NTIA explores open 5G stack competition to support DoD missions

The NTIA is looking into ways to speed up development and interoperability of the open 5G stack ecosystem to support U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) missions.

It issued a notice Monday seeking input for a 5G Challenge to do so, citing traction toward the use of open interfaces in the 5G protocol stack. The Notice of Inquiry (NOI) from January 11 covers three broad categories, including questions on how to structure the challenge and goals, incentives and scope, and timeframe and infrastructure.

The focus is on 5G protocol stack software, but a 5G Challenge would look at open source applied across a 5G system including end-user equipment, radio access network (RAN) and core network.

NTIA says it wants the challenge to maximize benefits for both the open 5G stack stakeholders and the DoD on an accelerated timeline. One question asks how to format the challenge to ensure it focuses on the greatest barriers to maturity of an end-to-end open 5G stack.

The NOI notes that the community is diverse, with different open source implementations among a variety of groups sometimes focused on separate portions of the 5G stack.

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“And the various implementations are often created with the intention to be used with code sourced from a single organization, where interoperability amongst the community’s implementations is not guaranteed,” the notice states.

To that end, NTIA wants to know what incentives would maximize cooperation and collaboration, and promote interoperability to help get the features they want both ready and secure more quickly. One question asks what portions of the stack organizations think can be developed in six months or less.

NITA also asks how to define metrics of success and if there should be different phases of the challenge.

“Fifth-generation wireless networks are poised to transform America’s economic and national security for years to come. ITS’ unique capabilities make it a perfect partner as the Department of Defense pursues cutting edge, innovative 5G applications,” said Carolyn Roddy, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information, in a statement.

Comments are due February 10.  

The DoD has been pursuing 5G technology for the military. In 2019 the department established its 5G Initiative as a priority to use the technology for military networking needs.

RELATED: AT&T, Ericsson, Nokia picked for DoD 5G testbeds

AT&T, Ericsson and Nokia were among more than a dozen vendors who secured $600 million in DoD contracts in the fall for 5G testbeds located on a handful of military bases, as were Federated Wireless and Samsung.

In an update last week, Joseph B. Evans, principal director for 5G in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, said the DoD is on track for 5G testing in 2021. It’s set up the sites for the first tranche of 5G installations and is in the process of releasing requests for proposals for a second group of 5G testbeds.