The POWDER team in Salt Lake City, Utah, one of our selected PAWR wireless testbeds, just deployed its first software defined radio node on the Merrill Engineering Building located on the University of Utah campus.

It may be a first step that only an engineer (or engineer at heart) could appreciate, but the installation of the first physical component of this new wireless research testbed has vast implications. For the wireless industry. For academics. For smart communities in the making, and all of us who live in them.

Remaining nodes for the pilot phase of the project are scheduled for installation by the end of January.

Fig 1. National Instruments X310 software defined radio node @ Merrill Engineering Building @ University of Utah Campus

The purpose of the wireless testbed is to create a city-scale living laboratory that will let researchers not only test new wireless technologies, but also applications and services that could run on top of advanced networks in the future. The POWDER team is putting in place physical infrastructure that won’t exist anywhere else, and yet researchers from anywhere will eventually be able to tap into this resource both on site and (someday) through virtual access channels.

In the near term, the POWDER platform will be used to build new test networks with existing technologies, like 4G cellular communications, and up-and-coming ones, like 5G and massive MIMO arrays. Or, researchers may invent new protocols, designing innovative networks from the ground up.

Over the longer term, researchers will run experiments with novel devices and applications in virtual network environments. This could be the be the birthplace of new wearable technology, or critical infrastructure management systems, or virtual reality models.

For the pilot phase of the POWDER deployment, there will be four fixed nodes installed on the University of Utah campus including one massive MIMO endpoint. Each fixed node will have two software defined radios available for research purposes and a third SDR for spectrum monitoring. Expanded campus and residential network deployment will continue later in the year, with downtown deployment beginning in 2020 and extending into 2021.

Want to dive in deeper? Read this article in Light Reading on how the POWDER team is working with the Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP) project.

The team also recently participated in the ETSI and the OpenAirInterface Software Alliance (OSA) event to demonstrate the features and functionality of the platform available for 5G standardization and implementation communities. Presentations from that event are also available online.

NOTE: POWDER is part of the Platforms for Advanced Wireless Research (PAWR) program, launched by US Ignite and funded by National Science Foundation (NSF) and the PAWR Industry Consortium representing 28 of the nation’s leading companies and associations in wireless. The PAWR Project Office (PPO) oversees the research platforms and is co-led by US Ignite and Northeastern University.