June 3, 2021
WASHINGTON – The Platforms for Advanced Wireless Research (PAWR) Project Office, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and a consortium of 35 leading wireless companies and associations, today announced the launch of OpenAirX-Labs (OAX) as part of the PAWR program. OAX is the North American home for development, testing, and integration of the OpenAirInterface (OAI) Software Alliance's open source 5G standalone software stack. It is the newest resource in the PAWR program, a public-private partnership promoting wireless research through the development of multiple outdoor, large-scale wireless testbeds across the U.S.
Founding industry partners for OAX include Facebook, Interdigital, NI, Qualcomm, Radisys, and Xilinx – all part of the larger PAWR Industry Consortium. Federal funding for OAX activities is provided by NSF and the U.S. Department of Defense's Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering [DOD OUSD (R&E)] through awards under the PAWR program. OAX is located at the Institute for the Wireless Internet of Things at Northeastern University in Boston.
The need for open source 5G software is increasingly apparent as researchers seek to advance development in the 5G mobile core, radio access network (RAN), and service management and orchestration systems. As networks evolve toward more disaggregated and virtualized environments, there are significant opportunities to optimize and innovate on network operations. However, those opportunities have largely been limited to organizations with access to commercial software, making it difficult to broaden the 5G innovation ecosystem.
OAX aims to address this market challenge by introducing a benchmark, end-to-end 5G implementation, and by providing development and test status across multiple identified metrics. In addition, OAX will maintain a crowd sourced inventory of different ecosystem solutions to encourage increased collaboration and critical interoperability testing.
"The launch of OAX puts muscle not only behind U.S. efforts to expand the capabilities and performance of 5G networks, but also behind the technologies that will move the wireless industry beyond 5G," said PAWR Technical Program Director Abhimanyu (Manu) Gosain. "By hosting OAX as part of the PAWR program, we are also ensuring there is a clear path from software development through to testing and prototyping of new software, hardware, and wireless applications."
OAX joins the PAWR program as part of a collection of Facilities and Resources that sit alongside wireless testbeds in Salt Lake City, Utah, the West Harlem neighborhood in New York City, and the Research Triangle area of North Carolina. Housed at Northeastern University, OAX has developed a cloud based Continuous Integration and Development (CI/CD) suite mirroring the OpenAirInterface facilities at Eurecom in France, and provides a neutral, remotely accessible lab environment in North America designed to accelerate the development of a stable, compliant, and performant software stack. Once initial development and testing are complete, the open source 5G software will be instantiated as a new software profile on the PAWR wireless testbeds. It will be made available to researchers for the ongoing exploration of 5G spectrum sharing, network automation, and other advanced wireless technologies.
"A lot of thinking and hard work from the board as well as the engineering teams of EURECOM and the OpenAirInterface Software Alliance (OSA) has gone into laying the ground work for the launch of the OpenAirX-Labs," said Raymond Knopp, President of the OpenAirInterface Software Alliance and Professor at EURECOM. "The Alliance from its onset has remained fully committed to creating the conditions for openness and thus to the worldwide adoption of OAI. This has involved the laser focus of developers from EURECOM, OSA and the key partners in the community to deliver end-to-end 5G core and RAN stacks that are complete, stable, easy to deploy, and appealing for the use cases of our contributors and users. We see great opportunities ahead as OAI now expands through its U.S. home, the OAX labs in North America."
With the industry push toward Open RAN interfaces, OAX also promises to provide a vital resource for development work and interoperability testing specific to Open RAN deployment efforts. The PAWR program is already closely partnered with the Open RAN community, with POWDER and COSMOS – the PAWR testbeds located in Salt Lake City and New York City respectively – serving as hosts for North American Open RAN plugfest events in 2020.
In addition to OAX, PAWR Facilities and Resources include Colosseum, the world's largest radiofrequency emulator. PAWR wireless testbeds include: POWDER in Salt Lake City, which is focused on software-defined networking and massive MIMO research; COSMOS in the West Harlem neighborhood of New York City, targeting programmable networks and innovation in optical backhaul; and AERPAW in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina, focused on wireless communications for unmanned aerial systems (UAS). A fourth PAWR platform targeting rural broadband solutions will be named later this month.
The PAWR program is managed by the PAWR Project Office, which is co-led by US Ignite and Northeastern University. More information on OAX is available on the OAX website, and the PAWR program website.
Partner Company Quotes
"OAX will expand accessibility of 5G and beyond to an entire ecosystem of innovators," said Charles Schroeder, NI Fellow. "NI is excited by the trend toward more open, software-defined platforms and what that means for the wireless research community, industry and ultimately consumers."
"Radisys has a strong, ongoing commitment in support of initiatives that accelerate the Open 5G transformation," said Munish Chhabra, Head of Mobility Software and Services Business, Radisys. "The OpenAirX-Labs addresses an industry need for tested and validated solutions that guarantee the interoperability of open 5G RAN software solutions from multiple vendors, and we are proud to participate in this critical initiative to ensure the commercialization of open 5G software."
"As a strong advocate for establishing a high quality reference architecture for the 3GPP 5G RAN and Core Network protocols, interfaces, and APIs, Qualcomm is excited to support the formation of OpenAirX-Labs," said Ed Tiedemann, SVP, Engineering at Qualcomm. "The mission of extending the Open Air Interface 5G stack implementation with additional features and O&M capabilities that are essential for US government 5G-related R&D projects is vital for maintaining and growing US government and academic research leadership in 5G (and beyond) technologies."
"As a long-time partner of Northeastern University and PAWR, InterDigital is thrilled to support the OpenAirX Labs initiative as a reflection of our commitment to both Open RAN and 6G," said Laurent Depersin, Director of Home Experience Lab, InterDigital. "The formation of OAX will enable new levels of collaboration and develop a path forward for the Open RAN ecosystems integral to Beyond 5G and 6G initiatives."
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