The Osmocom open-source cellular communications project has released an updated Cellular Network Infrastructure (CNI) stack, which brings with it improved support for the LimeSDR family.

“The Osmocom project has released new version of the CNI (Cellular Network Infrastructure) software, including OsmoTRX, OsmoBTS, OsmoBSC, OsmoMGW, OsmoMSC, OsmoHLR, OsmoSGSN, OsmoGGSN,” project maintainer Harald Welte writes in the release announcement. “Those new tagged/released versions contain four months of work since the previous versions released during April 2019. The primary focus was on bug-fixing and stabilisation as well as some major new features, such as inter-MSC-handover support in osmo-msc.”

The new software revisions improve the handling of signal drop-out conditions plus automatic detection of SDR model and device-specific gain settings for the LimeSDR family, in an effort to make it easier to get started with the Osmocom stack. The latest builds also include support for the Cell Broadcast Service Protocol (CBSP) in libosmogsm, support for the TRXDv1 protocol in OsmoTRX, better conformance with the Abis OML protocol in OsmoBTS, full Cell Broadcast Channel (CBCH) support, and various enhancements for robustness and stability.

Links to the latest CNI release can be found on the Osmocom website now.

The Osmocom project has also announced the rebirth of the SIMtrace project, originally launched as a way to monitor communications between a host device and a SIM card – finally adding the long-promised SIM card emulation capabilities.

“The SIMtrace project has from beginning on been designed to not only monitor the communication between a card and the reader (e.g. a SIM and a phone), but also to emulate cards. This card emulation functionality has never been implemented, at least not by the Osmocom community, and the project has been hibernating for quite some time,” Osmocom’s Kevin Redon writes. “A year ago, the SIMtrace project has been revived.

“Card emulation is finally there. Is it currently in it’s beta phase, but has already been successfully tested. It can even be used in combination with the recent osmo-remsim project, allowing to use multiple cards at remote locations. While it is not completely emulating a card since it only forwards the traffic to a card present in another reader, we are currently working on also providing this functionality.”

Full details are available on the SIMtrace project page and the card emulation section of the wiki.

Vodafone has become the first cellular network operator in Europe to experiment with OpenRAN (open radio access network) technology from the Telecom Infra Project (TIP), building on a LimeSDR-powered small-cell platform developed in partnership with Lime Microsystems.

“The global supply of telecom network equipment has become concentrated in a small handful of companies over the past few years,” claims Vodafone in support of what is the first commercial deployment of OpenRAN technology in Europe. “More choice of suppliers will safeguard the delivery of services to all mobile customers, increase flexibility and innovation and, crucially, can help address some of the cost challenges that are holding back the delivery of internet services to rural communities and remote places across the world.”

Vodafone has confirmed that the technology used in the active roll-out, which is taking place in the UK, is based in part on the CrowdCell project, a separate TIP initiative to OpenRAN which sought to create low-cost small-cell base stations featuring software defined radio and general-purpose processing capabilities. Vodafone’s own CrowdCell implementation, which has been deployed with success in developing nations, is based on LimeSDR hardware.

Vodafone’s OpenRAN network will offer 2G, 3G, and 4G services at launch, with the company investigating adding 5G support in the future.

The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) has released a tool designed to make it easier to integrate Bluetooth into a design, offering range estimation based on a number of adjustable variables.

“The most well-known Bluetooth use cases, including personal audio and wearables, have design requirements that dictate a shorter effective range. Developers of these traditional solutions have therefore chosen to implement the technology and their hardware in a manner that delivers a maximum range between 10-30 meters,” explains the Bluetooth SIG. “However, developers are also using Bluetooth to achieve a reliable connection range of more than a kilometre to support exciting new use cases.

“Some of these include industrial asset tracking, large-scale sensor networks, and even reliable remote control of Beyond-Visual-Range (BVR) drones. The Bluetooth Range Estimator will help improve understanding of Bluetooth range capabilities going forward.”

The estimator allows the user to choose a particular Bluetooth PHY to see its typical reception sensitivity, which can be adjusted, and choose from representative environments including outdoors, indoors, and industrial to simulate expected path loss. Transmission power plus the gain on both transmission and reception antennas can be further adjusted, then the numbers crunched to offer an estimated usable signal range in meters.

The emulator is live now on the Bluetooth website.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed a way to train a machine vision system to monitor people’s movements through solid walls or in complete darkness using radio waves.

“We introduce a neural network model that can detect human actions through walls and occlusions, and in poor lighting conditions,” Tianhong Li explains in a write-up of the project for MIT Technology Review. “By translating the input to an intermediate skeleton-based representation, our model can learn from both vision-based and radio frequency-based datasets, and allow the two tasks to help each other.”

The result, Li claims, is a system which is capable of recognising user’s gestures – everything from receiving a telephone call to patting someone on the back – with equivalent accuracy to a vision-based system, but able to operate in total darkness or when the subjects are hidden behind a wall or other object. The only thing it can’t do, lacking the resolution, is recognise individual users from their faces – something Li points out could be a positive for privacy-centric monitoring of, for example, a fall-risk individual in their home.

