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5G testbeds for developing and testing new 5G technologies and 5G military applications

Mobile communications systems have evolved through wireless technology innovation into 2G, 3G, and then 4G to keep pace with ever increasing voice and data traffic. 5G, short for 5th generation mobile networking or 5th generation wireless systems is the latest iteration of cellular technology that will provide seamless coverage, high data rate, low latency, and highly reliable communications. It will increase energy efficiency, spectrum efficiency, network efficiency and act as an information duct to connect billions of Internet of Things (IoT) devices. 5G will additionally also connect myriad of new devices including machines, sensors, actuators, vehicles, robots and drones, to support a much larger range of applications and services.


The military is  also exploring 5G for  its communication needs.  5G can satisfy military’s growing requirements to gather, analyze, and share information rapidly; to control an increasing number of automated Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) assets and to command geographically dispersed and mobile forces. Military is interested in deploying wireless mesh networks  which  are more robust and self-healing, the communications packets find the best route to the destination based on traffic levels and available system bandwidth. 5G, shall enable mesh networking to enable devices to communicate with each other directly rather than via base stations, which should increase the bandwidth, lower power consumption, reduce infrastructure costs, and improve spectral efficiency.


To support a successful transition, 5G test practices are being developed and refined to ensure the consistent 5G performance that end users demand. The collective tools, software, protocols, and practices required for all 5G deployment phases form the core of the emerging 5G testing field.


5G testing means more than verifying the lightning-fast download speeds, super-low latency, and expansive coverage density. Ensuring network quality will be at the core of deployment to prevent dissatisfied end users, churn, and loss of market share.


To ensure the successful operation of 5G, the evaluation of the performance of several promising technologies requires rigorous field trialing and validation. 5G testbeds are Testing and proving grounds, that are needed because 5G will utilise entirely new technologies than previous mobile networks and will spawn completely new applications and services that will spill over into ever facet of our lives and environment. The testbeds themselves are designed to help industry understand the challenges involved in deploying new 5G technologies, and test 5G applications to prove the various use cases as well as move ideas towards commercial viability.



Due to its diverse field applications of 5G , it has brought researchers together from several domains and disciplines. One fundamental practice in such interdisciplinary research is to craft an artificial 5G test environment to implement, verify and validate concept before leading into prototyping. Therefore, a testbed is an essential tool for any 5G oriented research that comprises of all the enabling technologies such as SDN, ML, and Virtualization etc. and let the researcher test the concept in form of algorithms without bothering too much about the system implementation and operational details.


Undoubtedly, building such a Testbed is a key step, however, there are three possible alternative forms in which they generally come.

Fully Simulated: This type of environment are the lightest alternatives. Mathematical models (such as delay, mobility and queuing models etc.) to calculate network parameters while simulating. Some examples include simulators like NS2, QualNet, OPNET, TOSSIM. These environments are limited to interfacing with external.


Emulated: Network Emulators are typically UNIX based, using native drivers such as HWSim, these platforms can interface with physical systems and can produce more realistic results. Common Open Research Emulator (CORE) is one of the classic examples of such an environment. Mininet is presently one of the most popular network emulators for SDN. Also, Mininet-Wi-Fi an extension of standard Mininet is capable of emulating wireless networks with several mobilities and propagation models. Graphical Network Simulator (GNS3) is an option for advanced implementation, it provides virtualization, Docker containerization, and appliance support. One can use GNS3 to mimic an almost real scenario. These environments are typically heavy and some needs network configuration skills to prepare the test environment.


Hybrid: The Hybrid environment is the most advanced, they practically simulate and emulate the network and provides outstanding interfacing capabilities to the external world and other simulation environments. Netsim is one of the top hybrid platforms used by many universities and corporate houses for both research  and production. These platforms are typically commercial.

Industry Testbeds

MSU is receiving $1 million in National Science Foundation funding and $2 million in equipment donations to build an advanced wireless testbed as part of the Aerial Experimentation Research Platform for Advanced Wireless, or AERPAW, an NSF and industry-sponsored project focused on integrating unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, into 5G networks to increase connectivity.


