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CORNET Upgrades

New National Science Foundation Award #1629935, CRI-EN-II: Radio Testbed Upgrade to Enable Wideband and MIMO Experiments


NSF LOGOThe National Science Foundation has awarded Virginia Tech a $600,000 grant to upgrade and expand the capabilities of the CORNET testbed. This grant will support new processing, networking and radio frequency (RF) hardware and software and redesigning the testbed architecture to enable cutting edge research across many engineering and science disciplines. CORNET currently comprises 48 software programmable radio nodes that have facilitated experimental research and education in wireless communications for seven years.


Proposed Upgrades:

upgrade graphicThe upgrade will add the necessary radio and computing infrastructure to support compelling CISE research and experimentation in emerging and new technological/regulatory/economic areas in communications, computing and transportation, among others, through collaborations with computer science, electrical and computer engineering and aerospace and ocean engineering researchers at Virginia Tech. The new CORNET testbed enables advancing research in radio frequency (RF) spectrum access, resource virtualization for effective on demand service provisioning through sharing, and federation of distributed resources (RF spectrum, radio nodes, computing nodes, testbeds) with applications to coexistence of government commercial communications systems and radars, autonomous vehicles, fifth generation (5G) cellular communications, Internet of Things, and many others. The proposed upgrades are needed to enable CORNET to continue to serve cross department and interdisciplinary research needs at Virginia Tech. The testbed allows a diverse student and faculty population to learn, cooperate and innovate in science and technology across several disciplines. The educational activities include extending undergraduate and graduate classes at Virginia Tech with experimental hands on sessions that leverage the new testbed capabilities.

Existing Testbed

graphic of existing systems

Upgraded Testbed

The project focuses on three core thrusts: (a) Hardware upgrade, (b) Network/resource management upgrade (virtualization, computing clusters, better scheduling), (c) User software upgrade (preconfigured experiments & tutorials). The hardware upgrade adds 30 wide-band Ettus Research USRP X310 software defined radio (SDR) front ends (X310s) with 60 wide-band daughter boards and multiple antennas. A high performance computing cluster consisting of 30 multi-core servers to form a nontraditional shared baseband processing center. The distributed RF front ends are connected to the central computing cluster through a dedicated 10 Gbps Ethernet network that allows flexible association. Proposed software upgrades allow resource virtualization for efficient radio, computing and network resource sharing and better support for user and experiment management. One of the four indoor testbed floors will be equipped with 12 pairs of X310s that can be configured for MIMO operation or use as transceiver and monitor.

Current CORNET Architecture

Proposed CORNET Architecture


Additional X310 pairs will be installed, one pair on each of the remaining three floors, and current hardware redeployed to support as many concurrent users and use case scenarios as possible. The configuration enables experimental investigation of spatial multiplexing, diversity, beam forming, and direction-finding techniques and related communication protocols. The monitoring configuration facilitates spectrum sharing research and education by providing real-time and identifiable spectra for each transmitter to be analyzed, logged, or displayed as needed to enable an experiment, tutorial, or contest. Basic tutorials will be developed to enable effective access and use of the testbed by a broad population of researchers and students at Viurginia Tech.

Benefits of the new intrastructure

The original CORNET testbed will be leveraged to enable compelling CISE research through upgrades to its hardware and software as well as through changes to its architecture. Rather than building a encapsu-lated testbed, a component-based layered design provides the much-needed flexibilities in terms of re-search and education support, management of parallel, distributed and remote experiments of different kinds, and testbed federation. Figure 6 shows the layered view of the proposed testbed architecture. Oth-er Virginia Tech testbeds and the tools they provide can be accessed through wideband RF gateways and the management plane and 10 Gbit/s high-speed Ethernet provided by VT-Rnet. LTE-CORNET of-fers 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) compliant LTE software and hardware, including industry-grade test equipment. O-CORNET adds 15 (fixed and portable) outdoor software-defined radio nodes spread across campus for wide area experiments.

The NSF award number is 1629935. The link to the official award announcement can be found here.


Number of USRP X310s purchased, assembled, and installed: 25 purchased, 25 assembled, and 11 installed.

The USRP X310s are installed at nodes 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12 (10 nodes). Node 10 has two X310s.

Nodes 13, 14 , 15 and 17 (second floor) have been converted to dual USRP2 nodes using redeployed devices from the first floor. Each is configured to operate MIMO if desired.