A new mobile system where one makes calls directly between phones, for free, is being trialled by TerraNet, a Swedish company, in hopes of dramatically improving communications in the developing world. "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 unfeasible. Projects backed by TerraNet recently launched in Tanzania and Ecuador. 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 kilometre. 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, TerraNet founder Anders 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."
Currently, this new system only works with a special handset, but "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 which is used by about 70% of all mobile phones." Most large mobile companies seem skeptical at the moment, but according to Mr Carlius, mobile phone manufacturer Ericsson had invested around £3m in TerraNet.
Read the full article on BBC News.