The only Open Testing and Integration Center (OTIC) in the Commonwealth and the Washington, D.C. area is at Virginia Tech.
The Commonwealth Cyber Initiative (CCI) is one of six centers in North America and one of 15 in the world approved by the O-RAN Alliance. The CCI center will be an essential component to boosting advancements and competition in wireless mobile networks based on open radio access networks (O-RAN).
“Becoming an O-RAN testing and integration center aligns with our mission to spur innovation, integrate security, and lower barriers to entry in the wireless market,” CCI Executive Director Luiz DaSilva said. “Our investment in shared infrastructure gives industry partners and researchers across our network of more than 40 Virginia universities and colleges access to this crucial resource that will help build secure, fast networks.”
O-RAN’s goal of intelligent, open, virtualized and fully interoperable mobile networks promises to spur marketplace competition and evolve network technology at a faster pace than proprietary or “black box” technology. OTICs help achieve that goal by allowing vendors and providers to test, evaluate and verify products and software solutions.
CCI received the OTIC designation due to its xG Testbed, the first end-to-end O-RAN-compliant testbed of its kind in the United States. The testbed, based at the Virginia Tech Research Center in Arlington, will serve as the OTIC host in partnership with AT&T, DISH Network and Verizon. CCI partners, including George Mason University, Wireless@VT and Old Dominion University, will work toward the goal of accelerating O-RAN advancement, innovation and deployment.
An outdoor campus-scale testbed is under construction on Virginia Tech’s Blacksburg campus, which will have three commercial Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) base stations.
Base stations are the heart of the mobile network ecosystem and provide consistent connection to devices. The next generation of communication networks has changed the traditional monolithic hardware base station to a disaggregated and virtualized base station, using mostly software instead of hardware to get the job done.
According to CCI xG Testbed Director Aloizio P. DaSilva, ensuring the three components of base stations work seamlessly together and spotting opportunities for improvement is where OTIC and the CCI xG Testbed can provide essential expertise.
“By conducting interoperability, conformance and performance tests on those components as an OTIC site, we will identify and address key gaps, spurring innovation and early adoption in the wireless marketplace,” DaSilva said.
The goal is to make sure all components speak the same language and easily integrate.
“Adding intelligence on these components by using artificial intelligence will allow all of our devices to work together and be connected, whether we’re walking down the street using our smartphones or in the park on a laptop or are emergency responders sharing the information they need to save lives. We want our mobile networks to run seamlessly and autonomously in the background as we go about our daily lives,” DaSilva said.
Caption: CCI xG Testbed Director Aloizio P. DaSilva (at left) installs 72 radio nodes in the CCI test bed in Arlington with help from graduate student Vikas Radhakrishnan. Photo by Anthony Wright for Virginia Tech.