OpenBTS, the “free” software-based GSM access point, will again be appearing this year at Burning Man in the Nevada desert. It allows participants to send text messages and make 30-second phone calls to others at the event, using an ordinary cell phone.
Open BTS combines the GSM air interface with low-cost VoIP backhaul to form the basis of a cellular network that can be deployed at low cost, allowing standard GSM-compatible phones to be used as SIP endpoints in Voice over IP (VOIP) networks.
Their Papa Legba encampment is named after a Haitian Vodou, Papa Legba, who is the intermediary between the loa and humanity.
He gives (or denies) permission to speak with the spirits of Guinee, and is believed to speak all human languages.
Commnet Wireless, an alternative commercial solution, is also likely to cover Burning Man with a low cost cellular service.
They will probably operate GSM and CDMA systems in the GSM/CDMA-850 and PCS-1900 cellular bands. On your cellphone, they usually show up as AT&T or Verizon.
Commnet’s coverage footprint includes several Native American reservations and in some cases is the only wireless communications available in these areas.
To avoid confusion between the Open BTS Playa – the only free service – and Commnet’s commercial service, OpenBTS will operate their network in the DCS-1800 band, a band not used for cellular in the US, but widely used everywhere else in the world.
Burning Man is a hot spot for tech titans, says the SF Chronicle. With innovations like OpenBTS, Range Networks, and Commnet, it’s easy to see why.