U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and NTIA Launch 5G Challenge: RAN subsystem interoperability

The DoD, in collaboration with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) Institute for Telecommunication Sciences (ITS) [1.] have launched the 5G Challenge Preliminary Event: RAN Subsystem Interoperability. This competition aims to accelerate the development and adoption of open interfaces, interoperable components, and multi-vendor solutions toward the development of an open 5G ecosystem.

Note 1. ITS, the Nation’s Spectrum and Communications Lab, supports the Department of Defense 5G Initiative through a combination of its subject matter experts in 5G and its research, development, test, and evaluation (RDT&E) laboratory infrastructure in Boulder, Colorado, including the Advanced Communications Test Site at the Table Mountain Radio Quiet Zone.

“The Department is committed to supporting innovation efforts that accelerate the domestic development of 5G and Future G technologies. 5G is too critical a technology sector to relinquish to countries whose products and technologies are not aligned with our standards of privacy and security. We will continue our support of all necessary efforts to unleash innovation while developing secure 5G supply chains,” said Amanda Toman, Acting Principal Director, 5G-Future G.

“Increasing the resilience and security of our supply chain is at the heart of NTIA’s work to incentivize open and interoperable 5G networks and increase the diversity of suppliers in the 5G ecosystem,” said Alan Davidson, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information and NTIA Administrator. “NTIA and ITS are excited to collaborate with the Department of Defense on the 5G Challenge because it reinforces our joint understanding that cost-effective, secure 5G networks are key to both national and economic security.”

Today, most wireless networks are operated by mobile network operators and composed of many vendor-specific proprietary solutions. Each discrete element typically contains custom, closed-source software and hardware. This industry dynamic increases costs, slows innovation, and reduces competition, often making security issues difficult to detect and resolve. The 5G Challenge aims to foster a large, vibrant, and diverse vendor community dedicated to advancing 5G interoperability towards true plug-and-play operation, and unleashing a new era of technological innovation based on this critical technology.

This 5G Challenge Preliminary Event: RAN Subsystem Interoperability will award up to $3,000,000 to participants who submit hardware and/or software solutions for any or all of the following 5G network subsystems, which must be compliant with the 3GPP Release 15 and O-RAN Alliance specifications: Distributed Unit (DU), Central Unit (CU), and Radio Unit (RU). Interoperability is open for applications through May 5, 2022. For applications and additional information on this 2022 contest, please visit www.challenge.gov.

About NTIA:

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), located within the Department of Commerce, is the Executive Branch agency that is principally responsible by law for advising the U.S. President on telecommunications and information policy issues. NTIA’s programs and policymaking focus largely on expanding broadband Internet access and adoption in America, expanding the use of spectrum by all users, and ensuring that the Internet remains an engine for continued innovation and economic growth.

About USD(R&E):

The Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (USD(R&E) is the Chief Technology Officer of the Department of Defense. The USD(R&E) champions research, science, technology, engineering, and innovation to maintain the United States military’s technological advantage. Learn more at www.cto.mil, follow us on Twitter @DoDCTO, or visit us on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/company/ousdre.

3 thoughts on “U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and NTIA Launch 5G Challenge: RAN subsystem interoperability

  1. In the just announced NTIA/DoD 5G RAN challenge, both 3GPP Release 15 and O-RAN Alliance specifications are mandatory for challenge participants. That’s a mind blower for several reasons:

    1. ITU-R M.2150 (previously known as IMT 2020.specs) is the one and only standard for 5G RANs/RITs and the 3GPP RIT/SRITs contain parts of Release 15 AND Release 16.

    2. The O-RAN Alliance specs are not standards and they have not been finalized yet. Also, I thought the TIP Open RAN project was doing the interoperability testing. If so, is this Challenge a duplicate effort?

    3. There is evidently no interoperability testing for anything other than the radio interfaces, e.g. signaling, network management, security, etc which are either based on 5G NSA or (much fewer deployed) 5G SA core network.

