CableLabs to host NTIA’s 5G Challenge – includes 5G SA core network, testing and measurement

The U.S. Department of Commerce announced that CableLabs will host the NTIA- Information Administration’s Institute for Telecommunication Sciences (NTIA-ITS) 5G Challenge, in support of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), which seeks to advance open 5G networks with the goal of interoperability and plug-and-play operation from different vendor components.  NTIA-ITS will leverage CableLabs’ state-of-the-art lab deployment of fully virtualized 5G networks, including multiple cores, multiple radio access network and new network emulation equipment.

The competition requires a 5G SA core network, testing and measurement capabilities.  An important goal of the competition is to help spur a growing 5G supplier community with interoperable, multi-vendor solutions – and CableLabs says its facility has all the right makings to see participants compete in testing and validation on-site.

NTIA launched an inquiry in early 2021 seeking input on a 5G Challenge as it explored ways to speed up development and interoperability of the open 5G ecosystem to support DoD missions. It’s still working on design and execution of the competition, and previously received input from major vendors such as Ericsson and groups including the Open RAN Policy Coalition, which were among 51 responses submitted by a range of industry stakeholders.

“The Department of Defense recognizes that 5G technologies are foundational to strengthening our Nation’s warfighting capabilities as well as U.S. economic competitiveness. Open 5G systems would greatly bolster the Department’s ability to deliver on its missions, and we look forward to exploring new and innovative opportunities for their development,” said Michael Kratsios, Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering.

The effort is going to leverage the CableLabs 17,000-square-foot lab, where it has deployed fully virtualized 5G networks that include multiple cores, radio access network and new network emulation equipment.  CableLabs has a 5G SA network prototype with engineering capabilities to integrate multiple vendors at the same time while also testing and measuring technical performance metrics.

In a blog post Wednesday, CableLabs VP of Wireless David Debrecht highlighted the group’s growing expertise focused on mobile networks, such as involvement in industry efforts to build flexible 5G technologies including at 3GPP, the O-RAN Alliance and the Telecom Infra Project.  “CableLabs is well situated to host the 5G Challenge, given our long-standing role in the industry and our work with multiple vendors to drive interoperable network technologies,” Debrecht wrote.

CableLabs is deeply involved in the industry’s work to develop flexible 5G technologies—including at 3GPPO-RAN Alliance and the Telecom Infra Project (TIP)—to enable new vendor opportunities, enhance network security and streamline integration and interoperability.

In a statement, CableLabs president and CEO Phil McKinney indicated work would continue beyond the challenge, as it’s committed to ongoing R&D and interoperability testing in mobile network technologies.

“CableLabs is honored to be the host lab for the 5G Challenge,” McKinney commented. “The recognition from the US Department of Commerce is a testament to CableLab’s continued and increasing investment in mobile wireless network technologies, and particularly, our focus on open and interoperable network technologies.”

The NTIA issued its initial notice of inquiry in support of the DoD’s 5G Initiative, the latter which has committed $600 million for 5G testbeds to see how the military could use the technology for its networking needs. The DoD’s focus on 5G is aimed at technology that will enable both military and commercial deployments.

The 5G challenge, meanwhile, is meant to specifically address the shift toward using open implementations of different components for a 5G system, and NTIA had said an aim is to maximize benefits for both 5G stakeholders and the DoD on an accelerated timeline.

It received feedback across standards and industry groups, equipment vendors, major operators, and others who weighed with comments on the NOI to help inform NTIA about how to structure the challenge and goals, incentives and scope, and timeframe and infrastructure.

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About CableLabs:

As the leading innovation and R&D lab for the broadband cable industry, CableLabs creates global impact through its member companies around the world and its subsidiaries, Kyrio and SCTE. With a state-of-the-art research and innovation facility and collaborative ecosystem with thousands of vendors, CableLabs delivers impactful network technologies for the entire industry.


Accelerating 5G Network Innovation: CableLabs Named Host Lab for 5G Challenge