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You're ignoring that most drivers for android phones are proprietary, the baseband is entirely proprietary (required by law), the Google services are proprietary (which many apps use) and most apps are proprietary (including Google's replacements for the AOSP apps).

If you want a completely free software smartphone experience, it is simply not possible at the moment. Even Replicant[1] still hasn't cracked the baseband puzzle (and is still struggling with the firmware for a couple of phones).

So no, Android is definitely proprietary -- even if some parts are not.

[1]: http://www.replicant.us

Basebands fall under exactly which entities juristiction such that they can regulate a baseband to be 'entirely proprietary' ? I mean, BB + superhet. mixer => IF => carrier wave envelope containing your data. How do you even regulate a concept of physics? If you're paying the proper fees as a subscriber to $provider_foo you could even design your own receiver off the public standards documents.. (used to be a popular project for 4th year undergrads to do on FPGAs for the CE's who wanted to get closer to the silicon but MOSIS project space was reserved for only the EEs).

If you want a completely 'free' (as in GPL) cell phone experience, you can setup a OpenBTS transmitter and transmit at the 900mhz range which is commons property. To stay legal in the US, your antenna has to put out less than a watt, but the setup allows you to even use off-the-shelf phones and trunk into normal phone lines via standard POTS software. Your device would have to be something a-la http://alumni.media.mit.edu/~mellis/cellphone/ (just a janky setup, but just a proof-of-concept -- you can patch together components from DigiKey pretty easily these days; if you want free-silicon, I think the closest you're going to get is https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OsmocomBB or maybe some soft cores, but if you're actually going to take that soft core to tape-out, you're probably going to be running 6 figures just for masks...)

On the hardware side, there is a project "Free Calypso" to produce a completely libre (software, firmware, baseband, & hardware) "dumbphone" using the Calypso chipset.

Initially looking to reuse old phones with the Calypso chipsets, the project is now working on producing their own. Design files are completed; funding for the dev boards is about 66% complete.


Mailing list is fairly active too.

what is the regulation that mandates proprietary baseband?

The FCC has requirements for manufacturers to make sure that their radios output to-spec EMR. In addition to this, they've been working toward trying to stop people from being able to arbitrarily modify their radios.[1]

While (AFAIK) there isn't a regulation stopping someone from selling radios that have completely free software basebands, you can bet that the manufacturer will be prosecuted if users suddenly start outputting radio waves that don't follow regulations (suing users is harder than suing a manufacturer). As a result, there's a disincentive for manufacturers to ever sell free software radios (because by definition they would have to allow modification).

[1] https://www.infoq.com/news/2015/07/FCC-Blocks-Open-Source

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