A joint research project of University of the Philippines-Diliman (UP-D) and University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) that enables basic calls and text at a fraction of the cost versus traditional commercial cellular networks won in this year’s Information Society Innovation Fund (ISIF Asia) Awards.

The initiative entitled “Village Base Station-Connecting Communities through Mobile Networks” or VBTS-CoCoMoNets bested 236 other entries from 28 countries across Asia to grab the ISIF Asia Awards 2018, a program supporting creative internet solutions to development needs in the Asia Pacific to achieve positive social and economic development.

Residents of Sitio Diotorin in the Aurora province receives access to the VBTS CCN tower
– the community shall be operate and maintain its own tower.
More than 800 residents of Brgy. Dikapinisan received free VBTS sim cards. As of July 2018,
there are more than 1,561 VBTS users across 4 sites.

VBTS-CoCoMoNets’ Project Leader Dr. Cedric Angelo M. Festin from UP College of Engineering’s Department of Computer Science and Project Investigator Dr. Eric A. Brewer from UC Berkeley’s Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences, together with their team, will receive a cash prize amounting to USD3,500 or PhP185,500.
They also bagged a travel grant to the 2018 Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Paris, France on November 12 to 14, 2018. The project will also be featured as part of the Seed Alliance Awards ceremony on November 13, 2018.

The VBTS-CoCoMoNets addresses the lack of mobile phone access by establishing Community Cellular Networks (CCNs) in rural sites in the Philippines. The CCNs is a low-power, low-cost 2G base station that enables users to make basic calls and text in areas that traditional commercial cellular networks cannot reach.

Researchers and students from UP Diliman trains the local fisherfolks of Brgy. Dibut
on how to operate and maintain the VBTS towers
VBTS users may also avail prepaid loads from their own local community retailers 

To date, five remote barangays in the Aurora province namely Brgy. Dikapinisan, Sitio Diotorin, Brgy. Dibayabay, Brgy. Dibut, and Sitio Limbok Sabang, Brgy. Umiray are benefiting from the VBTS-CoCoMoNets. These sites, nestled in the Sierra Madre mountains facing the Pacific Ocean, are home to some members of the indigenous people of the province. Two more CCNs are expected to be established by the end of the year.