A Cambridge, U.K.-based consulting firm has managed to use the open source Raspberry Pi computer to replicate the functions normally performed by a 30-foot GSM cellular basestation to create a fully functional mobile network. Using two open source software programs, and a bit of off-the-shelf hardware kit DIY enthusiasts can get their hands on fairly easily, PA Consulting rolled their own mobile phone service.
The system works by routing calls similar to the way they’d be handled by Skype, thanks to an open source program called FreeSWITCH, which also enables SMS communication and phones on the network to connect to the Internet. All of it had to be built in a radio sealed room, to avoid stepping on any spectrum toes and thereby breaking laws. The whole point of the project was just to prove that it could be done: a 30-foot, extremely expensive piece of vital mobile network infrastructure could be more or less replaced with a 3-inch Raspberry Pi, at least in terms of providing an actual, functioning mobile phone network. That bodes extremely well for the future of low-cost infrastructure, and is in keeping with the Raspberry Pi foundation’s goals of delivering affordable, accessible solutions to previously expensive problems.