Range Networks releases 3G upgrade, transceiver specs

Network infrastructure startup Range Networks announced developments designed to enhance the capabilities and further build the ecosystem of its architecture, which is based on commercial open source software.

Harvind Samra, Range

Samra (Source: Range Networks)

Range Networks' cellular systems are targeted at low-cost rural wireless deployments, both private and public. They are based on OpenBTS, its open-source, software-defined radio implementation of the GSM radio access network that presents normal GSM handsets as virtual SIP endpoints to an IP-based core. This week's first announcement highlighted the company's network evolution toward 3G WCDMA, which will be followed by LTE.

The vendor initiated a controlled release--for early adopters and telecom test labs--of a commercial WCDMA software upgrade for its OpenBTS software, which previously supported only 2G and 2.5G connectivity. The new OpenBTS-UMTS enables data throughput of 384 kbps per user on 3G-enabled handsets. The upgraded network is 3GPP-compliant and operates on any 3GPP-defined WCDMA frequencies. It also supports network and handset authentication.

In March, Range Networks said it had WCDMA systems in alpha testing with customers and predicted those products would be ready for market by midyear. However, Harvind Samra, CTO and company cofounder, acknowledged that the timeline had slipped a bit, resulting in this week's announcement. "We have a lot of customers asking for 3G, specifically for video-bandwidth data," he told FierceWirelessTech.

Samra noted there is also a lot of overlap in the specifications for WCDMA and LTE. "That makes it natural for us to do a UMTS implementation before we go to LTE," he said.

The company also intends to add LTE support to its software, delaying HSPA support. "At some point, I think we'll backtrack a bit and do HSPA. But what we've found is that there is so much demand for LTE now, so as a company it would behoove us to really go after LTE and postpone HSPA for now, " Samra said.

The company has said previously that it will have an LTE product ready for market in 2014.

Range Networks also unveiled a full release of specifications for the Range SDR1 transceiver, which is the only open source transceiver designed specifically for cellular base stations running OpenBTS. "This is the hardware component of OpenBTS," Samra said.

The SDR1 is already being commercially used in Range Networks' base stations on all seven continents and in extreme environments.

Samra said the specs release is unique because most open source hardware projects only provide schematics and possibly a bill of materials. However, Range Networks is providing SDR1 transceiver schematics, layout files and bill of materials required to build an advanced software-defined radio. The designs will be available on the OpenBTS website under an open source license.

"You can download this and literally take it to a manufacturer to make a radio," Samra said. That fits with OpenRange's long-term vision, which includes hardware commoditization along with open source software.

The GSM-based SDR1 is designed for 2G and 2.5G rather than WCDMA. Samra indicated that the company is working on a design for a commercial radio supporting 3G and LTE.

Range Networks noted that the transceiver specs release makes a previously announced OpenBTS Development Kit 100 percent open source. "Now university and telecommunications labs can combine off-the-shelf commodity components with free OpenBTS software and build their own test cellular network, or they can purchase a fully tested, ready-to-use kit from Range Networks," the company added.

Range Networks also offers equipment certification for manufacturers to verify compatibility with OpenBTS and OpenBTS-UMTS software.

For more:
- see this Range Networks release and this release
- see this Register article

Special Report: Range Networks- network infrastructure- wireless startups- Fierce 15 2013

Related articles:
Range Networks sets sights on beating larger vendors, targets rural market
Range Networks: Burning Man's open source cellular network touted for commercial rural use