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A full scale OpenBTS Network

The figure below shows a full-scale OpenBTS network with complete integration into the internet, PSTN and legacy PLMN. Not all components are necessary for all deployments. In small deployments, all of these components can be run inside one of the OpenBTS units to give a complete 'network in a box'.

In this diagram, the outside networks are:


Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN)

This is the conventional global wireline telephone network, based on SS7. Connections to this network are required to place and receive telephone calls.
Public Land-Mobile Network (PLMN)

This is the conventional global cellular network. The PLMN is similar to the PSTN, but includes features to support handset mobility (the "MAP''). Connections to this network are required to support cellular roaming.
Public IP network

This is the internet. This includes private, managed, bi-lateral connections between operators using Internet technology. Connections to this network are required to support data services like web browsing and email. Connections to this network can also be used to route telephone calls and text messaging to outside gateway operators with their own connections to the PSTN and PLMN.

The BTS Units

The subscriber radio interface of each BTS unit is the GSM "Um" interface . This is the radio interface used by the cellular handsets and the same interface presented by conventional 2G and 2.5G networks. On its network interface, the BTS unit uses SIP/RTP or IAX for call signaling and SIP for mobility management and SMS. (The advantage of IAX over SIP/RTP is the ability to "trunk" vocoder frames from multiple calls into a single UDP packet, thus reducing per-packet network overhead.) Each BTS unit includes a local SIP switch for local call connection and to support trunking between cell sites and the core network.
Subscriber Registry (SR)

The SR is the network's SIP registry, like a conventional SIP registry, but augmented to support mobility and authentication functions associated with GSM. The SR is essentially a database server with an interface for processing SIP REGISTER methods and, optionally, SS7-MAP and/or DIAMETER interfaces into the PLMN (for roaming support). OpenBTS units communicate with the SR via SIP. Other network elements access the SR directly with SQL. Pieces of the SR are also cached locally in the BTS units to reduce network traffic and to allow the BTS units to switch calls locally in the event of a backhaul failure.
Gateway Switch (GS)

The GS is a gateway device used to originate and terminate PSTN/PLMN calls. It can also be used as a central switch for inter-BTS calls. The GS communicates with OpenBTS units using SIP/RTP or IAX and communicates with outside networks using SIP, SIP-I or SS7-TCAP as required. The GS is implemented using an existing SIP switch with an ISDN/SS7 gateway function. Some networks might contain multiple GS units, for added capacity, for redundancy or to provide special-case support for legally-required services like emergency calls or lawful intercept.
Messaging Server (MS)

The MS serves the same role as the SMSC in a GSM network. It has no equivalent in most VoIP networks. The MS communicates with OpenBTS using SIP/SIMPLE and communicates with conventional SMSCs using SS7-MAP or SMPP. Other internet messaging protocols, like XMPP, can also be supported. Like the SR, the MS is essentially a database server wrapped with a set of protocol interfaces.
Internet Gateway

The purpose of the internet gateway is to bind IP addresses to GPRS data sessions on the handsets. Its function is the same as that of a GGSN, but it is implemented using much simpler Linux IP routing features.
Network Integration Connecting to the PSTN

Integration into the PSTN is the same as for any VoIP network via an SS7 or ISDN gateway function in the GS. For small carriers, this service can be purchased from a commercial VoIP carrier, in which case the GS is just a SIP switch.
Connecting to the Legacy PLMN (SMS and Roaming Support)

Integration into the PLMN is similar to integration into the PSTN, but with the addition of the mobile application part (MAP) in the SS7 interface on the GS. With this interface, the OpenBTS network appears as a conventional roaming partner to other cellular carriers.
Connecting to 4G IMS Networks

Because OpenBTS is SIP-based, it is a natural fit into next-generation IMS core networks. A SR is required to translate between 2G SIM and 3G/4G USIM authentication procedures, but speech and SMS transactions are performed directly with the IMS servers. This compatibility allows network operators to operate Range Networks 2G (and future 3G) cell sites in the same core network as their 4G LTE equipment. This mixed-mode operation allows operators to abandon their legacy 2G/3G core networks (and associated licensing and maintenance OPEX) while still running 2G and 3G RANs in those areas where 4G service is not economically justified.
Small Networks and Rapid Deployment

Because OpenBTS allows GSM handsets to be used directly with Asterisk, a SIP PBX that is reasonably easy to configure and operate, it can provide network-in-a-box solutions that are much less complex and much more user-friendly than solutions based on more conventional cellular technology. In these deployments, PSTN speech calling can be provided through nearly any SIP-based VoIP carrier, or combined speech and SMS service is available through Voxeo's Tropo application servers. Range Networks can provide preconfigured accounts and preprogrammed SIMs to simplify the use of these services.
Satellite-Backed Small Sites

For sites backhauled by satellite, operators can achieve considerable bandwidth savings through "trunking", in which audio channels are combined to reduce per-packet overhead in the UDP/IP link. This trunking can be combined with low-rate speech codecs to achieve additional bandwidth savings. Additionally, OpenBTS consumes little/no bandwidth when calls are inactive (traditional BTSs consumer 20+ kbps in idle mode). Range Networks can provide products, services and expertise to configure and operate these trunks and interface them to VoIP services.
Mixed 2G/3G/4G Networks

Range Networks supports 2.5G today and will soon support 3G UMTS, 4G LTE (E-UTRA) and 2.75G (EDGE). Although these technologies have very different air interfaces, in their Range Networks realizations, the core network is always the same. This means that a greenfield carrier can start with a simple 2G network and over time develop a mixed 2G-3G-4G system, using whatever technology is best adapted to particular sites. Core network upgrades are just capacity

upgrades, replacing existing servers with more or faster processors as the traffic volume increases, or incremental upgrades to provide new features, like MMS, as they become available.