[Community] OsmocomBB

Sebastian Krzyszkowiak dos at dosowisko.net
Tue Mar 25 15:33:22 CET 2014

On Tue, Mar 25, 2014 at 2:35 PM, Ryan de Laplante (personal)
<ryan at ryandelaplante.com> wrote:
> I'm not sure if this is useful or even legally allowed to be used on the
> Neo900 project, but I thought I'd share the link with the community:
>> OsmocomBB is an Free Software / Open Source GSM Baseband software
>> implementation. It intends to completely replace the need for a
>> proprietary GSM baseband software, such as
>> * drivers for the GSM analog and digital baseband (integrated and
>>   external) peripherals
>> * the GSM phone-side protocol stack, from layer 1 up to layer 3
>> In short: By using OsmocomBB on a compatible phone, you are able to
>> make and receive phone calls, send and receive SMS, etc. based on
>> Free Software only.
> http://bb.osmocom.org/trac/
> Here is a related article about how Ubuntu phone will use closed
> proprietary baseband firmware:
> http://www.networkworld.com/community/blog/ubuntu-phone-isnt-important-enough-demand-open-source-baseband
> Ryan

Thanks. However - this is no news for us. OsmocomBB is pretty closely
related to Openmoko community, as it works on TI Calypso modem
included in Openmoko Neo1973 and Neo Freerunner phones and it's a
project run by Harald Welte, who was part of the original Openmoko
team and even after stepping back from there he did lots of great work
for the community. I guess that everyone working on OpenPhoenux
projects like GTA04 or Neo900 are well-aware of OsmocomBB practically
since it's inception.

Keep in mind that while OsmocomBB exists, it can be used only on TI
Calypso, which doesn't support anything more than basic GPRS (not even
EDGE), so you're stuck with connection speed barely exceeding speed
achieved by standard 56 kbit/s modem. It's 2014 - it's already hard to
convince enough people to value their freedom more than hot, shiny new
octocore CPU the Neo900 will surely lack and I don't think limiting
its modem to plain GPRS would do any good for the project (in fact, if
you're willing to accept such limitation, the Neo Freerunner should be
a perfect fit for you and it's still available from various
distributors; the sell offers, sometimes very attractive, also pop up
on the mailing lists from time to time). Also, using baseband software
like OsmocomBB on your phone is illegal in most jurisdictions on the
world unless you only connect to your own BTS-lab for which you must
get permission from the government to operate.

The only other choice to have open baseband I'm aware of is a project
that... also relies on TI Calypso and it's using unlicensed software
from TI originating from various leaks. It's obviously illegal, even
for use with your own lab-network, but the person behind it doesn't
care. The main goal of that project is to create TI Calypso based,
100%-free feature phone, without any big APE like in smartphones. You
can find it on some Openmoko related mailing lists.

You may want to read my "rant" from yesterday that Joerg copied to the
forum from our IRC channel, inspired by mentioned Richard Tynan's


Note the addition at the end from Joerg. Having open baseband is
highly desirable from ideological point of view, but totally not worth
it from technological one. You have to fight lots of legal and
economical obstacles in order to get almost nothing at the end.

People should end shouting about open basebands and point out the
constantly progressing integration of the modem with main RAM on the
modern smartphones instead. This, combined with closed baseband, is a
real threat to our freedom, not the closed baseband alone. When it's
properly separated and monitored, like it will be on Neo900, it
becomes a non-issue. Which is lucky, cause otherwise we wouldn't be
able to do anything with it - the development of free, modern baseband
is far out of our reach.

Sebastian Krzyszkowiak, dos

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