AERPAW is a $24 million, five-year project led by North Carolina State University. It is part of Platforms for Advanced Wireless Research (PAWR), an NSF and industry consortium investment to ensure the U.S. takes a leadership role in 5G and accelerates the development of promising technologies.


Mississippi State researchers will develop software and integrate it with hardware to facilitate advanced wireless research and testing with software radios and emerging radio technologies and systems. The design and implementation will be made openly available and integrated into AERPAW. MSU’s principal investigators on the project are Vuk Marojevic, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Robert Moorhead, director of the Northern Gulf Institute, both faculty members in MSU’s Bagley College of Engineering.


Marojevic explained that with the increased speed and connectivity of 5G wireless networks, there is increased potential for drones to effectively communicate with networks in real time while flying, which can provide significant benefits in areas such as disaster response and precision agriculture. “Our testbed will use LTE technology, 5G and whatever comes after that,” Marojevic said. “We plan to be on the cutting edge of wireless technology over the years and hope to engage stakeholders in Mississippi communities, local and global industry and researchers.”


The wireless test site at MSU will focus on wireless security, but Marojevic said he anticipates it being used to test and evaluate a wide variety of emerging research that has not been tested experimentally. “There’s a lot of great research going on, but much of it is not evaluated and tested experimentally,” Marojevic said. “We want to offer these researchers the chance to test their technology in a real environment and fine-tune their models.”


5G Berlin testbed

5G playground is an 5G Testbed integrated within the 5G Berlin initiative, which is part of the Excellence Center for Digital Transformation.
The 5G Playground enables the 5G ready trial platform, which offers agile MEC/FOG computing capabilities and is connected to multi-access networks within 5G Berlin.

5G Berlin is a comprehensive end-to-end testbed infrastructure

  • Relying of multiple layers of infrastructure and software components
  • Enabling the direct integration of third party components and applications
  • Enabling the demonstration and validation of end-to-end use cases

5G Berlin relies on the following major layers:

  • An outdoor test field infrastructure
  • An indoor test field infrastructure
  • A network infrastructure
  • A large set of components managing the network infrastructure
  • A layer of software components enabling 5G connectivity
  • A layer of software application enablers (massive IoT, enhanced broadband and low delay
  • A set of generic applications, enabling the easy demonstration of use cases


UK’s 5G Testbeds and Trials Programme

UK’s 5G Testbeds and Trials Programme is a government initiative announced in autumn 2017 that has already led to the creation of a UK 5G network for test purposes, a national 5G innovation network to promote and co-ordinate research into 5G technologies and use cases, and a number of focused testbeds. More projects are in the planning stage. Testbeds and Trials projects are intended to provide opportunities to:

● Pilot ways of addressing deployment and technical challenges that will help to establish the conditions under which 5G can be deployed in the UK in a timely way.
● Provide environments where UK businesses, including SMEs, can test and develop 5G applications, services and products.
● Develop and trial new business models for parties in vertical industry sectors and telecommunications providers.
● Take advantage of areas where the UK has a competitive advantage such as our strengths in security, systems integration, scientific research, engineering talent, and the rich ecosystem of relevant technology companies.
● Contribute to meeting the grand challenges set out in the Government’s Industrial Strategy to put the UK at the forefront of the industries of the future .
● Stimulate the development of a strong pipeline of trials from many different future 5G users (including machines in the Internet of Things), learning lessons and driving productivity while helping to build the 5G ecosystem.

Indian testbeds

With a view of developing the ecosystem for 5G mobile communication technologies, IIIT-Naya Raipur (NR) has set up a 5G testbed in its Centre of Excellence (CoE) in Next Generation Networks. This testbed will provide a platform to integrate and validate various upcoming wireless sub-technologies such as machine-to-machine (M2M) communication, smart cities, e-health, autonomous vehicles, etc, which are expected to be part of the next big breakthrough in mobile communication.


The 5G is expected to be 35 times faster than that of 4G mobile networks. While the 5th generation mobile network is yet to penetrate to the society, it will interconnect not only people, but also interconnect smart machines, objects, and devices. Due to the high speed of 5Gmobile networks, users of 5G-enabled mobile devices will be able to use them for interactive multimedia applications, Internet-of-Things (IoT) applications, High Definition quality mobile TV (HDTV), video conferencing with mobile devices, and many other new types of mobile applications.


