One of the biggest innovations to come out of the UK in 2012 has been the Raspberry Pi – the sub £30, Linux-based, credit-card sized computer. The aim of the Raspberry Pi Foundation is to educate the next generation of software and hardware engineers in programming, but the device has been hacked for many purposes. Not least by telecoms consultancy PA Consulting, which recently crammed a cellular basestation onto the three inch device.
To evaluate what the platform was capable of, wireless experts at the PA Technology Centre got hold of a Raspberry Pi and overcoming some seriously complex obstacles along the way, successfully managed to route voice and SMS traffic through the unit – as well as implement the GSM mobile phone standard.
“We got hold of a Raspberry Pi and decided to evaluate the platform by seeing if we could implement a mobile phone base-station that could run our own private mobile-phone network,” said Alastair Smith, PA Wireless technology expert.
Essentially, the consultancy shrank a 30ft base-station into a three-inch Raspberry Pi and set up its own private mobile phone network.
The operation had to be set up in a screened-room facility to ensure the company didn’t break any laws on spectrum usage, but managed to hook the Raspberry Pi up to a radio interface, alongside a set up using three pieces of software: OpenBTS, which implements the GSM mobile phone standard; FreeSWITCH, which routes calls in a similar way to Skype; and the company’s own Python script that assigns telephone numbers to users.