Are cellphones a good thing at Burning Man? Many would say no, although if you ask me its unstoppable, so why worry about it. For the last couple of years, there has been cell service on the Playa . Range Networks built the system on open source technology and an experimental private network, and now they have raised millions of dollars.
Fierce Broadband Wireless has a story entitled “Range Networks: Burning Man’s Open Source Cellular Network Touted“. San Francisco, city of touts, of gifters and grifters (and shirt-lifters!):
A round of Series A funding has set Range Networks on a path to extend its commercial open source cellular systems beyond private networks and into the public carrier market, where it hopes to get its technology deployed in rural areas in the United States and in markets worldwide.
The funding was completed in December and was led by a couple social impact funds, which see Range Networks’ technology as key to bridging the digital divide in developing nations, David Burgess, the vendor’s co-founder and CEO, told FierceBroadbandWireless.
Range Networks, which was initially self-funded by its founders, has until now been serving the private network market with very little marketing. Deployments include a cattle ranching cooperative in Patagonia and research base in Antarctica. The company’s customers also include some small network operators in Indonesia and Zambia. Altogether, Range Networks has deployed a couple hundred systems since its founding in 2010.
One of Range Networks’ earliest claims to fame is that its technology has been used to deliver wireless communications network at Nevada’s wild and wooly Burning Man festival. The DCS1800 cellular network that the company built for the Burning Man event in 2011 attracted media and blogger coverage.
Range Networks cellular systems are based on OpenBTS, its open-source software-defined radio implementation of the GSM radio access network that presents normal GSM handsets as virtual SIP endpoints. The software is available to the public for use in experimental networks. “We’re in a situation where more people know about our publicly released software than know about our company, and to some degree that’s been intentional,” said Burgess.
Range Networks is now shifting gears to target the public carrier market, thanks to the funding it recently received. “We also want to start establishing a clear connection between our software product, OpenBTS and our actual company,” said Burgess.
Read more: Range Networks: Burning Man’s open source cellular network touted for commercial rural use – FierceBroadbandWireless http://www.fiercebroadbandwireless.com/story/range-networks-burning-mans-open-source-cellular-network-touted-commercial/2013-03-28#ixzz2PQmtnbJS
Is this another case of exploiting Burning Man for fame and money? Or, since presumably they didn’t actually close the round out there on the Playa, is it a case of “as long as it doesn’t happen at Burning Man, do all the Burner-related commerce you want”?
This post has generated a lot of comments, coming down about 50/50 for and against. Here’s my own position:
Thanks Jessica for outing Range Networks as part of Papa Legba. Something tells me that camp might get Punk’d this year! I personally am on the side of Range, I’ve brought satellite phones out there for years. There’s always someone in the camp who is going to have to leave Burning Man just because they can’t get messages out. In the last couple of years, Android phones have been able to get cell service out on the Playa anyway – Range can’t be blamed for that, so why should they be vilified?
There are also some great apps like BurnerMap that enhance the experience.
The other thing we face is the reality that phones=cameras=video cameras.
I feel strongly that Range SHOULD be able to use Burning Man to raise millions, just as the dude that showed up at Opulent Temple during Carl Cox’s first ever BM set in an ankle-length glowfur coat, should be able to make millions selling Glowfur all year long “as seen at Burning Man”. If you want to fight against things like this, then you have to ban Decompressions, Trunk sales, fund-raisers for camps, and Kickstarter projects. Burning Man needs to stop making rules and banning things on the basis of “Sacred Principles” – which right now Larry Harvey at the BM Global Leadership Conference is talking about replacing anyway – and start embracing the community that makes the party with their creativity and $$$. “A rising tide lifts all boats” – let Burners profit together. There’s no point glorifying “Decommodification” and ruthlessly trying to protect the brand, when the event has now become majorly commodified and mainstream. The more popular it gets, the more ripoff merchants you will get: is the non-profit Burning Man Project going to raise funds from us just to sue the world?
We’re all different, if someone wants a cellphone, what makes you superior to them to say they shouldn’t have it? You have no idea why they need it. Maybe they’re on the medical team trying to save someone’s life. Maybe their kid just got taken to hospital. Maybe their camp ran out of drugs and they need to re-up!
I postulate a new principle: “ACCEPTANCE”. Why can’t we all just get along?