26 April 2010

Did Anyone Else Notice That?

There are 4 variants of GSM's A5 stream cipher, the algorithm used to secure subscriber connections over the radio link:

  • A5/0. No encryption at all.
  • A5/1. "Stronger" encryption. This option is supposedly provided only on basestation equipment delivered in North America and Europe.
  • A5/2. Weak encryption, exported to the rest of the world. The GSMA declared A5/2 obsolete in 2006 and mandated that it be phased out in networks and not supported in new handsets. I think.
  • A5/3. True strong encryption, being phased in for UMTS systems and proposed as an upgrade for GSM systems.
My first question for anyone who happens to be reading this: What, specifically, was the GSMA's 2006 mandate regarding A5/2? Can anyone point me to an authoritative document?

My second question is more vexing. Let's assume for a minute that I really do have my facts right. Suppose you are using a post-2006 GSM phone somewhere outside of North America and Europe. The carrier's equipment isn't supposed to support A5/1. Your handset isn't supposed to support A5/2. A5/3 isn't available yet in non-UMTS networks. So what A5 variant are you using?

09 April 2010

Catch a Demo at eComm

The eComm conference starts on April 19 in San Francisco. I'm speaking. Last year was my first year there and it was a great conference for anyone interested in future directions and new thinking in telecommunications. I met a lot of people there who turned out to be very important for the project over the next year, like Tim Panton, who was our initial contact for Niue, or Rob Ullens from Voxbone who helped sponsor our Burning Man 2009 project. I will be in more familiar company this time around, and very much looking forward to it.

I made the first public demo of an OpenBTS node at last year's conference. But that's old news, the speakers' slots are short and I have a lot of new things to talk about. I'm bringing the equipment, so if you are at eComm and want to see an OpenBTS demo, hunt me down and we can arrange something.