As some of you may know, we've been working on a GSM Base Station (BTS) project here in TIER for a few months. This project is known as the Village Base Station (a.k.a. the "one GSM base station per approximately 500 people" project) and detailed in a white paper we published at NSDR a few months ago.
We recently got FCC approval to deploy the hardware in Berkeley, using the GSM900 standard. On Friday, January 14th, we went about installing the BTS on the Space Science Laboratory (SSL) building in the Berkeley Hills. We also installed a long-distance wireless link to Etcheverry hall.
The installation did not proceed without complications. Our 900mhz direction Yagi didn't fit on the poles available on SSL. Here I am sitting on the tower discovering that fact. Fortunately, Shaddi had thought ahead and brought a number of spare mounting brackets (ostensibly for the BTS closet). These were modified to support a slight downward tilt with zip-ties and long screws. The antenna was pointed to Soda Hall, with the expectation that we'd be able to achieve that distance (1-2km) with our 13db gain. With all that connected, we went about setting up the server, which did go smoothly.
The BTS was running, and we were able to make test calls. I don't have a photo of that fact, but I wish I did. We tested it a few hundred meters in the direction of Soda Hall. We also noticed that we had coverage behind SSL, which is a bad sign. The antenna is a little bent, so it's likely not as directional as we had hoped. This was confirmed when we got back to Soda Hall, and were unable to associate with the tower. Bummer.
That's why they call it research. New antenna is in the mail, and we're hopeful for progress in the upcoming week. I'll take more photos if it actually working too! Thanks to Yahel, Shaddi and Matt for the help. I think I carried my weight (so to speak) on the Etcheverry install...