How To Run A First-Generation Cell Phone Network

Retro technology is cool. The retro technology that works is even cooler. When we see how technology works, hold it in your hand and use it as if we have been transported back in time; then we feel truly connected to the story. To help others create their own anomalies over time, [Dmitrii Eliuseev] put together quick instructions for creating your own network for advanced mobile phone system (AMPS) which may bring back to life some of yesterday’s classic cell characters.

Few readers will be surprised to learn that this project is built on software-defined radio (SDR) and Osmocom-Analog a project we’ve seen before create a more modern GSM network in EMF Camp. Previous projects have been based on LimeSDR, but here we see that USRP is just as easy to maintain. [Dmitrii] also provides a brief history of AMPS, including some of the reasons why it lasted so long until 2007! The system has a very large coverage area with relatively few towers and has surprisingly good sound quality. He also discusses its disadvantages, above all that anyone with a scanner and the right know-how can tune in to analog voice frequencies and eavesdrop on conversations. Only this, we must admit, is quite a strong case of system withdrawal.

The article notes that there may be legal issues with the operation of your own cellular network, so be sure to check your local regulations. He also points out that the AMPS is robust enough to operate short distances with a dummy load instead of an antenna, which can help avoid regulatory problems. With that in mind, SDRs have opened up so many opportunities for what hackers can do with old wireless protocols. You can even go back to a time when pagers were king. Alternatively, if the cable connection is more your thing, we can always recommend becoming your own dial-up ISP.