Dr Pradeep Sinha, VC & Director, IIIT-NR, said: “The 5G testbed will provide latest tools and hardware to help startup and researchers in working on cutting-edge technologies, future-generation mobile networks, devices and applications.” “Setting up the 5G testbed at IIIT-NR is in line with the ‘IIIT-NRVision 2.0’, which focuses on promoting research & innovation in futuristic technology areas,” Sinha added. IIIT-NR is now among the leading institutions like IIT-Madras, IISc-Bangalore, IIT-Kanpur, IIT-Delhi, IIT-Hyderabad and SAMEER-Mumbai, which have their own 5G testbed. The CoE at IIIT-NR has been established in line with Govt of India’s goal to build indigenous testbeds that closely resemble real-world 5G deployments in recent times.


Testbeds for testing 5G’s security

The coming 5G standard while offering multiple benefits will also come with new risks and challenges to security and privacy protection because of new industries and services, new architecture, and new technologies. 5G networks will support a massive number of connected devices, which together with an elevated use of virtualization and the cloud will equate to many more 5G security threats and a broader, multifaceted attack surface.


The dependence of many critical services on 5G networks would make the consequences of systemic and widespread disruption particularly serious. 5G will connect critical infrastructure that will require more security to ensure safety of not only the critical infrastructure but safety of the society as a whole. For example, a security breach in the online power supply systems can be catastrophic for all the electrical and electronic systems that the society depends upon. Similarly, we know that data is critical in decision making, but what if the critical data is corrupted while being transmitted by the 5G networks.


5G testbed in Virginia targets wireless security

A new 5G testbed under development in Virginia, anchored regionally across the state by its four major research universities, plans to focus squarely on wireless security for the connected future, and will provide resources for researchers, industry and government projects. The testbed is a flagship project of the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative (CCI), which launched in 2018 and has regional nodes in across the state at Virginia Tech, Virginia Commonwealth University, Old Dominion University and George Mason University. Central headquarters for the network is located at the Virginia Tech Research Center – Arlington, which involves students and faculty from 39 higher education institutions across the four nodes. According to Virginia Tech, the testbed also includes 65 private companies, four federal partners and 45 other regional partners.


Researchers at Virginia’s universities will have access to state-of-the art 5G equipment, and will share resources among the collaborative testbed, exploring vulnerabilities and solutions for different 5G applications such as manufacturing, unmanned vehicles and smart-grid power systems. The testbed will rely on open-source software, so in addition to researchers, will also invite companies to test new technology, startups to develop prototypes and government agencies to conduct training exercises. “The test bed will enable really exciting academic research and yield findings that will make 5G even more secure; it will also be a resource for technology startups working on improving 5G security,” said Roger Piqueras Jover, the chair of the test bed’s advisory board.


An early example of research that will happen within the testbed is using wireless connectivity and sensors to address data needs of the cargo shipping industry. Sachin Shetty, an associate professor of computational, modeling, and simulation engineering and associate director of Virginia Modeling, Analysis, and Simulation Center at Old Dominion University, will take on a project that seeks to provide real-time information on cargo loads, including information about location, and fullness of shipping containers.


“Most of the time they have more large containers than they need and they aren’t filled,” he said. “That affects efficiency in scheduling and fuel consumption,” said Shetty. “What they’re lacking is the ability to track the containers in real time — to know where they’re located, their capacity, and their condition, and being able to relay that information to an analytics platform.” A potential solution is to use wireless, battery-powered sensors affixed to thousands of cargo containers to collect and share data. However, handling vast amounts of connections requires robust wireless connectivity, that must also be secure.


Shetty’s project, which could start in the second half of this year, will rely on the 5G testbed’s unique structure to send real-time data from hundreds of shipping containers in Virginia’s ports to a base station at Old Dominion and then on to another node in the southwest region for additional processing. The CCI testbed project isn’t just looking at shipping, but will also investigate potential 5G vulnerabilities across transportation, healthcare, energy, and national security. “For 5G, the networks aren’t even live yet, and there are already half a dozen interesting papers on security vulnerabilities. The time is ripe to create the infrastructure to test them,” said Piqueras Jover.


