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Not now, Apple: We've got the Pi-Phone, the smallest mobe network

Cell comms software ported to Brit ARM 'puter

Vid Engineers at communications tech biz Quortus have ported their mobile network core to a Raspberry Pi - perhaps creating the cheapest mobile network ever conceived.

Guildford-based Quortus specialises in building telecoms network gear - but never before using a £30 ARM-powered PC that just needs to be plugged into a radio, such as a domestic femtocell (a miniature base station).

The resulting Pi-powered setup creates an operational mobile network capable of supporting GSM, 3G and LTE connections.

Quortus normally sells the core software to operators looking to create local switching to reduce backhaul - so a remote village could run a Quortus core which would only engage central office when connecting a call outside the local area - but getting the same code running on the credit-card-sized Pi is a worthy achievement.

For a commercial version, it would probably be worth spinning up a custom system-on-a-chip (SoC). Industry stalwart Rupert Baines, late of Mindspeed, told us this Raspberry Pi demonstration will remind companies such as Qualcomm just what the ARM11 processor (in the Broadcom SoC at the heart of the Pi) is capable of, prompting them to spit out reference designs of their own.

The intelligence-at-the-edge approach, enabled by the abundance of cheap processing power, is also interesting as it goes against the current fashion for centralising everything into "the cloud".

The cloudy philosophy is exemplified by Alcatel Lucent's LightRadio, which reduces base stations to mere radio reception while pushing all the processing into centralised racks - very efficient if one has unlimited backhaul, but deployments are scarce.

Cloudy telecoms will come, but for the moment operators are pushing as much intelligence to the edge as possible, and while they're not yet using Raspberry Pi computers to do that, they could... if they wanted to. ®

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