back to article Vodafone tests waters with 5G Raspberry Pi base station

Vodafone will lift the covers off a prototype 5G base station built on a Raspberry Pi at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in a bid to showcase how small businesses could run their own private 5G network. The telecoms biz says it wants to make 5G-based mobile private networks more accessible to the 22 million small-and-medium-sized …

  1. Silverburn

    Run my private 5G network on technology which has been at "hens teeth" rarity for almost 2 years now? Yeah, solid plan.

    1. TimMaher Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: “Hens teeth”

      One of our neighbours keeps hens.

      I was thinking of sneaking into their coop to see if there were any RPis hanging about.

  2. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    I think this is a solution in search of a problem.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      I don't get why they did not simply produce a femtocell as the mark 1 device as this would at least prove the base platform and provide a 5G device for a known market niche.

      1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

        Maybe the integration to the macro network is an order of magnitude harder?

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          So 5G femtocell macro network integration is an order of magnitude harder than 4G/LTE femtocell macro network integration?

          I would like to see some in-depth technical explanation if this is the case. But if it is the case, it's a good thing LTE femtocell didn't take off and replace WiFi.

          1. david 12 Silver badge

            So 5G femtocell macro network integration is an order of magnitude harder

            Apparently the 5G network uses a distributed management system rather than an exchange-antenna system, so perhaps it is an order of magnitude harder.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        If they develop the device they'll be responsible for production, QA/QC, sales, maintenance and support for something that will bring at best marginal return.

        By pretending to be "open" about it they make it your problem, including but not limited to the likely presence of Stingray (IMSI catcher) imitations for intercept.

        "Nothing to do with us, we just sell you minutes".

        Yes, I think they are that cynical.

      3. John Sager

        Voda scrapped their femtocell service (Sure Signal) over a year ago, which has caused us no end of trouble, as WiFi Calling is no real substitute - restricted phone selection, no SMS in many cases, etc. There must be plenty of small areas of no cell coverage, like ours, to justify a femtocell service offering, but the networks are no longer interested.

        They had to scrap the 3G service because of rule changes but why not upgrade to LTE?

        1. JimboSmith Silver badge

          Have you considered a cel-fi? Not cheap but might be a potential solution.

    2. Stuart Castle Silver badge

      Agreed, to some extent. As far as I am aware, most devices that have 5G also have Wifi, and can perform most functions on both (including calling). There may be some IoT devices that require 5G, although that is a niche market.

  3. wavemobile

    5G Click Bait...

    Working with a small team that's designed a 5G NR PHY and stack from scratch (as well as LTE, and UMTS before that), and knowing what's involved to make something tangibly useful, I suspect this is click bait or creative reporting at best.

    1. wavemobile

      Re: 5G Click Bait...

      ...a little update. I actually saw this at MWC and as much as I wanted to be a cynic it really does work. The throughput is limited and I can't see it working with many connected devices, but it was possible to browse the internet on a phone connected to it, and thanks to my test phone I can confirm that it really was 5G Standalone.

  4. Flak
    Coat

    It will not be for handsets anyway (they want / need to roam in almost all cases)

    ... or for mission critical applications (until deployable on HA RPI)

    ... or for large sites with several cells

    ... or for hardware a business really needs (not much to be had yet except for handsets)

    ... or for a sufficient volume of devices that it justifies 5G rather than, say, Wifi 6

    ... or for anyone who 'just wants plug & play' technology.

    The Venn diagram shows an overlap the size of a microdot with a few 5G enthusiasts in it...

    Well, it is a nice thought experiment and a nice lab test. Would still be keen to see the achieved outcomes out of pure curiosity.

    And after that comes the question of economic reality, but that is for another day...

  5. HereAndGone

    IMSI Catcher or Stingray on a Budget

    This would effectively be a cheap IMSI Catcher or Stingray (see: https://www.eff.org/pages/cell-site-simulatorsimsi-catchers)

    I like it! What could possibly go wrong?

