By BRANDI VINCENT JANUARY 8, 2021
The aim would be to accelerate the production of an “open 5G stack ecosystem.”
The Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration wants feedback on the potential of a new “5G Challenge” it may create to promote interoperability in the burgeoning realm—and support the Defense Department’s ongoing military networking modernization efforts.
Accelerating the development of an “open 5G stack ecosystem” to help push forward DOD missions would be the ultimate aim of the challenge activity NTIA is exploring, according to a notice of inquiry set to be published in the Federal Register Monday.
“Recognizing the vital importance of fifth-generation (5G) wireless communications to U.S. economic and security interests, [NTIA] has made it a top priority to engage in 5G across a broad spectrum of topics,” the agency wrote. It added that the Pentagon established its own 5G Initiative in 2019, which NTIA is working in this case “under sponsorship of and in collaboration with.”
The document’s description of the technical motivation behind the challenge explains that open-source implementations aimed across many components of a 5G system—including the protocol stack—are gaining traction. Such stacks are essentially layers of elements enabling capabilities. Currently, the open 5G stack community is “diverse,” NTIA notes, but “different open 5G stack organizations are focused on different portions of the stack, with no clear division among the multiple implementations currently available,” and interoperability between those various implementations isn’t always a given.
5G offers supermodern capabilities like network slicing and mobile edge compute that can be used to create a secure wireless network for emerging solutions, like the smart warehouse the Pentagon is already prototyping as part of that broader initiative, which the National Spectrum Consortium also more recently became involved in.
“However the challenge the DOD is now facing is that these new 5G capabilities require interoperability between all the vendors that go into a specific solution,” 5G Security Advisor to the NSC Junaid Islam, told Nextgov over email Friday. “For example, a smart warehouse solution for asset tracking can easily involve 20 different products from beamforming antennas, asset tags, mobile compute, battery back-up, routers, application gateways, etc.”