OpenBTS: 3G Cellular Data Goes Open Source

Range Networks (Twitter) is simplifying cellular networks using Open Source hardware and software. OpenBTS software is a Linux application that uses a software-defined radio to present a standard 3GPP air interface to user devices.

OpenBTS (Open Base Transceiver Station) allows standard GSM-compatible mobile phones to be used as SIP endpoints in Voice over IP (VOIP) networks. OpenBTS was developed and is maintained by Range Networks. The public release of OpenBTS is notable for being the first free software implementation of the lower three layers of the industry-standard GSM protocol stack.

The aim of the project is to drastically reduce the cost of GSM service provision in rural areas, the developing world, and hard to reach locations such as oil rigs. It’s also used to provide free cellular-like services for events like Burning Man.

OpenBTS announced last month the public release of OpenBTS-UMTS 1.0, providing data capability for 3G networks. The new code is available to the OpenBTS community immediately as a free download.

Industry leading software-defined radio (SDR) suppliers Ettus Research and Nuand make radio hardware that supports OpenBTS-UMTS.

Nuand has a USB 3-powered Software Defined Radio. Out of the box the bladeRF can tune from 300MHz to 3.8GHz without the need for extra boards.

Since 2006, the folks behind OpenBTS have been running the Papa Legba camp at Burning Man have provided fully licensed independent (free) cellular service with help from Geeks Without Bounds and others.

OpenBTS is now part of the GNU Radio project and administered by the Free Software Foundation. The original founders of this project are David A. Burgess and Harvind S. Samra.

GNU Radio can be used with external RF hardware to create software-defined radios, or without hardware in a simulation-like environment.

Keyless car remotes, home alarm systems, traffic alert systems, toll-collection transponders, TV satellites, airliner communications, medical pagers and even space probes can all be disrupted, thanks to software-defined radio, two Australian researchers demonstrated in separate presentations at the BlackHat security conference this month.

See Dailywireless; Free Cellular at Burning Man 2013, Burning Man: Ten Years of Communications Innovation, Range Networks: Open Source Cellular Networks, Burning Man Goes Live, Interactive Arts Festivals

Intel Announces Tiny 3G Modem

Intel just unveiled a tiny 3G data modem about the size of a penny. OEMs often use WiFi or Bluetooth for Internet of Things applications, but the Intel modem should enable direct connections to cellular providers, inexpensively.

The new XMM 6255 delivers connections that don’t have to rely on a phone or hotspot to get online. Intel says it enables connections inside parking garages and other poor signal areas.

The modem has its heritage in the Infineon wireless group Intel acquired in 2010 and supports downlink speeds up to 7.2 Mbits/second. Smart sensors and security systems are expected to be target markets.

Intel will support GPS and WiFi links to the modem, said Will Strauss, president of market watcher Forward Concepts (Tempe, Ariz.). Intel may be the only manufacturer to allow for multiple connectivity configurations on a small footprint, Strauss said.

Beyond LTE: Rysavy Explains Broadband Explosion

A new white paper, Beyond LTE: Enabling the Mobile Broadband Explosion, and its accompanying slide presentation (pdf), was created in collaboration with Rysavy Research and member companies at 4g Americas.

It’s a handy summary of mobile broadband networks, past, present and future. Mobile broadband is becoming one of the most successful and fastest-growing industries of all time.

According to Rysavy, computing itself is transitioning from a PC era to a mobile era. Many users will never interact with a PC.

The wireless industry is addressing exploding data demand through a combination of technologies.

Newer releases of LTE will feature more efficient technology, denser deployments, small cells, HetNets, self-configuration, self-optimization, use of unlicensed spectrum with Wi-Fi, and the LTE operation in unlicensed bands.

Initial LTE deployments have been faster than any wireless technology previously deployed.

LTE Release 12, with completion expected by the end of 2014, will feature improved small cells/HetNets, LTE multi-antenna/site technologies (including Active Antenna Systems), Dual Connectivity, enhancements for interworking with Wi-Fi, support for emergency and public safety, device-to-device communication (also referred to as proximity services), addition of Web Real Time Communication (WebRTC) and more flexible carrier aggregation.

Mobile broadband has become the leading edge in innovation and development for computing, networking, and application development.

The explosive success of mobile broadband mandates ongoing capacity increases. The industry has responded by using more efficient technologies, deploying more cell sites, off-loading onto Wi-Fi, and working with government on spectrum-sharing.

In the U.S., a number of initiatives could improve industry prospects—AWS-3, television incentive auctions for 600 MHz spectrum, the 3.5 GHz small-cell band, more unlicensed spectrum at 5GHz.

Rysavy concludes that obtaining more spectrum remains a critical priority and that LTE/LTE-Advanced will be the most widely chosen technology platform for the remainder of this decade.

2014 LTE Coverage: 30% of World’s Population

The total number of subscribers for LTE and LTE Advanced is expected to grow to nearly 411 million and 22 million, respectively, by year’s end, according to ABI analysts Jake Saunders and Cheri Wong.

About 337 mobile networks worldwide already have deployed LTE with LTE network coverage expected to cover more than 30% of the world’s population by the end of 2014. ABI estimates that nearly 482 million LTE handsets will be shipped in 2014, up by nearly 150 million units from the previous year. It expects that number will grow to 1.34 billion by the end of 2019.

