66% or better

A GSM Base Station With Software Defined Radio

gsmIf you’re wondering how to get a better signal on your cellphone, or just want to set up your own private cell network, this one is for you. It’s a GSM base station made with a BeagleBone Black and a not too expensive software defined radio board.

The key component of this build is obviously the software defined radio. [Julian] is using a USRP B200 radio for this project. It’s not cheap, but it is a very nice piece of hardware capable of doing just about anything with GNU Radio. This board is controlled by a BeagleBone Black, a pretty cheap solution that puts the total cost of the hardware somewhere around $750.

The software side of the build is mostly handled by OpenBTS, the open source project for the software part of a cell station. This controls the transceiver, makes calls and SMS, and all the backend stuff every other cell station does. OpenBTS also includes support for Asterisk, the software of choice for PBX and VoIP setups. Running this allows you to make calls and send texts with your SDR-equipped, Internet-enabled BeagleBone Black anywhere on the planet.


  1. Tom says:

    Have fun trying to get a spectrum licence for this.

  2. Miff says:

    This can’t be legal.

  3. Truth says:

    Am I the only one thinking how much the price of a IMSI-catcher has dropped. Like 20 years ago it would have been a large 7 figure sum.

  4. zibri says:

    Well done! Now make it under $100 and the games are on!

    • Truth says:

      Watch “Wideband GSM Sniffing [27C3]” and pick up a few debugging devices for GSM (about 19 mins in, but you should watch the whole video). It really does depend on what your “games” is, as to exactly what hardware you use.

  5. Is HackRF capable of doing the same thing?

  6. BattalionX says:

    Still to expensive… but it seems promising for doing funny stuff… http://www.slideshare.net/iazza/dcm-final-23052013fullycensored

  7. Air-runner says:

    Spelling out acronyms the first time they’re used prevents readers from having to go to another website to look them up. GSM – Global System for Mobile Communications

  8. Sparky says:

    Definitely worthy of HaD. Amazing.

  9. awasson says:

    Awesome! Now this caught my attention as something to follow. It’s probably one of the most innovative and thought provoking articles I’ve read on HAD in ages.

  10. waki says:

    i want the AMPS version of this.

  11. Bradley Whetstone says:

    The USRP B200 is way too expensive for what it is, I spent half as much getting OpenBTS running on a RaspberryPi with a bladeRF.

    • JimJones says:

      The B200 is $25 more expensive than the comparable bladeRF, has a much better front-end, a far larger user community, and a highly respected company behind it.

  12. sclaggett says:

    Two questions, perhaps naive:

    1. If this setup and a cellular device were operated in a shielded environment, would it prevent the system from interfering with cell phones outside the shielded environment?

    2. Assuming proper shielding, would operating the setup without an FCC license still be illegal in the US?

  13. Brian says:

    That is pretty cool!

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