Building Your Own GSM Network: A Demonstration of the Village Base Station Project

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Jul 15, 2011 recently had the opportunity to test an off-the-grid GSM base station. Kurtis Heimerl presented The Village Base Station (VBTS), (link is a PDF) a low-power means of providing mobile network service without grid power or network infrastructure.

Below, Heimerl demonstrates the basic workings of a GSM networks and OpenBTS, an open-source platform that allows one to set up a cellular network at a fraction of the cost of a GSM network. Heimerl shows how phones find their base towers and settle on a frequency, and how OpenBTS condenses that process into a lower-powered, cheaper network.

The Village Base Station is built around voice and low-bandwidth data transmissions. It is an economical solution for rural residents who are outside of typical network coverage or power access, or for people living in situations where network outages occur. In a white paper presenting the VBTS, Heimerl and co-author Eric Brewer describe the project as, "essentially an outdoor PC with a software-defined radio that implements a low-power low-capacity GSM base station. Long-distance WiFi provides 'backhaul' into the carrier." Below are images of elements of the Village Base Station and screenshots from our 'hackday' in a large American city when we demo'ed VBTS with Heimerl. (Warning: If you try this at home, be aware of your local regulator's potential licensing and other restrictions for setting up such network/connecting to it)

Base Station

SMS Uprising:Mobile Phone Activism in Africa

Posted by VivianOnano on Jun 27, 2011
SMS Uprising:Mobile Phone Activism in Africa data sheet 1550 Views
Ekine,Sokari, Nathan Eagle, Christian Kreutz, Ken Banks, Tanya Notley, Becky Faith, Redante Asuncion-Reed, Anil Naidoo, Amanda Atwood, Berna Ngolobe, Christiana Charles-Iyoha Joshua Goldstein, Juliana Rotich, Bukeni Waruzi.
ISSN/ISBN Number: 
Publication Date: 
Jan 2010
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

This compendium of articles (available at a cost) attempts to critically investigate the use and utility of mobile phones in Africa. Contributors include Nathan Eagle who writes about ‘Economics and power within the African telecommunication industry’,  Amanda Atwood’s report on Kubatana’s experiences in Zimbabwe setting up mobiles as a means of sharing news outside of government propaganda, to Bukeni Waruzi’s essay on collecting data on children’s rights violations in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2004.  SMS Uprising is published by Fahamu, a British-based organization with a focus on information services for Africa. For a critique of the book see our aticle here.


Towards End-to-End Security in Branchless Banking

Posted by MarkWeingarten on Feb 22, 2011
Towards End-to-End Security in Branchless Banking data sheet 1551 Views
Panjwani, Saurabh
Publication Date: 
Feb 2011
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

Mobile-based branchless banking has become one of the key mechanisms for extending financial services to disenfranchised populations in the world's developing regions. One shortcoming of today's branchless banking systems is that they rely largely on network-layer services for securing transactions and do not implement any application-layer security. Recent attacks on some of the most popular branchless banking systems show that these systems are not end-to-end secure.

In this paper, we make the case for designing mobile-based branchless banking systems which build security into the application layer of the protocol and guarantee end-to-end security to system users. Our main contribution is a threat model which effectively captures the goals of end-to-end authenticated transactions in branchless banking. This model, besides incorporating the obvious external threats to a protocol, also accounts for the possibility of insider attacks - those mountable by banking agents or other human intermediaries in the system. We then provide recommendations for solution design based on the security requirements of our model and the infrastructural constraints under which branchless banking systems operate.

The Mobile Minute: How U.S. Adults Use Mobiles, Social Networking Via SMS in Nigeria, and a Dual GSM/CDMA Mobile

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Sep 10, 2010

Today's Mobile Minute brings you coverage on using SMS to access social networks in Nigeria, Organizing for America's new iPhone app that aids political canvassers, HTC's development of a dual GSM and CDMA phone, a pilot project that uses SMS to send information to pregnant women in Peru, and a Pew Research Center report on U.S. adults' mobile phone usage habits.

GSM in a laptop: The next big thing?

Posted by kiwanja on May 08, 2006

I've just been reading about Vodafone's new plans to build 3G capability into laptops:

"Vodafone has partnered with world leading notebook manufacturers to make Built-in 3G broadband available to you in a notebook to suit your needs. 3G broadband is an evolution of 3G that delivers a true mobile broadband experience and by integrating it into notebooks it requires nothing to be installed or set up"

This 'new' move towards integrating mobile services into laptops and notebooks themselves could set a new trend (I don't know if Vodafone are the first).

Up until now at the very least the user has needed to install a GSM PCMCIA card or set up a Bluetooth/IR connection to a handset, or connect via a USB/serial cable. If mobile comms becomes a mainstream feature of new laptops (if 3G is available then it goes without saying that an additional bit of software would be able to control SMS) then a whole new world of opportunity could open up. Applications like FrontlineSMS wouldn't seem quite so crazy if that were the case.