    1. Korev Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: IMSI Catcher or Stingray on a Budget

      Have you seen who's outside? -->

  6. moonhaus

    But Wi?

    So to run this base you'll presumably need an existing internet connection. The same connection that will already have Wifi at the same or faster than 5G speeds. Vodafone already have a Wifi calling service so this can only be for data.

    Slowing a device down and wasting electricity in this instance by adding an expensive and complex extra 5G layer makes no sense, but then this is the same Vodafone that has no call divert or conference calling on their prepay mobile service. The only logical thing it can achieve is to allow them to bill you for using your existing internet connection, though accurate billing is something Vodafone already struggle with.

    If I was Vodafone looking for ways to expand the business, I'd do something radical like fix my billing platform and start running an actual phone service, rather than promote nonsense.

    1. bazza Silver badge

      Re: But Wi?

      5G uses licensed spectrum and so has higher power limits than WiFi. That results in greater range which, for some use cases, is useful.

      Eg why provision an expensive collection of WFi kit throughout a hotel, when you can plonk down a single 5G base station and direct guests to that for a free connection?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Subverting BTs future plans?

    The way I see this is that in the UK, BT are dropping the old analogue method of connecting analogue phones to the public telephone network....and in time FTTP might be extended to more residences. However, trying to do this to villages with small populations is not cost effective (so OpenReach claim). So, those premises might still need FTTC, and then there's the issue of the "last mile" quality.

    Step in Vodafone with a fag-packet sized 5G access point, using off the shelf components, some open source software and a SIM card using the Voda mobile network.

    Given that "data" charges now make up the majority of moat peoples mobile phone bills (as many have unlimited calls and txt services now) and this looks like a way for Voda to capitalise on their 5G network investment and they can then provide fast broadband to anyone near a 5G tower, and hence put a dent in BTs (and EEs) income.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Subverting BTs future plans?

      > as many have unlimited calls and txt services now

      Necessary with 4G…

      According to the network engineers at EE there is a flaw in the 4G network so that it is possible for phones to disconnect from a call and for the centre not to get the message. I learnt this after several times blowing my then limited call budget due to calls not being correctly registered as being terminated…

  8. Bartholomew
    Meh

    well not really

    > circuit board developed by Lime Microsystems

    Technically the original XTRX board was developed by Fairwaves and not Lime Microsystems. The Fairwaves XTRX miniPCIe (From 2017 which is based around the Lime Microsystems LMS7002M 2x2 MIMO chip) is in the process of transitioning to be a member of the LimeSDR family of products. So I am guessing that Lime Microsystems reached out to Fairwaves to make a deal for their finished product, that they were no longer selling, or vice versa.

  9. Jess--

    Surely anyone trying to set up a private 5g network is going to run into a major problem of not having a license to operate it?

    Voda (or any other operator) selling femtocells that interlink with their network would get through because the equipment would be operating under their license but fred bloggs setting up their own network using raspberries and off the shelf radio modules are going to end up operating on frequencies that are already licensed to other people (and those people paid very heavily for those licenses)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "...but fred bloggs setting up their own network using raspberries and off the shelf radio modules are going to end up operating on frequencies that are already licensed to other people"

      True to some degree...but I would suggest that such "fred bloggs" 5G networks would be of very low power and hence unlikely to cause much disruption to higher-powered licensed operators.

      [url]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/5G#Technology[/url]

      Plus I assume that any "fred bloggs" networks would not be physically close to any high-power mobile towers so unlikely to be causing interference to the mobile tower.

      1. Bartholomew

        And lets say that "fred bloggs" does setup a 5G cell on a frequency he should not be using and one of his neighbour has a heart attack, is actively jammed from calling emergency services by fred's setup and dies. Would that count as involuntary manslaughter ?

        It may not be an issue with one "fred bloggs", but how about a thousand or ten thousand "fred bloggs" all in the same city.

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