Soon, Your Smartphone Might Not Need a Cellular Network, At All

Soon, you won’t need to pay any monthly phone bills as a major crowdfunding campaign is all geared up to free your smartphones from those ‘tiny little bars’ that take up the top-right of your screen. If the project is a success, we might not need any carriers to make/receive calls, at all.


The Serval Project, whose free software allows smartphones to make and receive calls without any cellular network, is now aiming for a viable approach by developing a router-like-device that could offer cellular-network-like-connectivity to a limited area.

The Serval project, which is a crowdfunded project, aims to raise $300,000 for developing a Mesh Extender that would help the ad-hoc, localized networks to span over larger distances. Apparently, the device would allow smartphones to switch between ad-hoc Wi-Fi networks just as easily as we switch cellular towers. The device has been designed in such a manner that it would allow smartphones to bypass any Wi-Fi restrictions and connect synchronously over a wide-area network.

The idea is to create a mesh network, wherein phones can link up with one another through Wi-Fi, which means that every phone acts as a medium for data transfer. Even if the project does not get a long shot, the idea could be perfect for places where there’s poor infrastructure, or during natural disasters and emergencies.

The bottleneck, however, is that smartphones are not capable of initiating Wi-Fi connections beyond the limit of 100 meters. Hence, for the idea to become tangible, it would require a lot of smartphones with Wi-Fi connections that are placed no farther than 100 meters to setup a network that could span a large distance. That, again, is preposterous and practically impossible.

The Mesh Extender, however, removes this limitation by boosting the limit of both the local Wi-Fi links and links to other Mesh networks by a few kilometers. To achieve that boost up, the Mesh Extender uses a frequency more commonly used by cordless phones and garage door openers. Once the Mesh Extender is turned on, numerous devices can connect to it in a mesh, and these devices can further connect to other meshes through the Mesh Extender.

These devices have been tested in countries like U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Early prototypes of this model have also been tested in confined environments like Australian outback and the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Sources say that once the device is built up, it would be sold online and would be available for testing in various other environments.

The good thing about the whole concept is that users would be able to join these mesh networks without making any hardware modifications to their smartphones. As a matter of fact, you don’t even need to root your phone to install the free app from Serval Project. All you need to buy is a Mesh Extender to create a Wi-Fi network that could allow your organization to experiment with the new setup.

In recent times, almost every smartphone supports Wi-Fi connectivity. People stick to cellular networks just because they want to make and receive calls. Rest of the time, they’re just using their Wi-Fi/ Mobile Internet connection. If we can create numerous Wi-Fi spots that offer seamless network connectivity, we foresee a time when the cellular network would become frivolous. If we can make/receive calls, check our mail and send messages through Wi-Fi, what would be the point of having cellular networks, at all?

However, whether this idea could be adapted on a larger scale still remains a question. A lot of factors, including cost, maintenance, security, privacy and integrity would come into picture. Nevertheless, it’s a start of a mobile revolution.

What do you think about the idea? Can it go BIG? Would you want your school, club or organization to have such a device so that you can make as well as receive calls for FREE?