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POWDER, the NSF PAWR testbed, unveils open source 5G research networkPOWDER, the NSF PAWR testbed, unveils open source 5G research network

POWDER, the NSF PAWR testbed, unveils open source 5G research network. #pressrelease

January 26, 2023

3 Min Read
POWDER, the NSF PAWR testbed, unveils open source 5G research network

WASHINGTON – The Platforms for Advanced Wireless Research (PAWR) Project Office announces the unveiling of new 5G research capabilities at POWDER, the National Science Foundation (NSF) PAWR testbed in Salt Lake City, Utah. The POWDER platform has implemented open source 5G software on top of its outdoor radio network. The deployment makes it possible for researchers of all types to experiment with a live network and innovate in ways designed to unlock the full potential of advanced 5G and beyond technologies.

While traditional commercial networks use proprietary and integrated hardware and software, there is increasing demand for more open networks to enable faster innovation and a more competitive market. The research community will play a critical role in this evolution. Through investments in the development and implementation of open network architectures, research platforms can provide access to elements of communications systems that were previously inaccessible. This availability allows more people to work on improving network technologies. It also provides an opportunity to accelerate the transition of high-impact research results into the broader commercial sphere.

The new offering from POWDER combines software defined radios (SDRs), equipped with a custom designed radio frequency (RF) frontend, with an implementation of the open source OpenAirInterface (OAI) 5G software stack. The RF frontend operates in CBRS spectrum, but is designed in a modular manner to be easily extended to make use of other spectrum ranges. The POWDER 5G capabilities come layered on top of 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 (UEs), some of which are deployed on campus shuttles to enable mobility experiments.

The POWDER testbed has been fully programmable since its launch in 2019. Since that time, researchers have steadily contributed to a catalog of software profiles that enable a range of network environments. Creating an open source mobile broadband network has been the most difficult setup to achieve. Success is the result of both ongoing development work in the open source community, and the development of RF frontend capabilities by the POWDER team to boost signal performance in deployed SDRs.

POWDER's OAI-based 5G network is available as a click-to-install software profile on the POWDER platform. It operates over the CBRS frequency band and can be used to experiment with open radio access network (Open RAN) technologies and other innovations in virtualized networking that are driving next-generation wireless communications.

The PAWR program is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and an industry consortium of leading wireless companies and associations. It is managed by the PAWR Project Office, which is co-led by nonprofit US Ignite and Northeastern University. In addition to POWDER, platforms in the PAWR program include COSMOS in New York City, AERPAW in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina, and ARA, a rural broadband testbed currently under construction in Ames, Iowa. The PAWR program also features other resources and facilities including Colosseum, the world's largest radiofrequency emulator.

Read the full press release here.

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