Left out by telecom firms like the one owned by billionaire Carlos Slim,
a remote Mexican mountain village now runs its own mobile phone network
to communicate with the outside world.
Tucked away in a lush forest
in the southern state of Oaxaca, the indigenous village of Villa Talea
de Castro, population 2,500, was not seen as a profitable market for
companies such as Slim's America Movil.
So the village, under an
initiative launched by indigenous groups, civil organizations and
universities, put up a perch-like antenna on a rooftop, installed radio
and computer equipment, and created its own micro provider called Red
Celular de Talea (RCT) this year.
Now, restaurant manager Ramiro
Perez can call his children and receive food orders on his cellphone at a
cheap price in this village dotted by small homes painted in pink and
The local service costs 15 pesos ($1.2) per month 13 times
cheaper than a big firm's basic plan in Mexico City while calls to the
United States, where many of the indigenous Zapoteco resident have
migrated, charge a few pennies per minute.
"I have two children
who live outside the village and I communicate with them at least two or
three times per week," Perez, 60, told AFP.
Before, Perez had to use telephone booths where he paid up to 10 pesos ($0.75) per minute.
coffee-producing village installed the network with the help of
Rhizomatica, a non-profit with US, European and Mexican experts who aim
to increase access to mobile telecommunications in communities that lack
In a statement, Rhizomatica, a civil group
named Redes and a town official said they hoped that a telecom reform
pushed through Congress by President Enrique Pena Nieto to open the
market will "break the obstacles" that prevent the development of such
"Many indigenous communities have shown
interest in participating in this project and we hope that many more can
join this scheme," the statement said.
The equipment used in
Talea, which was provided by California-based Range Networks, includes a
900mhz radio network and computer software that routes calls, registers
numbers and handles billing. Calls to the United States are channeled
via a voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) provider.
The village received a two-year-permit from the Federal Communications Commission to have the right to test the equipment.
a cellphone user arrives in the village, a text message automatically
appears saying: "Welcome to the Talea Cellular Network (RTC) to
register, go to the radio with this message."
There is one catch: phone calls must be limited to a maximum of five minutes to avoid a saturation of lines.
Hernandez, a village resident and one of the volunteers who helped set
up the system, said the network uses the radio-electric spectrum that
"telephone (service) providers refuse to use because it is financially
Slim's Telcel is part of his America Movil empire,
which controls 70 percent of Mexico's mobile phone market and has 262
million subscribers across Latin America but never made it to Talea.
Lopez, a senior town hall official, said the village had approached big
telecom firms but that they had required 10,000 potential users as well
as the construction of a path where an antenna would be erected and a
lengthy power line.
"Despite some technical problems, because we
are in a test period, the project has been a success" with 600 villagers
signing up since the service opened three months ago, Lopez said.
by the system's success, the village has decided to buy its own
equipment that will allow RCT to run 35 lines simultaneously and plans
to install in the coming weeks.
The next step, RCT volunteer
Hernandez said, is to form cooperatives with other indigenous villages
to request concessions from the Mexican government in order to resolve
"this lack of free frequencies for cellphone communications in the
country's rural communities."