Working on a Free Software TETRA implementation

Those who have been following my twitter feed over the last week will already know: I've been in deep hacking mode implementing the lower levels of TETRA, specifically the PHY and lower MAC but also parts of the upper MAC level.

The primary idea here is to produce something similar to what airprobe is for GSM: An air-interface protocol analyzer that can demodulate/decode/demultiplex information received from a TETRA base station.

I'm not working on this alone, a number of known (and unknown) names from the Osmocom projects have been involved again. Progress has been surprisingly quick. The biggest gain was Dieter discovering that we didn't have to write our own pi4/DQPSK demodulator, but that somebody had already done that as a gnuradio hierarchical block originally intended for the more advanced channel types of APCO25.

So we could concentrate on the PHY and lower MAC layers, i.e. implementing stuff like

    correlator for the various training sequences to achieve frame sync
  • de-scrambler, de-interleaver, convolutional decoder, CRC, Reed-Muller decode
  • Implementing the TDMA multiplex, reading the BSCH (like SCH in GSM)
  • Peeking into the higher layers like MM

Before writing the decoder I also wrote encoders/interleaver/scrambler etc. for the transmit side in order to do first testing/validation of the decoder. Using this encoder, we are able to generate continuous downlink SYNC bursts containing BSCH(MAC-SYNC PDU) + BNCH(SYSINFO PDU). As the SYNC bursts can be used for unallocated time-slots, a never-ending sequence of this single burst should provide a valid carrier that TETRA mobiles can lock to.

Working on all this has taught me much. My previous knowledge on convolutional codes, scrambling, interleaving, training sequence corellation, viterbi decoding, etc. has been mostly abstract and theoretical. Now I had the chance of implementing [almost] everything from scratch. Now I can understand what people like Tvoid or Piotr went through when they wrote gsm-tvoid/gsm-receiver (part of airprobe).

For the next couple of weeks I have to turn back to doing some higher priority work again, and in February I want to play with the GSM RF side of the MTK GSM chipsets again, so I don't know when I'll be able to continue with the TETRA related work. However, I hope other developers in the team will pick up where I left and bring the project further forward.

As soon as the code has moved beyond early prototyping, we'll be releasing the demodulator, libosmo-tetra-phy, libosmo-tetra-mac and associated command line tools.