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A networking researcher interested in the challenges of infrastructure at the end of the tail of connectivity


While only generating a minuscule percentage of global traffic, largely lost in the noise of large-scale analyses, remote rural networks are the physical frontier of the Internet today. Through tight integration with a local operator’s infrastructure, we gather a unique dataset to characterize and report a year of interaction between finances, utilization, and performance of a novel, remote, data-only Community LTE Network in Bokondini, Indonesia. With visibility to drill down to individual users, we find use highly unbalanced and the network supported by only a handful of relatively heavy consumers. 45% of users are offline more days than online, and the median user consumes only 77 MB per day online and 36 MB per day on average, limiting consumption by frequently “topping up” in small amounts. Outside video and social media, messaging and IP calling provided by over-the-top services like Facebook Messenger, QQ, and WhatsApp comprise a relatively large percentage of traffic consistently across both heavy and light users. Our analysis shows that Internet-only Community Cellular Networks can be profitable despite most users spending less than $1 USD/day, and offers insights into the unique properties of these networks.


Matthew Johnson, Jenny Liang, Michelle X. Lin, Sudheesh Singanamalla, and Kurtis Heimerl. 2021. Whale Watching in Inland Indonesia: Analyzing a Small, Remote, Internet-Based Community Cellular Network. In Proceedings of the Web Conference 2021 (WWW ’21), April 19–23, 2021, Ljubljana, Slovenia. ACM, New York, NY, USA, 12 pages.

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Currently a grad student at the University of Washington in the ICTD Lab...