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NTIA awarded nearly $80 million for wireless research today—and $50 million of it will go to DISH for an Open RAN Center for Integration & Deployment (ORCID) to be established within the company’s Cheyenne, Wyoming campus.

The funding comes through the Public Wireless Supply Chain Innovation Fund, which has a total budget of $1.5 billion to go toward developing open and interoperable wireless networks. The fund was created in the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022 as part of U.S. efforts to minimize reliance on equipment from certain Chinese vendors whose equipment has been deemed to pose a security threat.

The ORCID will serve as a platform for the wireless industry to test interoperability of Open RAN products. DISH is in the process of building a 5G network from scratch. The network currently covers 246 million Americans, according to the company.

Because the company did not have legacy infrastructure, the network was designed from the get-go to support Open RAN, a new approach that moves functionality previously build into hardware to instead be software based. The goal is to make networks more cost-effective and manageable and to improve interoperability of equipment from different vendors.

Key elements of ORCID include:

  • Support for lab and field testing. Participants will be able to test elements from any qualified vendor on DISH’s live commercial-grade Open RAN stack
  • Use of DISH’s spectrum holdings, which include low-, mid- and high-band spectrum
  • The ability to test interoperability of Open RAN elements with multiple vendors
  • A high level of security, as DISH’s Cheyenne campus already complies with stringent security protocols to support the company’s satellite operations

Other participants in ORCID include Analog Devices, ARM, Cisco, Dell, Intel, JMA, NVIDIA, Qualcomm and Samsung.

More Open RAN Testing Awards

This is the third round of funding that has been awarded in the wireless innovation fund. Other entities winning funding in this round include:

  • VIAVI: Over $21.7 million for a VIAVI automated lab-as-a-service for Open RAN (VALOR) that will be a “fully automated, cooperative, open and impartial testing-as-a-service dedicated to Open RAN”
  • Virginia Tech: $2 million for a holistic cybersecurity testing framework for 5G radio access networks
  • Cirrus360: Nearly $2 million for a digital twin approach to testing multi-vendor Open RAN solutions
  • Northeastern University: Nearly $2 million for automated end-to-end continuous testing for open and disaggregated cellular systems
  • Rice University: Nearly $2 million for ETHOS, billed as a multidimensional approach to testing stability, energy efficiency, and performance in machine learning-enabled 5G radio access networks

Updated to state that VIAVI was awarded $21.7 million

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