24 August 2010

Taking it on the Road

So my garage is full of groceries and in front of Harvind's house there's a 16' moving van loaded up with oversized tents, radio tower segments and jugs of water. It must be time for Burning Man.

So what's new with OpenBTS at Burning Man this year?

First, we are moving into multi-ARFCN systems. Last year, we ran a 3-sector system with 1 ARFCN per sector. This year, we will run two sectors with 3 ARFCNs per sector. So with 33% less equipment and about half as much power, we will double our capacity.

Second, we are using new hardware packaging. This will be our first real-world deployment of our second generation radio. In bench testing so far, this new radio is giving considerably better performance than the old USRP + RFX hardware, and at considerably smaller size, power consumption and cost. The BTS packaging is also more compact than 2009, using a 4U rack-mount chassis similar to the one used in Niue, placed in a weatherproof travel rack recycled from thePfarrkirchen workshop. And we are running a 90' tower instead of a 70' tower, using LMR-600 instead of LMR-400. Those changes should give an effective improvement of about 3 dB in overall performance.

(Harvind running one of the BTS units though its paces with the CMD-57.)

Third, we are hoping to have the air to ourselves. We know that Commnet will not be running a portable site from Frog Pond again. We have heard that they have a fulltime site in Gerlach, but hopeful that the coverage and capacity of that site will be too small to cause a lot of the complications we experienced last year. Here's to hoping. We'll see what happens when we get there.

Fourth, we will actually and deliberately route calls to the outside world. We have not done that before but it will probably make the system a lot more useful. We will, however, time-limit calls to prevent abuses. We will not be routing inbound calls, which will do a lot to preserve the social nature of the event.

We hit the road tomorrow and arrive on the playa at 4:30 & G on Thursday morning. Drop by for a visit if you are in the neighborhood. Just look for the tower.

A First Taste of Peru

I recently returned from the Latin American Workshop on Wireless Networks for Rural Areas in Ica, Peru. Due to a very tight travel schedule this month, I spent more time on airplanes and buses than at the actual workshop, but I am very glad I went. The workshop brought together researchers, regulators and carriers to discuss current barriers to rural telecommunications service and review the activities of some exciting projects, especially in Peru and Brazil.

My stay in Peru was short but enjoyable and the workshop organizers demonstrated remarkable hospitality. My first impression is that Peru is a fascinating land, inhabited by hard-working people who are rightfully proud of their heritage. I hope to visit again.

03 August 2010

Dieter Spaar Goes Public

Dieter Spaar has started a blog. For those who don't know about Hr Spaar, he is a consulting engineer in Germany and a serious contributor to the OpenBSC and OsmocomBB projects. Using tools from those projects, along with some of his private work, Dieter sometimes does very useful experiments that reveal security shortcomings in cellular handsets and network equipment. Dieter is a modest, quiet man and sometimes other people go out and grandstand and get a lot of attention showing off his work. I am glad to see him speaking up.

01 August 2010

The Man Burns in 35 Days

It's that time of year again and preparations are under way for Burning Man 2010. The enclosures are at the machine shop, groceries are stacking up in the garage and we have our early arrival passes. We are posting the official public information here and I'm sure I will have more to say as the project develops.