What is OpenBTS ?

OpenBTS is a Unix application that uses a software radio to present a GSM air interface to standard 2G GSM handset and uses a SIP softswitch or PBX to connect calls.

OpenbBTS

History of OpenBTS:

The project was started by Harvind Samra and David A. Burgess back in 2008.
The main aim of the project is to reduce the cost of GSM service provision in rural areas and the developing world.
Some Important Points:
The minimum viable network can be as small as a single cell, operated without integration into an existing GSM network.
OpenBTS is an all-software system, including a software-defined radio, provided with full source code and portable to any POSIX environment.
The OpenBTS VoIP-based backhaul is robust against packet loss, allowing it to traverse low-quality IP links reliably.

Hardware Used in OpenBTS:

The main hardware device is Ettus' Universal Software Radio Peripheral (USRP).
The RF RX part of the GSM access point consists of a simple ground plane antenna (triple leg).
An Amplifier.
A duplexer.

Software used in OpenBTS:

Software that is used in OpenBTS is Asterisk VoIP PBX.
OpenBTS uses Asterisk not only for handling VoIP calls, also for user authentication.
Every mobile user has to be registered in the sip.conf with its particular IMSI(International Mobile Subscriber Identity).

OpenBTS Releases:

P2.6 and P2.8 models
In P2.6 the configuration is driven from a text file.
P2.8 is the latest one where the configuration is database driven.

Changes made in P2.8:

In P2.8, configuration is no longer from a text file but from an sqlite3 database at /etc/OpenBTS/OpenBTS.db which is database driven.
Database-driven configuration allows external applications to control critical operating parameters of the OpenBTS system.

Advantages:

No need to purchase a huge BTS equipment. Only some small hardware and one software defined radio equipment is enough to run the BTS.
Cost is 1/10 of traditional BTS installation.
Web based and automated configuration management tools.
Allows many operating parameters to be changed without disrupting the service.

Potential Applications:

Rural/village telephony and text messaging.
Cellular coverage in remote areas (e.g. ships, oil rigs).
Law enforcement and security operations
Rapidly deployable emergency communications.
Network emulation and handset testing.
Wireless local loop service.

4 comments

Mobile and asterisk looks a great combination. Working for a VoIP Service provider that is totally based on VoiP, and another broadband solution provider company that works in collaboration with MSC to terminate mobile calls on IVR platform, I always thought of eliminating the need of MSC to connect to mobile or PSTN using costly analog or digital cards. OpenBTS is in experimental stage but moving at fast pace to make a place in the industry is inexpensive, to some extent alternate, to the propitiatory GSM networks. Perhaps the most common problem when installing openBTS is related to bad path. You can see error like this:


./OpenBTS: error while loading shared libraries: libosip2.so.4: cannot open shared object file: No such file or directory

This problem can be resolved by defining LD_LIBRARY_PATH in .bashrc. There are also other problems depending on the installation but mostly can be solved with little digging and a solution is inevitable.

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