The team’s paper is available under open access terms on arXiv.

The Times of India has reported that the 3GPP standards body has officially approved NavIC (Navigation with Indian Constellation), the nation’s native satellite navigation system.

Based, initially, on an eight-strong constellation of mixed geosynchronous and geostationary satellites, NavIC – also known as the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System, or IRNSS – the NavIC system is split much like the US GPS: a standard positioning service offers medium-accuracy location information to civilians and businesses, while a high-accuracy encrypted service is available only to the military and security services.

“We are extremely happy to known about the 3GPP approval of NavIC. NaVIC is fully operational and doing a great job,” Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chair K. Sivan told the paper. “Currently, eight satellites are already in orbit. Seven satellites are being used for navigation purposes and one satellite only for messaging purposes. Some apps based on NavIC are already functional and being immensely used. Soon, we will bring out more NavIC apps that will benefit the common man.”

More information on the NavIC project can be found on Wikipedia.

The Ministry of Economics of the Republic of Latvia, in partnership with the Nordic Council of Ministers and the European Commission, has announced the first 5G Policymakers’ Hackaton, to take place on the 26th and 27th of November 2019.

The hackathon event is to bring together corporations, startups, mobile operators, policymakers, and lawyers with a view to map existing policy and develop recommendations for how policy can be adapted to support 5G deployment in the Baltic Sea region – something the Ministry warns is not yet supported in the existing legal framework.

“We have to be responsible for creating an environment and legislation at a cross-border level that will enable new innovations and increase our economic competitiveness globally,” explains Minister of Economics of the Republic of Latvia Ralfs Nemiro. “That’s why the first-ever 5G policymakers’ hackathon will bring together the key representatives from all Baltic Sea Region countries to create common recommendations for policymakers, to help them to prepare better legislation for the possibilities that 5G technologies will create, and establish the region as leaders in 5G innovation.”

The hackathon is set to take place during the second annual 5G Techritory, details of which can be found on the official website.

Members of the Radio Society of Great Britain (RSGB), prompted by the organisations manager for VHF, have begun discussing the potential need for a new licence class for non-technical radio amateurs.

“There is an increasing need to attract a greater number of younger age people into amateur radio,” writes John Regnault. “The current three-tier licence regime. Foundation, Intermediate, Full, whilst it is maintaining a steady annual number of candidates has, over recent years seen a marked decline in attracting younger people. In 2006 25% of Foundation exam candidates were under 21 years of age by 2013 this had declined to 14%, today it is even lower.

“To date the amateur examination has required all candidates to demonstrate an understanding of radio technology which might be appropriate as the amateur licence permits modification and manufacture of transmitting equipment. This technical requirement can be a significant perceived barrier to younger people who otherwise would like to investigate radio communications beyond the capabilities offered by licence free CB or PMR446 transceivers. There are many other facets of the hobby that are about communicating and personal development in communications rather than building and modifying radio equipment. Technical skills, just as operating procedures, Morse if you like, can be learnt once somebody is hooked into the hobby.”

John’s suggestion is the introduction of a low-power VHF/UHF licence dubbed the Beginner Amateur licence, with lowered technical requirements than the current Foundation licence. While it would come with restrictions – including specifically-marked callsigns, low-power equipment which cannot be modified by the user, and revocation on the detection of abuse by the Amateur Radio Observation Society (AROS) – it would open the hobby up to broader audience.

The discussion is available to read on the RSGB-workshop group.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has announced that it may be able to resolve an issue with the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite, which entered a “safehold” operating state back in June.

Fixing a satellite that’s already in space isn’t always an easy task, but the NOAA – working with NASA and an unnamed private company – appears confident that that failure in DSCOVR can be resolved with a relatively simple software update. “Engineers report that intermediate test results of the software fix have been positive,” the organisation announced late last month, “and they expect it to be incorporated during the first quarter of calendar year 2020.”

The precise cause of the failure in the DSCOVR satellite has not yet been disclosed.

Finally, SDR# has been updated to include a new user interface, primarily as a means of adding new features to the software in the future, but also to make it more accessible immediately – complete with new dark-mode theme.

“We are pleased to announce the release of SDR# r1717 with the Telerik User Interface,” the SDR# developers wrote in the launch announcement. “This is quite a big jump from the old UI components that will allow us to add many fancy features in the upcoming revisions.For now, the functionality of the software was ported ‘one to one’ with full support of the existing plugins. A new Plugin API for the tool bar was added which allows plugin developers to add/remove special buttons for quick access.

“Despite a slightly longer loading time at the startup of the application, many performance improvements should be noticed in run time, especially the CPU usage. The package is now distributed with a set of skins/themes you can select in the control panel under ‘Display.’ Later on, we will add custom skins loading capability so you can customise the look and feel of the whole program.”

As always, the latest version of SDR# can be downloaded from the official website, including the Community Package build which bundles popular plug-ins and supporting software as standard.