Facebook detailed work on a prototype base station capable of covering a larger area than traditional macro sites, pitching it as a cost effective way to boost rural access.

In a blog, Facebook communications systems lead Abhishek Tiwari said SuperCell is designed to be mounted on towers up to 250 metres high and uses high-gain, narrow-sector antennas to increase “mobile data coverage range and capacity”.

Testing showed a single SuperCell can provide mobile data to an area up to 65-times larger than a traditional rural macro base station mounted on a 30-metre tower in the same environment. In trials, the system delivered two-way voice and video call traffic to a range of 38km, with data rates of up to 7.8Mb/s in the downlink and 1.2Mb/s up over 40km.

Facebook estimated each SuperCell could replace 15 to 25 traditional macrocells or “hundreds” of small cells, providing coverage to the same number of people with a 33 per cent lower total cost of ownership.

While the company doesn’t believe “there’s a silver bullet for connecting the world”, Tiwari said the system could make a substantial impact in certain rural areas, particularly sub-Saharan Africa.

He added tech giant isn’t planning to manufacture the SuperCell itself, instead hoping its trials will “provide a playbook for the telecom industry to bring the technology to market and help expand mobile coverage in rural areas in a way that is sustainable and cost-effective”.