Colosseum may look like a data center, but in reality, it’s a massive radio-frequency emulation testbed that DARPA built for its Spectrum Collaboration Challenge (SC2). SC2 has been a three-year competition to demonstrate the validity of using artificial intelligences to work together in order to use wireless spectrum more efficiently than operating on pre-allocated bands would be.
Each telescope will point at Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way, and measure every radio wave coming from its direction. Linking together observatories spread across such a huge area and combining their observations to filter out extra light will effectively create a powerful “virtual telescope” almost the size of Earth.
As other telescopes are added to the network in coming decades, observations of the black holes will become even more precise, and should provide fundamental insights into the workings of our universe.
And that network runs on open source. OpenBTS, an all-software cellular transceiver, is at the heart of the network running on that box attached to a treetop. Someday, if those working with the technology have their way, it could do for mobile networks what TCP/IP and open source did for the Internet. The dream is to help mobile break free from the confines of telephone providers’ locked-down spectrum, turning it into a platform for the development of a whole new range of applications that use spectrum “white space” to connect mobile devices of every kind. It could also democratize telecommunications around the world in unexpected ways. Startup Range Networks, the company that developed the open-source software powering the network, has much bigger plans for the technology. It wants to adapt the transceiver to use unlicensed spectrum for small-scale cellular networks all over the world without the need to depend on the generosity of incumbent telecom providers or government regulators.
OpenBTS is a Unix-based software package that connects to a software-defined radio. On the radio side, it uses the GSM air interface used globally by 2G and 2.5G cellular networks, which makes it compatible with most 2G and 3G handsets. On the backend, it uses a Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) “soft-switch” or a software-based private branch exchange (PBX) server to route calls, so it can be integrated with VoIP phone systems.
In his keynote earlier in the day, Phil Meeks, COO and EVP of the Time Warner Cable’s business unit, suggested that small cell deployments could start in late 2014.
802.11ac defines the 5GHz band.
The Wi-Fi traffic jam was predictable, just as it’s predictable that there will be a mobile spectrum crunch, he said. 195 MHz of new spectrum will be opened up, all in the 5 GHz band, which has less interference but shorter ranges than the 2.4 GHz band. Opening up more spectrum has the potential to alleviate Internet-use congestion, particularly at crowded places like public Wi-Fi access points.