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TUCoPS :: Phreaking General Information :: mobile.phk

Mobile Phones - Theory and Construction - AutoTel Phreaking

by The Researcher
As published in 2600, April 1986.

This article explains the operation and construction of a mobile phone.  The
first section was writtenin collaboration with another telephone experimenter.
It concerned Improved Mobile Telephone Service (IMTS) signaling and was
eventually posted on a BBS in the midwest.  From there it fell into the hands
of the chief of security at Soutwestern Bell.  His words to the Sysop, who had
been busted for Blue Boxing, were, "A person with knowledge of electronics
could use the information in that file to build his own mobile telephone".  The
rest of this article explains how one can be built.
It is presupposed that you have a working knowledge of two way radio.  If you
don't possess this knowledge, you can study up on narrow-band FM and 2-meter
transmitters.  A good source of information is "The Radio Amateur's Handbook"
(readily available from libraries and book stores).


Each mobile telephone channel consists of two frequencies: one for the land
base station and one for the mobile phone.  The base station uses two tones
for signaling: Idle-2000 Hz and Seize-1800 Hz.  The mobiles use three tones:
Guard-2150 Hz, Connect-1633 Hz, and Disconnect-1336 Hz.
The land base station marks the idle channel by placing the Idle tone on it.
All the mobiles search for the 2000 Hz Idle tone and lock on to it.
Each mobile phone is assigned a standard telephone number consisting of area
code+7 digits.  When a land customer dials a mobile number, the Idle tone
(2000 Hz) changes to Seize (1800 Hz).  The number pulsed to the mobile phone
contains 7 digits consisting of the area code and the last 4 digits of the
number.  The digits are made up of 50 ms pulses of 2000 Hz separated by 50 ms
of 1800 Hz.
If there is a mismatch between the digits sent and the wired ID in the mobile,
the mobile drops off and hunts for the idle channel.  If the number matches,
the mobile will send back an acknowledgement tone of 750 ms of Guard (2150 Hz).
The base station waits 3 to 4 seconds for this tone.  If not received in that
time, the calling party gets a recording.  If the tone is received, the
mobile phone will ring for up to 45 seconds.  Ringing is composed of 1800 Hz
and 2000 Hz shifting at 25 ms for two seconds then four seconds of 1800 Hz.
When the mobile phone is picked up it sends a connect toneof 1633 Hz for 400 ms
to tell the base station it has answered.  When the mobile hangs up, it sends
Disconnect, which is 750 ms of 1336 Hz.  When the base receives the Disconnect
tone, it will drop carrier for about 300 ms and go off.  If it is the only
available channel, it will return to Idle.
What follows is what happens when a call is originated by a by mobile: When the
mobile goes off hook, it sends 350 ms of Guard (2150 Hz) followed by 50 ms of
Connect (1633 Hz).  When the base station hears the Connect tone, it removes
the Idle tone and stays quiet for about 250 ms.  It then transmits 250 ms of
Seize (1800 Hz).  The mobile then sends 190 ms of Guard and starts transmitting
the ID sequence at 20 pulses per second.  The ID is the area code and last 4
digits of the mobile's number.  The pulses are marked by 25 ms of Connect
followed by 25 ms of either silence or Guard tone (2150 Hz).  If the pulse is
odd, it is followed by silence.  If even, it is followed by Guard tone.  This
is used for parity checking.  The interdigit time is 190 ms and will be either
silence or Guard tone depending on whether the last pulse was odd or even.
If the last pulse in the last digit in the ID is even, it will be followed by
190 ms of Guard tone.
When a number is dialed from a mobile phone, 2150 Hz is sent continuously as
soon as the dial goes off normal (when the dial is moved from its resting
position).  Dial pulses representing breaks are marked by 1633 and are sent at
10 pulses per second.  A pulse is 60 ms of 1633 Hz with 400 ms of 2150 Hz
between pulses.
The most popularmobile telephone channels are located in the VHF high band.
Cities are equipped with these channels more than any other band.  They are
listed below.

