We cleaned out and returned the truck today, marking the end of our 11-day site test in Black Rock City, Nevada, site of the Burning Man festival. Like every other project in BRC, we had our ups and downs, but the trip was a success in the sense that we learned an awful lot about operating a full-range cell site under continuous load from thousands of handsets.
There were a lot of successes. We were happy with the hardware performance and packaging. We rigged a 70' tower in high winds with no injuries. Operating range matched our predictions. We discovered and fixed several bugs under conditions that would have been hard to simulate in a lab. Backhaul integration worked, both for +1 NANP and +883 iNum.
There were also problems. We had problems with Asterisk configuration and performance. We lost IP connectivity a few times every day. The presence of the Commnet Wireless GSM network complicated our operations in unexpected ways. Test users did not follow even the simplest of instructions. We will better understand what really happened as we sort through the hundreds of megabytes of logs in the flash drives of the BTS units and the CDRs and logs of Asterisk and our SMS sever.
There were delights, too. We had visits from a lot of well-wishers and supporters, many of whom volunteered their efforts and brought us gifts. We had good neighbors (the "popcorn guys") and shared dinner with them on a few nights. And we had a lot of fun, both in the hacking sessions and out on the playa. (Alon even chipped a tooth fighting in Thunderdome at the Goth camp, part of the complete Burning Man experience.)
We'll write this all up over the next few days as we sort through the data, but I'll close with some photos of our BRC neighborhood (4:30 & H) under the full moon, me and Alon in our network "ops center" (three laptops and a couple of PAP2 phones in a tent) and us standing around looking concerned while Pavel climbs the tower to strip it: