National Science Foundation Offers Live 5G Open Source Development Testbed

Developers wanting to work on open source 5G applications have a new testbed. The National Science Foundation POWDER testbed in Salt Lake City has added open source 5G software on top of its outdoor radio network.

The POWDER testbed is operated by Platforms for Advanced Wireless Research (PAWR), a nonprofit co-led by US Ignite and Northeastern University. The NSF sees increasing demand for more open networks as a means of enabling faster innovation and a more competitive market. Research platforms such as POWDER can provide enable research on previously inaccessible elements of communications systems. Making an open source 5G network available to developers is seen as a way of accelerating the process of transitioning research projects into real world innovations on commercial networks.

National Science Foundation 5G Testbed

New elements of the POWDER 5G testbed include software defined radios (SDRs), a custom designed radio frequency (RF) frontend and the open source OpenAirInterface (OAI) 5G software stack.

The RF frontend operates in the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) spectrum but is designed in a manner that makes it easily expandable to other spectrum ranges. The POWDER 5G capabilities are deployed on a sophisticated resource management platform and include access to backhaul connectivity, a variety of compute resources and common-off-the-shelf (COTS) 5G devices or user endpoints. Some of the latter are deployed on campus shuttles to enable mobility experiments.

“These capabilities will enable researchers to experiment with 5G and beyond technologies and concepts, while grappling with the challenges of doing so in a real-world environment.” Kobus Van der Merwe, Jay Lepreau professor in the Kahlert School of Computing at the University of Utah and Director of the POWDER platform said in a press release.

“Our goal with POWDER is to provide our users with an array of building blocks that can be easily composed into sophisticated experiments, so researchers can focus on the science questions they are interested in.” PAWR is a nonprofit co-led by US Ignite and Northeastern University.


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