MFA2010 Maker Steve Song on VillageTelco

Steve Song is founder of VillageTelco, based in South Africa and he is one of the makers at Makers Faire 2010.

A village telco is a community telephone network. It is based on a suite of open source applications that enable entrepreneurs to set up and operate a telephone service in a specific area or supporting the needs of a specific community [1]. ┬áThe first village telco has been established by Dabba at Orange Farm, a township near Johannesburg, South Africa. Users can make free local calls to other Dabba subscribers, as well as use pay-as-you-go vouchers to make calls to ‘phones on other networks [2].

Technically, a village telco consists of:

  • a mesh network made up of Wi-Fi mini-routers combined with an analogue telephone adaptor (aka ‘Mesh Potato’)
  • SIP phones
  • a pay-as-you-go billing and management system
  • a SIP/VOIP server
  • least cost routing equipment

Together, the components comprise an easy-to-use, standards-based, wireless, local, do-it-yourself, telephone company toolkit. The goal of a village telco is to make local telephony in developing countries inexpensive enough that it is virtually free. This has become possible, thanks to advances in open source telephony software and the dramatic decrease in the cost of wireless broadband technology.

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