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Nation’s first security-focused, 5G wireless test range opens in eastern Idaho

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The following is a news release from INL.

Researchers in Idaho have opened the nation’s first open-air, 5G wireless test range focused exclusively on security testing, training and technology development.

Located across the U.S. Department of Energy’s 890-square mile Idaho National Laboratory Site, the range is outfitted with state-of-the-art commercial cellular equipment including 5G radios, antennas, base stations, and a computerized core network. The spectrum-agile range is the first of its kind to be opened at a national laboratory.

With support and funding from the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, and in partnership with Texas-based Mavenir Systems, Inc., the range will be used by government, academic and industry collaborators.

Although limited 5G service is available in selected cities across the country, widespread adoption is still years away. In the meantime, Idaho’s Wireless Test Range will help researchers identify and resolve security risks and vulnerabilities and experiment with new capabilities enabled by 5G cellular technology.

“Today, with this newest 5G test range, and through great effort by INL and our industry partner, Mavenir Systems, Inc., the Department of Defense can continue to evaluate and address real-world, mission critical communication challenges, advance 5G security, and enable the warfighter to securely operate through any 5G infrastructure, anywhere in the world, and at any time,” said Amanda Toman, director of DOD’s 5G Transition Office and Cross-Functional Team.

5G is the next evolution in mobile broadband communication. It features improvements to current cellular and computer technology including faster speeds, reduced latency, improved connectivity and better security. When fully deployed, 5G will be an attractive option for advanced communication in fields including autonomous vehicles, telemedicine, and drone operations.

“As the 5G ecosystem advances and becomes part of our daily lives, information and data security will be a critical consumer demand that we’ll address on this range,” said Dan Elmore, executive director of INL’s Wireless Security Institute. “INL has been involved in testing and evaluating real-world, mission-critical communication systems for 20 years, and we’re excited to move into the 5G and beyond environment.”

The laboratory’s test range features tier-one, commercial grade standalone and non-standalone capabilities from Mavenir Systems, Inc., an industry-leading provider of 5G technology. The range’s design allows researchers to quickly and easily test 5G equipment, try experimental configurations and identify new security options using a mix of cellular technology representative of real-world installations.

“Mavenir is leading the transformation for 4G/5G and beyond. We are fortunate to shape the future by enhancing 5G security and reliability for Department of Defense capabilities, said Mavenir CEO Pardeep Kohli.

One of the first organizations already using INL’s new range is the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering. This branch of the Defense Department is exploring ways to secure U.S. military communications during overseas operations. The agency recently awarded INL a five-year, $58 million research program.

“This premier state-of-the-art standalone and non-standalone 5G network test bed will allow U.S forces, the combatant commands, and other U.S. government agencies the ability to test, train, assess and understand how to securely operate through an ever-changing global telecommunications environment,” said Tom Dekeyser, director of DOD’s Operate Through program. “We are proud to be a part of this effort and look forward to continuing to support the DOD’s 5G operational needs.”

To celebrate the opening of the range, government and industry leaders gathered in Idaho for a ribbon-cutting event.

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