Legal aspects / Free Software GSM baseband code

Harald Welte laforge at
Tue Dec 13 08:52:46 CET 2011

On Tue, Dec 13, 2011 at 12:59:08AM +0100, Jay R. Worthington wrote:

> what do you expect to happen from a legal standpoint? My guess would be
> that the providers will fight an opensource firmware with every
> firebreathing lawyer in der reach, and if they won't do that, RegTP (or
> whatever they are call themself this week ;)) for sure will, a firmware
> that would reject some evil RRLP queries can't be tolerated :-S

Hi Jay,

in fact, my legal analysis had been quite optimistic, at least for
Europe.  the RT&TTE directive largely regulates the sale and
distribution of "devices" that transmit on radio frequencies.  Devices
need to have CE markings and a declaration of conformity.  As GSM
terminals are part of harmonized standards, the vendor can either
certify himself that the devices are CE compliant, or he can use a
'notified body' (a certification lab) to do that externally.  The
Procedure is described in Annex III of the directive.

The testing that needs to be done is in EN 301 511, and EN 301 489-7

However, this all only applies if you distribute the devices with
modified firmware.  The device with original firmware of course is
compliant to the directive and has a Motorola declaration of conformity.

Distributing the OsmocomBB firmware itself is certainly not a "device"
under the current legislation.

Installing + Using it as a user [on a public network] might pose a legal
risk, but to be honest I wouldn't know what kind of regulation that
would be.   There might be a breach of contract of your operator terms
of services.  And of course, if the firmware misbehaves and causes RF
interference, that would be transmission without a radio license, or in
the worst case interference with public communications networks.

But then, at the same time, lots of people already use Free Software
based firmware in their WiFi chips, and I think we've had a lot of
discussion in that area.  Nonetheless, many people do it...

An no, there is no real difference here due to the fact that 2.4 GHz ist
unregulated spectrum.  You also have to make sure that the frequency,
transmission power, harmonics, etc. fall within the rules set forth in
the harmonized standards.

- Harald Welte <laforge at> 
"Privacy in residential applications is a desirable marketing option."
                                                  (ETSI EN 300 175-7 Ch. A6)

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