Rural coverage has always been a headache for cellcos, and existing network solutions are expensive (although they're getting cheaper all the time).
Researchers in Australia are proposing to tackle rural coverage in a different way: by turning the cell phones themselves into base stations.
Led by Flinders University's Paul Gardner-Stephen, the Serval Project aims to load handsets with open-source software called Distributed Numbering Architecture (DNA) that essentially turns the phones into Wi-Fi routers in a mesh network.
That network would also include mesh gear from a company called Village Telco that would act as relays for wider coverage across rural areas, according to Cnet.
The DNA software also allows people to send and receive Wi-Fi voice calls using their existing phone numbers.
Gardner-Stephen hopes to have the network operational within 18 months, Cnet reports - once he gets financial support for the project.