I was doing laundry the other day, came down too early for the dryer transferal so I had to wait, looked at the wall with an odd amount of communications equipment, saw AT&T, T-Mobile, NEC, Nextel, UMTS and so on – and it hit me, I must have cell towers on my roof. Thoughts that went through my head included I wonder how much the building’s owner’s getting paid for that, would it hurt property values if all the tenants knew and had a radiation panic and what these things look like if they do in fact exist.

Went outside, sho’nuff, towers.

It stirred up the old phreaker in me that I’ve kept bottled up inside since I was a kid. Finished the laundry and grabbed a camera to put all this stuff on the Internet for all the other people who like me are very easily fascinated to enjoy, zoom in on and make sense of what does what. Here you go, click to blow up, google some serial numbers. Or don’t. Whatever. Just some stupid pictures, pointless if you think like my wife. But you don’t, based on your making it this far into my latest post. She would never do that.

All right so here’s the laundry room obviously, the stuff of interest not just being on the left but straight ahead, that gray set of lockers which has a bunch of tubes full of wires going through the top of it. That would make for some good photography but if you look up and to the right you’ll see I’ve got an eye in the sky on my ass and it’s sketchy enough to be taking pictures of “infrastructure” in New York City these days when it’s in plain sight, but breaking into something that’s at least latched if not locked to take pictures, that’s wtf sketchy so you’ll just have to settle for what I’ve got.

Originals here.

Okay you’re cut off for now big guy. Speaking of cutting… no, I’m not going to speak of that. Hey, if you’ve got your own blog or whatever and think these pictures are awesome and would be appreciated by your people, after googling enough to be confident that what I did is legal, slap a mobilitydigest watermark on it. I mean, man, what are all those VGA ports doing there? NEC optical what?! T-mo and AT&T sharing the same pole? And what’s with the / in AT/T? These guys don’t like writing ampersands much I guess. Yeah that makes sense, much easier to type the &, not even sure if I’ve ever actually tried to write it by hand. 

This can’t be traced back to me, right?

Doug Simmons

21 COMMENTS

  1. That’s pretty cool!
    Maybe you could corner a Technician ,when they come to maintain it, to give you a behind the scenes tour of the roof and what not… Sprint is pretty nice about that, they gave CNET a behind the scenes look at how the 4G install was going in NYC..

    If I were a mean person, I coulda said all that radiation around you is what’s causing your snarkiness;)

  2. Couple years back my office was next door to a Verizon switching station/service hub. There was a 300 ft cell tower right along the edge of the driveway (didn’t do crap for my AT&T signal). Each week about a dozen Verizon employees would scale the tower like little ants and then practice bringing guys (and I guess girls) down presuming that they were injured. As far as I know no one every fell off, but I was aching to give it a try myself. Just to add it to my list of things I have done.

  3. What genius decided to place expensive telecommunications equipment in a laundry room. They aren’t exactly know for their low humidity. Also, I would bet that Homeland Security would love to know that anyone has access to this equipment and can (presumably) hack it for nefarious purposes.

  4. Those VGA ports are actually serial ports and are probably used to connect diagnostic tools. Otherwise, yes, it’s freaky how exposed this equipment is, especially in this environment.

  5. in my home town my house is close to my old highschool and church. both have cellphone towers on them. amazing service. i know the feeling haha

  6. Those ports that you call VGA ports are most probably serial ports, used for diagnostics. Did you notice that the box with those ports actually has Verizon branding on it? You’re being radiated by three different carriers, nice :)

  7. The white westell boxes that you took a bunch of pics of, are multi mount housing units for T1 termination cards. They transport the cell service and data service back to the local land line provider for distribution around the world. The “VGA” ports are actually serial ports as stated above for diagnostic purposes used by the carrier of the T1.

  8. Yeah, right out in the open. Guess whoever surveyed the building before setting up shop figured the hiding in plain sight angle would be the most cost effective. But the laundry room, that’s a heavily trafficked part of the building often with people who have nothing else to do but stare at the walls for a while. And I know that our young security guard, if he were a little better with computers, would be all over this thing trying to get himself some internet for his laptop and iphone to pass the time, either doing that successfully or screwing it up in the process.

    And among the people in the world, both criminal and just curious, are some who might know how to somehow sniff these packets with something in between the lines and those T1 boxes, or plug right in to the antennas somehow and tune in. Back when I fit into the just curious category, though this was much simpler back then, I had some fun times with a modified scanner. Just blew my mind to think that here all these people are, some with credit card numbers to recite, thinking they’ve got some privacy, and here I am, some kid who read a magazine, listening for the hell of it. Given that I could do that and given how dense this city was, it’s not an unreasonable assumption, at least back in the analog days, that when you’re on your cellphone there may be multiple people tuned in whether it’s a bad guy, law enforcement or just some curious kid with too much free time and not enough parental guidance.

