DARPA starts a 5G Open-Source Stack Project with the Linux Foundation

By Kelly Hill, Feb 18, 2021 | Original RCR Wireless Article here


The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has begun a broad collaboration with the Linux Foundation, hoping to spur open-source development of technologies for use by the U.S. government that include secure 5G network software and applications.

The US GOV OPS (Open Programmable, Secure) umbrella organization’s first project, OPS-5G, will focus on a software stack for 5G, the network edge and IoT. According to a newly established website about the project, OPS-5G will define and test an “end-to-end 5G stack” and include elements from multiple Linux Foundation projects, including LF Networking, LF Edge, Zephyr Project and Cloud Native Computing Foundation, along with other top-tier projects that call the Linux Foundation home.

“The project formation encourages ecosystem players to support U.S. government initiatives to create the latest in technology software,” according to DARPA and the Linux Foundation. According to the two organizations, OPS-5G’s goal is to “create open source software and systems enabling secure end to end 5G and follow-on mobile networks” and address “feature velocity” in open-source software, mitigate security concerns such as large-scale botnets that leverage IoT devices, network slicing on “suspect gear” and “adaptive adversaries operating at scale.”

Mike Woster, head of ecosystems at the Linux Foundation, said that the Linux Foundation’s breadth of projects means that between existing open source projects and new ones that may be initiated under the US GOV OPS umbrella, it will be possible to stitch together a “full, 5G end-to-end 5G reference architecture.” The umbrella project also gives DARPA a place to push the results of its research and development into open-source collaborations. The overall goal is to accelerate 5G software development ranging from specific applications to network feature support, and orchestration and analytics, by borrowing from and building upon existing open-source projects and new ones.

The US GOV OPS project will launch as a standard open source project, with a charter similar to other projects within the Linux Foundation; which already is home to a number of projects related to Open RAN, edge computing, Kubernetes and others that will enable US GOV OPS to “build on a secure code base for use by the U.S. government,” according to a release.

But “It’s more than just code,” said Woster, head of ecosystems at the Linux Foundation. “Open source development and open development is really around having a neutral governance framework; open, transparent development processes; that it’s secure, that the intellectual property is properly managed and that the velocity for developers … that all of that matches the needs of the developers.”

“DARPA’s use of open source software in the Open Programmable Secure 5G (OPS-5G) program leverages transparency, portability and open access inherent in this distribution model,” said Dr. Jonathan Smith, program manager for DARPA’s information innovation office, in a statement. “Transparency enables advanced software tools and systems to be applied to the code base, while portability and open access will result in decoupling hardware and software ecosystems, enabling innovations by more entities across more technology areas.”

The Linux Foundation 5G project is just one of the ways that the U.S. Department of Defense is supporting or exploring the use of 5G. Carriers are deploying 5G at military bases to test various use cases, and earlier this week, Federated Wireless announced that it is leading a project to use 5G in CBRS spectrum to modernize operations at a Marine Corps warehouse in Albany, Georgia. DARPA has also supported research into ad hoc spectrum sharing with its three-year Spectrum Collaboration Challenge. Some of the work from SC2 has informed DARPA’s continued support of research into the possibility of more granular CBRS sharing.

Three ways that DoD is exploring the use of 5G

The U.S. Department of Defense is looking at how 5G can be used to benefit the armed forces in logistics and training, as well as how DoD-held mid-band spectrum might be able to be shared with 5G.

In December, 2019, DoD released four draft Requests for Proposal through the National Spectrum Consortium, a research and development collaboration among government agencies, industry and academia that was formed via a five-year, $1.25 billion agreement with the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Emerging Capabilities and Prototyping, to focus on solving problems around spectrum access and sharing as well as implementation of 5G and 5G-based technologies.

Each of the draft RFPs covers a 5G implementation at a specific DoD site.

The four projects are:

Two (2) smart warehouse and asset management projects, to be held at the Marine Corps Logistics Base in Albany, Georgia and the U.S. Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) Fleet Logistics Center in San Diego, California.

The San Diego project will use 5G to support a Warehouse Management System for order and inventory management for overall warfighter logistics support, including optimizing warehouse operations and improving the “efficiency, accuracy, security, and safety of materiel and supply handling, management, storage, and distribution (delivery or shipping)” at the location, according to a project summary. It has to be capable of interfacing with the existing Smart Warehouse and Asset Management.

According to the RFP summary for the Georgia project, it shares similar goals, but with a focus on large-scale military logistics. “The intended outcome of the [Marine Corps Logistics Base] project is a 5G-enabled military Smart Warehouse that can not only enhance efficiency and safety well beyond the limits of current processes, but also serve as a proving ground for testing, refining, and validating emerging 5G enabled technologies for large-scale military logistics operations,” the DoD said.

Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (DSS), to be tested at Hill Air Force Base in Utah, with specific focus on 3.1-3.45 GHz spectrum. DoD said that it and the Department of the Air Force need to develop effective hardware, software and systems for sharing or co-existence between airborne radar systems and 5G cellular, either in completely or partially overlapping spectrum bands — in this case, at 3.1-3.45 GHz. The objective of the project, DoD said, it “to construct and operate a localized full scale 5G mobile cellular network in order to evaluate the impact of the 5G network on airborne radar systems and the radar systems’ impact on the 5G network, employing both active and passive techniques to enable sharing or coexistence. The outcome of the project will be capabilities (e.g. fieldable equipment and control systems) and processes to allow radar spectrum sharing or coexistence with cooperating and non-cooperating 5G networks.”

An augmented reality/virtual reality project at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Wisconsin. The DoD and the Army are looking at AR/VR “combat-like training” supported by 5G, and said that the aim of the project at this site is to “demonstrate how 5G communications technologies can support realistic distributed training and develop fieldable equipment and systems to integrate these technologies into ongoing training operations.” DoD added that it considers distributed training to include the AR/VR protocols, ground instrumentation data, command-and-control replicated data, distributed simulation computing environments and information transmitted from trainees into the shared simulation environment.

The responses for two of the draft RFPs were due yesterday; responses to two others are due by Dec. 23.