Range Networks hardware can be configured so that an entire cell site runs on less electricity than a 100-watt light bulb (which you can't actually buy any more, but it's still a good comparison).

So let's take stock here. A U.S. company that builds its gear in San Francisco creates cellular networking products that are far less expensive to buy and operate than its Chinese competitors. It uses open source and industry standard products. Everything the network does can be verified by carriers, customers and government regulators. Because it's open source and industry standard, operations are easier because it's easier to find people skilled in these systems.

What Range Networks has done is create a product family that is the right product at the right time. When the Federal Communications Commission makes it a condition for licensing that you not use Chinese products, you have an alternative. In fact you've got a U.S. product that may be both the low-cost and most secure choice. What's not to like about that?


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