Northeastern University opens O-RAN test center

With the blessing of the O-RAN Alliance, the Institute for the Wireless Internet of Things (WIoT) at Northeastern University has established an Open Testing and Integration Center (OTIC) in Burlington, Massachusetts.

The OTIC will provide testing equipment and services to validate disaggregated base stations and Radio Access Network (RAN) Intelligent Controllers (RICs), including custom applications, i.e., xApps and rApps.

Besides serving commercial interests, the OTIC will be a resource and knowledge hub for the U.S. government, including through programs such as the Open6G Hub.

The center carries the O-RAN Alliance’s official designation of “North American OTIC in the Boston area.”

The Northeastern OTIC was launched in partnership with AT&T, Verizon and Dish. About 20 vendors, operators, over-the-top system integrators and small businesses are part of the WIoT industry consortium.

The university said the new Northeastern OTIC builds on facilities and capabilities available in the Open6G center, which will be expanded with dedicated testing equipment. Here are some of the capabilities supported, according to WIoT’s press release:

  • Large-scale experimental wireless testbeds – Colosseum, funded by the National Science Foundation, is billed as the world's largest wireless network emulator, with 256 software-defined radios and 25 server racks equipped with programmable GPUs, FPGAs and orchestration tools. Arena is the over-the-air complement to Colosseum, which hosts a fully automated private 5G network
  • FCC Innovation Zone – The OTIC is part of the FCC Innovation Zone, which covers multiple 5G bands in the Northeastern University campuses in Boston and Burlington. This enables over-the-air testing of O-RAN systems in a variety ot scenarios.
  • Diverse 5G RAN deployments – The OTIC encompasses multiple 5G RAN deployments, including commercial/proprietary as well as open RAN products such as 5G user equipment, core networks and a programmable 5G O-RAN testbed with over 10 base stations in the indoor Arena testbed.
  • Specialized testing facilities – The OTIC is co-located with a large outdoor unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) testing facility to explore use cases related to drone mobility and with an anechoic chamber designed to conduct interference-free radio device testing.