Low cost open GSM base station for developing countries
Published: 24 Aug 2009
What did you do during your summer holidays? I was building my own GSM network!
I have been waiting almost 20 years to make this phone call!. Back in the 90's when I started my engineering studies and discovered GNU/Linux, dreamed with a system that could do what I have right now on my table :). The first attempt was in 2001 when I was completing my PhD at KTH in Sweden. During those years a group of researchers in the Laboratory started to explore the possibility of replacing as much of the GSM architecture (BSC, MSC) for open source software. Although we had a commercial GSM container with plenty of noisy equipment, the project got stuck trying to find documentation for the GSM internal interfaces.
In December 2008, I attended a conference about Mobile Service in Developing Regions. I was very surprised not to see anyone addressing the need of opening the GSM infrastructure (hardware and software). Christmas period was a good time for new projects so I decided to get in touch with the openbts project and try to build their base station. Assembling all the necessary hardware took a bit of time! David Burguess from openbts has been really helpful with hardware purchases!.
Yes! It does work, and that first phone call felt like a different one :D. The base station uses a piece of hardware known as USRP. The USRP is a radio communication system where components that have typically been implemented in hardware are now implemented using software in a PC.
We are looking for sponsors for a deployment in a developing region! Interested? Drop us a line!