    If I had been born fifteen years later than I was and lived in this building and saw that shit, the first thing I’d do is find out if that camera’s actually recording, take some pictures, go to some hacker meeting if they still do those, show the pictures around, bring a few guys back, the type that go dumpster diving behind the NYNEX building chasing bags of shredded paper to tape together back home, and see, I guess, if we could get on those T1s and pingflood various targets and then find out what we’d need to do more interesting things than that with all this equipment smiling at us. Like, I don’t know, getting one of those cell signal jammers from the UK and with some kind of amplifier try to plug it into the antenna lines to see what happens, if eavesdropping sounded too difficult. For example. This is how some minds operate. Others would be mostly interested in sifting through the voice data somehow for credit card numbers.

    Interesting about the Westell boxes, T1s for AT&T and for T-Mobile. But to get to those companies’ networks the T1s would have to go through Verizon. I’m curious what would happen if I tried to connect to one of the jacks with a laptop and did some tracerouting out of there. Are these things right on the Internet or just the beginning of the trip to the backhaul? No way I’m going to do that though, especially with that camera and also now that I’ve posted this online.

    I was intrigued by this mostly because there are a lot of people who know what all that equipment does exactly, how much of this and that is necessary to do whatever and how to deploy it all, how far apart to separate the antennas, where to aim them, how to run the lines down to the bottom of each building. And another group of people who make deals with all these companies to buy all these little things and then figure out a way to work together, a handful of companies, a few of which are competitors, to deploy such a cell site.

    Then what further intrigued me is looking around the other buildings that were a part of my building’s structure but different residences with their own laundry rooms, how a bunch of clusters of these transceivers were scattered across those roofs too. Wonder if they all go down to the laundry room of my building. Oh no, not the wondering obsession again, thought I outgrew that…

  9. Bet all the equipment will keep the laundry room toasty warm in the winter, even without running the dryers.

  10. that is ridiculous to see that equipment in the laundry room. that is not all of the equipment though (and alot of that actually looks like telco lines). ive got some picks of the cell site radios from the building i work in. ill send them to simmons and maybe he’ll upload them. at least if its only ATT towers on the roof i know they try to make the radio room somewhat secure and also a little more organized. that is definately an accident waiting to happen though. highpower electrical equipment in a laundry room… with all sorts of water… hope you got renters insurance simmons.

  11. In that case, instead of tracerouting, curious what a wide-range nmap scan would come up with. But those lockers, they’re smiling at me…. given what isn’t in the locker, what could they decide belongs in the locker to be on the safe side? If you look closely you’ll see there’s more than one wire going through the top.

    Well I guess this all means I probably could get FiOS in my building.

  12. The T1’s are mostly likely each cell companies own circuits, with Verizon providing the last mile of copper or fiber, but probably copper to the building for them. Assuming that Verizon is the ILEC in your area. Those circuits probably travel back to Verizon’s local Central Office and then are cross connected to ATT or T-mobile or whoever it may be for, as a point to point T1. They most likely never hit the internet at all, and are more likely to be just point to point data circuits from cell site to provider that transport the traffic straight back to the provider even though straight back may possibly go through several different telcos.

  13. Come on Doug, you have watched enough HBO. Climb up there and take a picture at about the same angle as the camera. Print that sucker out and tape it a couple inches from the lens and then go do your snooping unincumbered. Probably no one has checked the camera feed in months but wouldn’t want you to be the lucky one on a new recruit’s training day.

  14. just take the picture, put it up there and line it up nicely (check if the lens is wide angle somehow..) wait a week. if the picture is not disturbed then go do what u gotta do. one full week of recording time to go through should be long enough to confuse them haha. especially if you are not seen in the video while you take the picture… (hood with a hat? haha). id really love to see a jammer plugged in. i would also think that a small jammer would work wonders if close to the towers/antennas themselves.

  15. Those pictures make me wonder if AT&T is hiring 12 year old girls as technicians. Westell box 4th pic from the bottom has no chassis ground, and the id card on 2nd pic from the bottom is covered in hearts

  16. notice the id card says “customer:AT&T” its hardly ever AT&T employees that install there equipment, sub-contractors do pretty much all of it

  17. that is what is referred to as the “demarcation point or demarc” of the LEC’s T1 lines. Those boxes are smartjacks which provide loopback testing capabilities. The 66 block is the actual point where the t1 circuit becomes AT&T or T-mobil’s responsibility. From there it should route to surge protector’s and then to another 66 block with the outputs running through those conduits up to the roof where the radio equipment would be.

    The lower righthand side of the first pics shows the Network Interfact Device for an ethernet backhaul using fiber lines. The big box is a multiplexer which combines all the signals from the different carrier’s fiber and copper onto a transmission line with higher bits per second rate. I believe that model is the Canoga Perkins NID

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