Ericsson’s Mobility Report guesses world-wide mobile subscriptions will reach 9.3 billion by 2019, with more than 60% of these – 5.6 billion – smartphones.

LTE Advanced provides carrier aggregation and heterogeneous network capabilities, where low-power small cells can be coordinated with the macro network.

Smartphone makers shipped 301.5 million devices during the second quarter of 2014, reports IDC. Of those, Android accounted for a commanding 84.7% of the worldwide smartphone market, up from 79.6% a year-ago.

Apple’s iOS platform shipped only 35.2 million of the 301.3 million devices, giving it a share of 11.7%. That’s down from 13% a year-ago. Windows Phone and BlackBerry are barely holding on. Microsoft and Nokia shipped 7.4 million Windows Phones during the second quarter, down from the 8.2 million shipped a year-ago.

MarketsandMarkets forecasts the global Wi-Fi Market to grow from $12.89 billion in 2014 to $26.19 billion by 2019. North America is expected to be the biggest market, while Asia pacific and Latin America are expected to grow quickly. The global outdoor Wi-Fi market revenue is forecasted to reach $37.2 billion in 2018 from $15.41 billion in 2013, at an estimated CAGR of 15.8%.

Amtrak Building Broadband Wireless Network

Amtrak plans to upgrade its WiFI along the Northeast Corridor, according to Railway Age, and has issued a Request for Proposals to implement it.

Amtrak plans to build its wireless network, at first offering Internet speed as fast as 25 Mbps per car, improving to 100 Mbps by 2019, according to the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP). Amtrak plans to start the revamp in the Northeast Corridor, and will be accepting proposals from contractors up until July 28.

High demand, combined with spotty and slow coverage have generated criticism of Amtrak’s WiFi

Unlike most airlines, Amtrak said it would continue to provide free Wi-Fi service. The railroad said that Wi-Fi was available on trains that serve 75 percent of Amtrak passengers, and that it routinely supported 30 percent to 50 percent of passengers on a given train.

Airlines are addressing the WiFi capacity issue by using Ka band High Throughput satellites.

JetBlue is moving to ViaSat’s high-capacity Ka-band system. Branded Exede In The Air, nearly 400 aircraft on JetBlue and other U.S. carriers are expected to have it by the end of 2015. It can also operate on the ground.

The ViaSat Mantarray low-profile antenna works on ViaSat’s Ka-band satellite fleet of ViaSat 1, WildBlue 1 and ANik F2. The Echostar Ka band competition offers similar capabilities with satellite capacity well in excess of 100 Gbps, about 10 times that of previous Ku band satellites.

Amtrak, which already uses some satellite connectivity, is sharing existing cell towers to provide most of its capacity. Now, Amtrak says, it will build a dedicated wireless network just for its trains.

The new network will use base stations near the rail line, connected via fiber or microwave to the nearest Internet connection. With trains traveling up to 160 miles per hour, providing 25 Mbps per car would be a neat trick.

They’ll need frequencies to link to the rail cars. A 20 x 20 LTE channel might deliver 150-300 Mbps (peak). Category 6 LTE supports 300 Mbps. Unlicensed White Spaces or WiFi in the 5 GHz or 3.5 GHz range, won’t deliver the necessary range.

Here’s a suggestion: use FirstNet. Amtrak could be just the ticket for first responders. Passenger trains could provide ubiquitous service and share channels only periodically (while maintaining priority access). Only one city has activated a 700MHz LTE responder network (video).

Union Pacific is the largest of the four remaining transcontinental railways, with BNSF the second largest. Both have extensive fiber layed next to the track. Amtrak mostly leases railway from freight operators. There’s lots of metro fiber, of course.

Related Dailywireless stories include Nomad Digital for Amtrak Nationwide, WiFi on Trains Conference, Amtrak WiFi Going National, How to Create Transit Applications, Realtime Ferry Tracking, Dubai WiMAXes Metro Train

Ericsson Mobility Report 2014

Ericsson expects total mobile subscriptions will grow from 6.8 billion in in the first quarter of 2014 to 9.2 billion by the end of 2019, according to the company’s annual “Mobility Report” (pdf). Mobile broadband subscriptions are predicted to reach 7.6 billion by 2019.

In two years’ time, in 2016, the number of smartphone subscriptions will exceed those for basic phones and by 2019 the number of smartphone subscriptions is expected to reach 5.6 billion, according to Ericsson.

North America is likely to dominate LTE subscriptions through 2019, says Ericsson. Europe will only see LTE subscription penetration of 30 percent compared to 85 percent in North America the same year.

By 2019, China is expected to reach more than 700 million LTE subscriptions, representing more than 25 percent of total global subscriptions for LTE.

North East Asia operators will cover fully 95 percent of the population with LTE by 2019, with LTE subscriber penetration reaching 45 percent by then.

Next year the total number of mobile subscriptions will exceed the world’s population. Mobile subscriptions have grown by 7 percent year-over-year, with 120 million net additions in Q1 alone.

In two years’ time, in 2016, the number of smartphone subscriptions will exceed those for basic phones and by 2019 the number of smartphone subscriptions is expected to reach 5.6 billion.

To accompany the Ericsson Mobility Report, Ericsson has created the Traffic Exploration Tool, for creating customized graphs and tables using data from the report. The information can be filtered by region, subscription, technology, traffic and device type.