Military 5G testbeds

The 5G is also a key technology that shall enable IoT and Military internet of things (MIOT). Analogous to IoT, Military internet of things (MIOT) comprising multitude of platforms, ranging from ships to aircraft to ground vehicles to weapon systems, is expected to be developed. MIoT offers high potential for the military to achieve significant efficiencies, improve safety and delivery of services, and produce major cost savings.


Defense Department released its latest in a series of requests for prototype proposals (RPPs) to help pave the way for incorporating 5G technologies into military networks. Depending on how the project pans out, it could lead to significant improvements in how 5G networks operate in the commercial sector too.


In the latest solicitation, issued as part of an other transaction agreement managed by the National Spectrum Consortium, DoD is asking vendors for technologies to help set up a “dynamic spectrum sharing testbed” at Hill Air Force Base in Utah. The idea is to test how well 5G networks can be made to work in a portion of the electromagnetic spectrum that’s used by military radar equipment, but also happens to be ideal for 5G.


With the 5G dynamic spectrum sharing testbed at Hill Air Force Base in Utah, DOD will work to develop hardware, software and systems that enable operation of both airborne radar systems and 5G cellular systems in shared spectral bands. The plan is to build a local, full-scale 5G mobile cellular network, so researchers can evaluate the impact the 5G network and the airborne radar systems have on each other when sharing spectrum. The goal is to develop equipment, control systems and processes that will allow radar spectrum sharing or coexistence with cooperating and non-cooperating 5G networks.


The DoD and the Department of the Air Force (DAF) need to develop effective methodologies (hardware, software, and systems) for sharing or coexistence between airborne radar systems and 5G cellular systems in shared (completely or partially overlapping) spectral bands, with specific focus on the 3,100-3,450 MHz band. The objective of this effort is to construct and operate a localized full scale 5G mobile cellular network in order to evaluate the impact of the 5G network on airborne radar systems and the radar systems’ impact on the 5G network, employing both active and passive techniques to enable sharing or coexistence. The outcome of the project will be capabilities (e.g. fieldable equipment and control systems) and processes to allow radar spectrum sharing or coexistence with cooperating and non-cooperating 5G networks.


The previous three RPPs have focused on augmented and virtual reality, “smart warehouses,” and network buildouts to support them. The Army has released details about the wireless 5G testbeds it plans to run at Hill Air Force Base in Utah and the Marine Corps Logistics Base in Albany, Ga. In late October, the Defense Department announced four bases where it would test emerging 5G technologies. In a Dec. 2 request for industry input, the Army described the first two projects: The smart warehouse and asset management testbed is designed to develop and demonstrate prototypes that use 5G-enabled technologies to improve operations for the Marines at the logistics base in Georgia. It aims to boost “the efficiency, accuracy, security, and safety of materiel and supply handling, management, storage, and distribution,” the announcement said. The smart warehouse would also be a proving ground for testing emerging 5G-enabled technologies for large-scale operations.


The document said draft requests for additional prototypes for 5G projects at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and Naval Base San Diego will come “in the near future.” One of those projects will be a testbed for integrating augmented/virtual reality into mission planning and training. On Dec. 9, DOD issued the two additional solicitations for a 5G augmented/virtual reality network at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state and for a 5G smart warehouse network at Naval Supply Systems Command’s (NAVSUP) Fleet Logistics Center San Diego.


Joint Base Lewis-McChord plans to use virtual and augmented reality technologies to allow for fieldable, combat-like training in 5G-enhanced locations. The testbed will demonstrate distributed training, which includes information transmitted to the trainee via AR/VR protocols, distributed simulation computing environments, and command and control replicated data, as well as information transmitted from the trainee into the shared simulation environment.


Like the Marine Corp smart warehouse testbed, the NAVSUP asset management project in San Diego aims to improve processes and automation for warehouse operations that support logistics operations ensuring warfighter readiness. Warehouse management systems capable of interfacing with the Navy’s existing systems will “optimize warehouse operation for receipt, putaway, replenishment, pick, pack and ship operations,” the solicitation said. The bases were selected for the testbeds because they are able to provide “streamlined access to site spectrum bands, mature fiber and wireless infrastructure, access to key facilities, support for new or improved infrastructure requirements, and the ability to conduct controlled experimentation with dynamic spectrum sharing,” DOD said in an October release.


