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Development of novel 5G Open RAN (Radio Access Networks) xApp and rApp Applications Open Topic

Description:

OUSD (R&E) CRITICAL TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): FutureG; Sustainment & Logistics

 

OBJECTIVE: The Department of Defense (DoD) is seeking the development and demonstration of xApps and/or rApps focused on security and security related network measurement. DoD anticipates increasing reliance on 5G and FutureG OpenRAN networks, and needs tools and techniques that will enhance the security and resilience of these networks. As 5G networks facilitate a wider array of services and accommodate an ever-increasing number of connected devices, they become prime targets for sophisticated cyber-attacks. These networks provide an open communication surface through which devices and base stations can be exposed to hostile cellular activities, interference, and both known and unknown vulnerabilities that exist within the protocol standards. There is an emerging recognition of opportunities presented by the xApp and rApp framework to increase the trustworthiness and reliability of OpenRAN networks from malicious activities. By providing detailed insights into network performance and security metrics, these applications can enable a more nuanced understanding of the network’s security posture, and can help mitigate a wide range of potential attacks. The primary use case is in support of DoD network operators, owners, and users who depend upon reliable and trustworthy network communications in support of various DoD missions.

 

DESCRIPTION: FutureG within the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (OUSD) for Research and Engineering (R&E) seeks innovative security-focused xApp and rApp application solutions. xApps and rApps represent significant differentiators in the evolution of 5G (and beyond) wireless networking, and are poised to drive rapid innovations beyond what has been achievable in legacy wireless network architectures.  These applications, integral to the OpenRAN architecture, embody a transformative approach to network management and efficiency, underpinned by the principles of openness, intelligence, and programmability.  The integration of xApps and rApps within the OpenRAN framework represents an opportunity for a significant step forward in securing 5G networks. By leveraging these applications, network operators can enhance their ability to detect, analyze, and mitigate a wide range of security threats in real-time.

 

OpenRAN and the RAN Intelligent Controller (RIC) enable new innovations in cellular network operations, and the development and deployment of xApps and rApps will be a critical driver for Open RAN adoption and deployment. Currently existing xApps and rApps have focused on topics such as energy efficiency, spectrum management, and improved resource management, however to date there are fewer xApps and rApps that provide enhanced security features or allow for security and security measurement. As the Open RAN landscape continues to evolve, FutureG is looking for the development and deployment of security-focused xApps and rApps that will be paramount in providing the necessary agility and resilience necessary to maintain the trustworthiness of 5G (and beyond) wireless network ecosystems. Proposed solutions should focus on expanding the capabilities of xApps and rApps to address emerging threats and enhancing the scalability and efficiency of these applications to support the growing demands of cellular networks. The identification of the security threat/vulnerability, as well as its mitigation, is in scope.  An example would be the identification and pinpointing of interference or identification and pinpointing of rogue base stations, based on neighbors reported by UEs and comparing with lists of legitimate neighbors. Solutions that leverage artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) for predictive security are encouraged, but the use of AI and ML is not required. These aspect areas are merely guidelines for the proposer, and DoD will entertain additional ideas that provide potential for increased security and resiliency.  Warfighter communication scenarios are sometimes different than commercial scenarios, and this aspect should also be considered when proposing xApps and rApps in response to this topic as there may be relevant dual-use cases for the applications to be deployed in commercial and DoD networks.

 

 

PHASE I: In Phase 1, the proposer should present a design for at least one high quality xApp or rApp idea, however they may propose more than one provided that they are of equal quality and anticipated impact, or the multiple applications provide interlinked dependencies.

Solutions proposed in response to this topic will be assessed by focusing on several evaluation areas and metrics such as:

-           Overall impact of proposed solution

-           False positive/false negative rate

-           Complexity of operational problem to be addressed

-           Mean time to detect, contain, resolve, and recover

-           Vulnerability identification rate

-           Time to resolve identified vulnerability

-           Adaptability/extensibility to address evolving operational landscape

-           Policy/regulatory compliance

-           Adherence to established standards and protocols

 

It is expected that the general evaluation areas and metrics descriFutureG within the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (OUSD) for Research and Engineering (R&E) seeks innovative security-focused xApp and rApp application solutions. xApps and rApps represent significant differentiators in the evolution of 5G (and beyond) wireless networking, and are poised to drive rapid innovations beyond what has been achievable in legacy wireless network architectures.  These applications, integral to the OpenRAN architecture, embody a transformative approach to network management and efficiency, underpinned by the principles of openness, intelligence, and programmability.  The integration of xApps and rApps within the OpenRAN framework represents an opportunity for a significant step forward in securing 5G networks. By leveraging these applications, network operators can enhance their ability to detect, analyze, and mitigate a wide range of security threats in real-time.

