Texas A&M University Expands Research to 5G in Public Safety
By Walt Magnussen Jr., PhD
Tuesday, January 14, 2020 | Comments
Texas A&M University (TAMU) is expanding its research focus into public safety’s use of 5G technology following an investment from the state of Texas.

There are significant architectural differences between 4G and 5G networks. These differences include not only increased speed — at least 10 times faster — and lower latency but also edge cloud capabilities, separation of media and control plane, network slicing over software-defined networks (SDNs) and greatly expanded device quantity capabilities. It is clear that these new capabilities will open new doors, but what is not clear is how this will impact public safety.

In September, the TAMU system received $50 million from the state of Texas legislature to construct the Innovation Proving Ground (IPG). The board of regents then added $80 million to the fund, making this a $130 million investment. The bill that enabled the funding stated that the investment was to support the Army Futures Command, public safety and industry.

Of the $130 million, $8 million was earmarked for 5G technology. The group working on the IPG 5G network design agreed on a recommended architecture to be sent to leadership. This architecture includes a 5G core, 5G remote access network (RAN) of sub 6 GHz and millimeter wave spectrum, edge cloud, SDN transport and internet of things (IoT) aggregation infrastructure.

Officials anticipate construction beginning within the next few months with early services available in late summer or early fall.

This test facility is being designed to allow device and application testing and will be able to support research involving distributing analytics through edge cloud, enhancing security through network slicing and managing massive amounts of IoT, among others. The facility is being designed with cybersecurity as a key requirement and will support penetration testing as a research requirement.

While there are several 5G research centers across the United States, they are all focused on commercial service offerings. The IPG 5G facility in College Station, Texas, will be the only one with a Department of Defense (DOD) and public-safety focus. This capability is a must if we are to learn how to best use the enhanced capabilities of the game-changing 5G architecture.

To learn more about the IPG 5G facility, the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) and next-generation 9-1-1 (NG 9-1-1) technology, visit the 2020 Winter Institute in College Station and Disaster City, Texas, later this month.

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Walt Magnussen Jr., Ph.D., runs the Internet2 Technology Evaluation Center (ITEC), an emergency communications lab at Texas A&M University.

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