On January 11, 2021, NTIA issued a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) to explore the creation of a 5G Challenge that would accelerate the development of the open 5G stack ecosystem in support of Department of Defense (DoD) missions. The NOI was issued under sponsorship of, and in collaboration with, the DoD 5G Initiative.
DoD has established 5G as a key modernization priority, and the DoD 5G Initiative launched in 2019 committed $600 million for 5G testbeds to explore how to fully leverage 5G technologies for military networking needs. DoD’s effort focuses on 5G technology that will enable both military and commercial users to deploy high-speed, low latency, ubiquitous device technology solutions.
The 5G Challenge NOI specifically addressed the movement toward the use of "open" implementations for various components of a 5G system. Such implementations are based on open architectures that allow plug-and-play operations of components from different vendors that are fully interoperable. Using open source software running on "white box" commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware reduces costs and avoids vendor lock, both of which are highly desirable goals for the DoD.
NTIA’s Institute for Telecommunication Sciences (ITS) performed an engineering analysis of the 51 responses received before the end of the comment period. This analysis, available on the ITS website, revealed several themes that will inform future collaborations between DoD and NTIA. This analysis is anticipated to inform the creation 5G Prize Challenges which DoD and NTIA plan to announce in 2022.
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