 

OpenRAN and the RAN Intelligent Controller (RIC) enable new innovations in cellular network operations, and the development and deployment of xApps and rApps will be a critical driver for Open RAN adoption and deployment. Currently existing xApps and rApps have focused on topics such as energy efficiency, spectrum management, and improved resource management, however to date there are fewer xApps and rApps that provide enhanced security features or allow for security and security measurement. As the Open RAN landscape continues to evolve, FutureG is looking for the development and deployment of security-focused xApps and rApps that will be paramount in providing the necessary agility and resilience necessary to maintain the trustworthiness of 5G (and beyond) wireless network ecosystems. Proposed solutions should focus on expanding the capabilities of xApps and rApps to address emerging threats and enhancing the scalability and efficiency of these applications to support the growing demands of cellular networks. The identification of the security threat/vulnerability, as well as its mitigation, is in scope.  An example would be the identification and pinpointing of interference or identification and pinpointing of rogue base stations, based on neighbors reported by UEs and comparing with lists of legitimate neighbors. Solutions that leverage artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) for predictive security are encouraged, but the use of AI and ML is not required. These aspect areas are merely guidelines for the proposer, and DoD will entertain additional ideas that provide potential for increased security and resiliency.  Warfighter communication scenarios are sometimes different than commercial scenarios, and this aspect should also be considered when proposing xApps and rApps in response to this topic as there may be relevant dual-use cases for the applications to be deployed in commercial and DoD networks.

 

In Phase 1, the proposer should present a design for at least one high quality xApp or rApp idea, however they may propose more than one provided that they are of equal quality and anticipated impact, or the multiple applications provide interlinked dependencies.

 

Solutions proposed in response to this topic will be assessed by focusing on several evaluation areas and metrics such as:

-           Overall impact of proposed solution

-           False positive/false negative rate

-           Complexity of operational problem to be addressed

-           Mean time to detect, contain, resolve, and recover

-           Vulnerability identification rate

-           Time to resolve identified vulnerability

-           Adaptability/extensibility to address evolving operational landscape

-           Policy/regulatory compliance

-           Adherence to established standards and protocols

 

It is expected that the general evaluation areas and metrics described here will be expanded into more granular metrics during the development of the solution.

 

Phase Description and Timeline:

 

PHASE I – SIX MONTHS: Develop initial application concept and design document for development and deployment of the applications.  Phase I will be a 6-month Period of Performance (PoP).  During this period there will be a kickoff, Technical Interchange Meeting (TIM), and a Preliminary Design Review (PDR).  Prior to the end of Phase I, the performer will develop and present a proposed, detailed plan related to how they expect to address Phase II prototype production, test, and evaluation efforts. There will be a downselection prior to the start of Phase II. Simply meeting stated goals and milestones during Phase I may not be sufficient to to be invited to advance to Phase II, and FutureG reserves the right to evaluate Phase II candidate solutions along other criteria such as likelihood of transition, technical complexity, and available resources.

 

Deliverables: Kick off and TIM slides, monthly status reports (MSRs), Preliminary Design Document, Phase II Plan, Final Phase I Report.

 

The proposer will include a plan for implementing the FutureG Cybersecurity Model.  The model will be provided following Phase I selection.

 

PHASE II: PHASE II – TWELVE MONTHS: During Phase II, the Phase I selected performer(s) will begin the prototype production and test and evaluation process. Phase II will be a 12-month PoP with a kick off and TIM at month 1, Critical Design Review at month six (6), prototype demonstration at month nine (9) and a final design and security review/red teaming at month 11.

 

Prototype demonstration will be conducted at a DoD selected location, during which the solution’s capabilities must be successfully demonstrated. For budget and planning purposes, proposals should assume the test facility will be a DoD provided environment.  Test facilities may vary and will be determined early in Phase II.  A partial solution may be determined to be successful if the DoD determined it to be effective in a limited role.  A final technical report of the prototype capabilities as demonstrated at the Final Demonstration will also be required.  Extended user evaluations or additional prototypes may be pursued to determine utility.

 

Deliverables: Kick off and TIM slides, MSRs, Critical Design Document, Prototype Demonstration Slides and Documentation, Final Design Document, Final Technical Report.

 

The proposer will apply the FutureG Cybersecurity Model and complete/document necessary actions.  The model will be provided following Phase I selection.

 

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Phase IIIs will be determined on an as-needed basis to address additional needed capability development not covered in Phase II or to cover activities related to transition to operational use.

 

REFERENCES:

  1. U.S. Patent application – US18/012,129 Network aware compute resource management use case for o-ran non-rt ric

 

KEYWORDS: 5G, Open RAN, xApp, rApp, O-RAN, RAN Intelligent Controller (RIC), Network.

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