Sunday, 30 May 2010

Build your own cellular network

In some countries the existing cellular network providers just aren't reliable. Either the whole network mysteriously fails when you need it most, or you're just not in a position to trust the network providers not to pass on lists of your calls (or even full recordings) to government agencies, phoney lawyers or rival companies. If you value privacy or you are interested in a robust and independent cellular network you might consider building your own.

Looks simple enough, right?
The good thing is - you can do this with some straight-forward commodity computer parts. If you're wanting to provide a (free?) cellular network for your neighbourhood, because of a sudden loss of network connectivity or because you've got a special event happening, you can do that. Want to make sure nobody is snooping on your SMS messages or calls? Route your calls through you own cellular provider!

OpenBTS is an open source Unix application that helps you build a low-cost, flexible cellular network. Field-tested networks have been built with a 10-mile radius for connectivity. That'd be enough to cover... say... downtown Tehran, or Shiraz, or Tabriz. Link up a few of these, making sure they're high enough up and you've got your own city-wide cellular network, capable of routing calls all over the world.

You can buy the kits online. Or, you could follow some instructions and put together your own. The only downside to this is that you'll need an internet connection to plug your cellular network into (which can be a drawback if your country's internet connections are as unreliable as SMS/mobile).

Here are some links to get your started:

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