    4. No 5G RAN frequency arrangements are specified (Note ITU-R M.1036 Frequency Arrangements for 5G is on hold till Oct 2022 ITU-R WP5D meeting)

  2. I strongly agree with what you have written. Here are three more points.

    On the issue of duplication of interoperability testing within TIP, as the stated objective is ‘Increasing the resilience and security of our supply chain is at the heart of NTIA’s’ the proposed activity is only focusing on interoperability and not security, this should be at the heart of DOD both considering technical security aspects as well as influence of foreign adversaries in OpenRAN ensure we don’t end up as the Belgians banning Huawei/ZTE in 5G while buying Huawei routes for the military network” please read https://www.brusselstimes.com/215899/controversy-as-belgian-defense-uses-chinese-huawei-to-access-the-internet

    Many of these companies continue to operate in Russia, despite their US and EU competitors leaving and repeated requests from the Ukrainian government to stop operations in Russia. According to the Yale School of Management, more than 500 companies have announced their withdrawal from Russia’s economy since Putin launched the war on Feb. 24. Chinese and some few American companies have remained in Russia. The Chinese government supports the invasion. Indeed there were attempts by a handful of Chinese firms to leave, fearing reprisal from their US customers, but they stay on in Russia because of pressure from China. This itself demonstrates how China exerts pressure on its companies, even when many firms have told Western media the opposite. Two companies in particular are of interest because their competitors have left, but they remain: Huawei and Lenovo. Indeed there are reports that Huawei helps the Russia government by training its soldiers in cyberwar.

    We must encourage a dedicated effort to investigate foreign adversaries’ influence in OpenRAN, including ORAN Alliance, and open source software. I have attached an oversight of the various working groups in the O-Ran Alliance. This is not something that O-RAN Alliance will share, so we have to do it.

    Facts is that the US authorities is shifting focus away from Huawei and instead to promote OpenRAN, Huawei has been quietly building gigantic clouds in Africa and Latin America right under their noses. Please look at this CSIS report “Huawei’s Global Cloud Strategy Economic and Strategic Implications” https://reconasia.csis.org/huawei-global-cloud-strategy/ a study there documenting Huawei’s rise. Strand Consult’s Peru-born associate Silvia Elaluf-Calderwood describes Huawei’s rise in cloud, the fastest in LATAM in fact, and its threats to US and EU security and human rights. See in English https://strandconsult.dk/blog/huawei-data-centres-and-clouds-already-cover-latin-america-chinese-tech-influence-is-a-gift-to-countries-and-politicians-that-dont-respect-human-rights/ and in Spanish https://strandconsult.dk/los-centros-de-datos-y-la-red-de-nubes-de-huawei-ya-cubren-toda-latino-america-la-influencia-technologica-de-china-es-un-regalos-a-los-paises-y-politicos-que-no-respetan-los-derechos-humanos/

    The bottom line is that OpenRAN is something operators talk about, but not something they buy. It looks more and more like WiMax 2.0. Please look at my latest Mobile World Congress research note: https://strandconsult.dk/openran-at-mobile-world-congress-2022-a-review-by-john-strand/

    We at Strand Consult has nothing against OpenRAN. However we want to create the transparency at the O-RAN Alliance, and some of its members have pushed back. Indeed Strand Consult’s transparency concerns are shared by policymakers in the EU and US, notably the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee.

  3. The UK government is accelerating the development of Open Radio Access Network (Open RAN) technology – which allows operators to mix and match equipment rather than relying on a single supplier when building or maintaining networks – as part of its £250 million Open Networks R&D Fund. It aims to build more secure and resilient broadband and mobile infrastructure by boosting competition and innovation within the telecoms supply chain.

    This collaboration, together with other steps that the Government is taking through its Diversification Strategy, aims to meet the Government and UK mobile network operators’ joint ambition to carry 35% of the UK’s mobile network traffic over open and interoperable RAN architectures by 2030. The Government will invest through a series of competitions and challenges with funding made available until the end of March 2025. These activities will encourage greater collaboration towards addressing key barriers including power efficiency, spectrum management, software platforms, systems integration and security – ensuring that the development of innovative telecoms solutions meet the performance and security requirements of mobile network operators and other network builders.

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