What would the world look like if cellular networks were open-sourced? That’s the question that the OpenBTS project is attempting to answer by building a GSM base station from open source components like Asterisk. To highlight how the OpenBTS team believes that this technology will be used, this week they’ve set up a pilot with Belgium’s Voxbone to provide mobile text and voice service at the Burning Man Festival, out in the middle of the desert, far from today’s mobile networks.
At Burning Man, mobile users can simply register their phones and begin receiving text messages, and voice calls from people anywhere on the planet via VoxBone’s iNum service and any carrier that supports iNum. Practically speaking, that means if you want to call someone at Burning Man, you’re likely going to do it via a VoIP client on a PC such as GoogleTalk. The recipient, however, will receive the call via their mobile phone in a region where there is actually no mobile service from any commercial carrier. The service is being provided by a mixture of low cost hardware and open source software that the OpenBTS team has set up on site.
Why do this? Naturally it’s a nice showcase for VoxBone’s iNum technology. More to the point, OpenBTS believes that by making inexpensive mobile base stations available built around open source solutions, telephone service can be made affordable even in the remotest parts of the world.
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