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We designed, built, and tested a real-time processor for a direction-of-arrival-based smart antenna GSM 1800 base station with eight half-wavelength spaced antenna elements. Its processing steps include direction-of-arrival (DOA) estimation, user identification, tracking, beamforming, and signal reconstruction. We demonstrate that the accuracy of DOA estimation is not of primary concern, but the robustness is. This can be assessed by a new parameter, the estimation range. Tracking of reliable user DOAs only, increases the robustness against interference. Our tracking concept is compatible with frequency hopping. We quantify the benefits of smart antennas by the statistics of the gain in carrier-to-interference ratio (C/I) and in signal-to-noise ratio (SNR), both measured at the 90 or 99% levels with actual transmitted data. In an urban environment with large angular spread and overlap of user and interferer signals, the C/I gain is as high as 18 dB. Interferer ing increases the C/I gain only slightly, but enhances robustness against angular spread, particularly if broad s are applied. Separating SNR gain in its contributions due to beamforming and diversity gives valuable insight into the way of operation. In uplink, the processor can exploit angular diversity. The entire suite of processing steps is done within less than 1 ms, demonstrating that sophisticated DOA-based smart antenna processing is feasible in real time. Our solution does not require any change in the GSM standard.