DOD Kicks Off World’s Largest Dual-Use 5G Testing Effort

In Oct 2020, Defense Department officials  awarded of $600 million in contracts to 15 prime contractors to perform testing and evaluation of 5G technologies at five military installations across the United States, said the acting undersecretary of defense for research and engineering.


Five installations, including Hill Air Force Base, Utah; Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington; Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, Georgia; Naval Base San Diego; and Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, will serve as locations for the application and evaluation of a variety of 5G technologies. The effort — Tranche 1 of the department’s larger 5G initiative — will accelerate adoption of 5G technology, enhance the effectiveness and lethality of U.S. combat forces, and further the development and use of common 5G standards to ensure interoperability with military partners and allies.


Kratsios also said the department’s efforts in 5G will benefit participating industry partners, as well, because operating on U.S. military installations allows industry to move faster in their own experimentation and testing than what would normally be possible. “Outside of the department, in order for private sector companies to test the capabilities and functionality of 5G communications, they face an onerous process — negotiating agreements with state and local officials, attaining pole permits, funding the construction of antennas, and the list goes on,” Kratsios said. “At the DOD, we already have the personnel, operational capacity, facilities, scale and regulatory green light to get the job done.”


At Joint Base Lewis-McChord, four vendors will work to build a 5G-enabled test bed to enable augmented reality and virtual reality training. The effort will enhance mission planning and distributed training. To enhance naval logistic operations, four industry partners will develop a 5G-enabled “smart warehousing” capability at Naval Base San Diego. The project there is focused on transshipment between shore facilities and naval units and includes using 5G to improve the identification, recording, organization, storage, retrieval and transportation of materiel and supplies. At Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, four vendors will be focused on warehousing capabilities, similar to what’s happening in San Diego; however, the focus in Georgia will be on the storage and maintenance of Marine Corps vehicles.


Nellis AFB will serve as a test bed for the use of 5G technology to enhance operational and tactical command and control applications and services. There, a 5G network will be employed to disaggregate and mobilize existing C2 architectures in a combat employment scenario. Finally, at Hill AFB, six industry partners will work to develop better ways to allow Air Force radar systems to share spectrum with 5G cellular services. “We look forward to great progress to come from these test sites in the months and years ahead,” Kratsios said. “Nations that master advanced communication technologies will enjoy long-term economic and military advantages.” Work on the test bed sites will last approximately three years, with the sites expected to be set up within the first year. Full-scale experimentation will happen by year two.


Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Hill AFB, Naval Base San Diego and Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany were named as Tranche 1 test beds for 5G capabilities in October 2019. The requests for proposals from interested industry partners went out earlier this year. In May, Nellis AFB was named as an additional Tranche 1 test bed. The five Tranche 1 test sites were selected for their ability to provide streamlined access to site spectrum bands, mature fiber and wireless infrastructure, access to key facilities, support for new or improved infrastructure requirements, and the ability to conduct controlled experimentation with dynamic spectrum sharing.


In June, the department also announced seven new locations to serve as Tranche 2 test beds for additional 5G capability testing. The Tranche 2 locations include Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia; Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii; Joint Base San Antonio; the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California; Fort Hood, Texas; Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California; and Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma.


For the Tranche 1 locations, prime contractors include AT&T, Booz Allen Hamilton, Deloitte Consulting LLP, Ericsson, Federated Wireless, GBL System Corp., General Dynamics Mission Systems, Inc., GE Research, Key Bridge Wireless LLC, KPMG LLP, Nokia, Oceus Networks, Scientific Research Corporation, Shared Spectrum Company and Vectrus Mission Solutions Corporation. “These sandboxing activities at military bases harness the department’s unique authorities to pursue bold innovations in game-changing technologies,” Kratsios said. “By increasing our coordination among partners in the services, industry and academia and by renewing our commitment to fundamental research and development, we will preserve our nation’s technological edge and the innovative genius that has long been the source of American strength and leadership.”



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