Burning Man’s open source Cellular network lights up: OpenBTS

Burning Man image courtesy of tnkgrl

“We make GSM look like a wireless access point. We make it that simple,” describes one of the project’s three founders, Glenn Edens. A pretty harrowing statement considering the millions invested in networks by the big U.S. carriers.  The technology starts with the “they-said-it-couldn’t-be-done” open source software, OpenBTS. OpenBTS is built on Linux and distributed via the AGPLv3 license. When used with a software-defined radio such as the Universal Software Radio Peripheral (USRP), it presents a GSM air interface (“Um”) to any standard GSM cell phone, with no modification whatsoever required of the phone. It uses open source Asterisk VoIP software as the PBX to connect calls, though it can be used with other soft switches, too. The project in essence is a solar/wind powered, Linux/VoIP based cell phone network, that works with any GSM phone and costs pennies on the dollar to install and operate. And it’s being tested right now at Burning Man. The potential of OpenBTS is a clear winner. The system is only “as big as a shoebox,” Edens says, and requires a mere 50 watts of power “instead of a couple of thousand” so it is easily supported by solar or wind power, or batteries. It performs as well as any other GSM base station which has a maximum range of 35 kilometers and a typical range of 20 kilometers, depending on geography, antennae height, etc.

[via NetworkWorld and more information on the project here and here]

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About Tony P
Connoisseur of all that is Mobile Tech.

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