CHANNEL          BASE         MOBILE
-------          ----         ------
 JL              152.51 MHz   157.77
 YL              152.54       157.80
 JP              152.57       157.83
 YP              152.60       157.86
 YJ              152.63       157.89
 YK              152.66       157.92
 JS              152.69       157.95
 YS              152.72       157.98
 YR              152.75       158.01
 JK              152.78       158.04
 JR              152.81       158.07


This is a list of the components you will need to build your own mobile phone:
   1. Cassette Tape Recorder
   2. Radio Scanner (Like those used to receive police calls).
   3. Mobile phone dialer (build your own).
   4. Low Power Transmitter (Modified 2-meter transmitter 1-5 watts).


Build a Wien-Bridge oscillator to generate the needed tones.  These are
commonly found in red boxes.  If you don't have a red box schematic, look up
a Wien-Bridge in an electronics textbook.  Where you would normally connect
a frequency adjustment pot, use two multi-turn pots connected in series.  Power
for the oscillator will be supplied by a 9 volt battery.  
Obtain a rotary dial of the type used on rotary telephones.  The dial will have
four wires coming out of it: two white, one blue, and one green.  The two white
wires make a connection when the dial is off normal (moved from its resting 
position).  Connect the two white wires in series with one of the leads from
the 9 volt battery.  The oscillator will be running only when the dial is moved
off normal.  It works like this: Dial is moved off normal-circuit is completed
between oscillator and battery.  Dial goes back to resting position-circuit is
The blue and green wires go to a normally closed contact in the dial.  This
contact opens once for each pulse in a dialed digit.  For example it opens
three times for the digit "3".  Connect these two wires (blue and green)
across one of the pots in the oscillator.  With the dial in its resting
position, adjust the other pot for a frequency of 2150 Hz (Guard Tone).  Move
the dial until the contact opens and  adjust the pot with the blue and green
wires going to it for a frequency of 1633 Hz (Connect Tone).
When the dial is moved off normal, power will be applied to the oscillator, and
it will begin running at 2150 Hz.  When the dial is released the short across
the second pot will be removed each time the contacts open for a dial pulse.
During these pulse times the frequency will shift down to 1633 Hz.  When the
dial gets back to its resting position, power will be removed from the 
oscillator.  This will exactly duplicate the dial pulsing of a mobile


Antennae used by mobile phone base stations are located on high towers.  This
allows line-of-sight transmission to and from the mobiles.  If you are within
a few miles of a base station very little power is needed to establish contact.
  1 to 5 watts should be completely adequate.  The less power you use, the less
your chances of getting caught.  More on this later.
2-meter transmitters, used in amateur radio, operate in the range of 144 to
148 MHz.  With a change of crystals and a little retuning, you have your


With a scanner, locate the base station frequency which currently has an Idle
tone on it.  Switch to the mobile frequency on that same channel and monitor it
with the cassette recorder running continuously.  What you want is a clean
recording of a mobile unit broadcasting its ID sequence.  You also want a 
recordingof the disconnect tone when he hangs up.  Once you have these, rewind
the tape to the start of the sequence.  Now you are ready to make a call.


1. Set your scanner to the base station frequency with the Idle tone and leave
it there.  Monitor with earphones to avoid audio feedback through the 
2. Set the transmitter to the corresponding mobile frequency.  Turn it on and
leave it on.
3. Play the taped ID sequence.
4. Use your dial pulser to call the desired number.  If all has gone well, you
will hear your dial pulses in the earphones.  You can use this method to call
one of the special 800 numbers and whistle off with 2600 Hz; then MF to
anywhere in the world.  This technique will reduce your visibility on the bill
for the ID you are using.
5. When you are ready to hang up, play the disconnect tone and switch off the


You should only use as much transmitter power as necessary to maintain a 
reliable contact.  If you do much of this kind of experimenting, the FCC is
going to be after you with direction finding equipment.  These use directional
antennae and a process of triangulation to locate illegal transmitters.  If you
keep your power down, stay mobile, and avoid establishing a pattern of calling
at the same time every day, it will be nearly impossible to track you down.

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