World's Most Powerful RF Emulator to Become National Wireless Research Asset

Published Friday, September 6, 2019

The Colosseum – a massive RF channel emulator used to run DARPA’s Spectrum Collaboration Challenge – transitions to National Science Foundation’s PAWR Program after October finale

Over the past three years, DARPA’s Spectrum Collaboration Challenge (SC2) has relied on a custom-built virtual testbed called the Colosseum to host thousands of competitive matches and scrimmages, which will include the final match to determine the winner of the $2 million grand prize. Supporting SC2’s mission to reimagine new spectrum access strategies in which radio networks autonomously collaborate to determine how the RF spectrum should be used moment-to-moment required the development of a research environment capable of emulating communication signals at real-world scope and scale. Working with engineers at John Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab (JHU APL) and National Instruments (NI), DARPA constructed a 256-by-256 RF channel emulator that can calculate and simulate in real-time more than 65,000 channel interactions among 256 wireless devices. This massive emulator is at a scale never before realized – 20x more total RF bandwidth than currently available in commercial systems. To replicate an array of complex RF environments – from open fields to dense cities – that put the competitors’ radio designs through their paces, the Colosseum relies on 128 two-antenna software-defined radios and 64 field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs).

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