Northeastern University Launches Testing Center for Next-Gen 6G O-RAN Cellular Networks

Northeastern University Launches Testing Center for Next-Gen 6G O-RAN Cellular Networks

The Institute for the Wireless Internet of Things (WIoT) at Northeastern University has announced the establishment of an Open Testing and Integration Center (OTIC) in Burlington, MA, to promote research, development, and testing of next-generation Open Radio Access Networks (Open RAN). The OTIC has been approved by the O-RAN ALLIANCE with the official designation of "North American OTIC in the Boston Area (Northeastern University)" after a careful review of criteria and guidelines.  

The new OTIC within the Open6G hub will be a resource for industry, academia, and the federal government to provide testing, certification, and badging capabilities to guarantee multi-vendor interoperability, perform compliance and performance testing, and validate end-to-end control logic; as well as test artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) algorithms to control open and programmable cellular networks. The OTIC will provide testing equipment and services to validate disaggregated base stations and RAN Intelligent Controllers (RICs), including custom applications (i.e., xApps and rApps). End-to-end intelligent applications will be tested against different RAN implementations (including commercial and open-source stacks), in emulated or over-the-air environments.  

The OTIC will be a resource and knowledge hub for the United States Government, coalescing investments through programs such as the Open6G Hub, funded by the Department of Defense's Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering FutureG Office through Army Research Laboratory Cooperative Agreement, and the National Science Foundation's Platforms for Advanced Wireless Research (PAWR) program.  

As one of the first academic members of the O-RAN ALLIANCE, Northeastern University's WIoT and its Open6G hub have pioneered research and development in experimental O-RAN algorithms and testbeds, including the first demonstrations of end-to-end fully automated and softwarized cellular networks driven by AI, the Open RAN closed-loop control demonstrations with 40+ hardware nodes in the loop, and contributions to O-RAN standardization, O-RAN Software Community (OSC) and other open-source communities like the OpenAir Interface (OAI) Software Alliance. Open6G researchers have advanced O-RAN systems through collaboration with industry partners, national and international academic research labs, and government agencies. 

The new Northeastern OTIC builds on facilities and capabilities available in the Open6G center, which will be expanded with dedicated testing equipment. Key capabilities include: 

  • Large-scale Experimental Wireless Testbeds – Colosseum, funded by the National Science Foundation, is the world's largest wireless network emulator, with 256 software-defined radios and 25 server racks equipped with programmable GPUs, FPGAs, and orchestration tools. Colosseum has hosted demonstrations of closed-loop control with xApps in O-RAN using the OpenRAN Gym framework, large-scale data collection for AI/ML training, and extensive testing of commercial radios and emulated devices. Arena is the over-the-air complement to Colosseum, which hosts a first-of-its-kind fully automated private 5G network
  • FCC Innovation Zone – The OTIC is part of a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Innovation Zone, which covers multiple 5G bands in the Northeastern University campuses in Boston and Burlington, MA. This allows over-the-air testing of O-RAN systems in a variety of different environments. 
  • Diverse 5G RAN Deployments: The OTIC encompasses multiple 5G RAN deployments, including commercial/proprietary as well as Open RAN products such as 5G User Equipment (UE), core networks, and a programmable 5G O-RAN testbed with over 10 base stations in the indoor Arena testbed. This extensive infrastructure facilitates the testing and integration of xApps and rApps against various RAN implementations in emulated and over-the-air environments.  
  • Specialized Testing Facilities: The OTIC is co-located with a large outdoor unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) testing facility to explore use cases related to drone mobility and with an anechoic chamber designed to conduct interference-free radio device testing. 

The Northeastern OTIC has been launched in partnership with AT&T, Verizon, and DISH. The WIoT industry consortium, which has been supporting this effort, counts about 20 vendors, operators, over-the-top system integrators, and small businesses in the telecom space. 

"Northeastern's Open6G is at the forefront of innovation in Open RAN testing, architectures, algorithms, software, and experimentation. Together with our partners, we are creating an innovation and testing ecosystem that will continue to serve the federal government, industry, and academia," says Tommaso Melodia, Director of Northeastern's Institute for the Wireless Internet of Things.  

The OTIC will provide services to clients through remote and physical access. It is hosted in a 4,600 square feet facility with collaborative and experimental space, including conference rooms, offices, storage, and data center spaces equipped with dedicated cooling, power supply, and networking infrastructure. 

Click here for more information on the OTIC portal.

Publisher: everything RF
Tags:-   IoT5G6GO-RAN