Testing the Limits

A pioneering, real-world lab for 5G wireless technology comes to Harlem.

Oct 30 2018

Fourth-generation wireless, better known as 4G, turned mobile phones into movie-streaming platforms, but the next wireless revolution promises more than speedy downloads. It could pave the way for surgeons operating remotely on patients, cars that rarely crash, and events that can be vividly experienced from thousands of miles away.

To get us there, Columbia Engineering faculty are helping to create COSMOS, a state-of-the-art urban proving ground for a new generation of wireless technologies and applications funded through a $22.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Platforms for Advanced Wireless Research (PAWR) initiative.

This open-access platform will allow researchers from anywhere in the country to log in and try out their ideas for improving network performance and creating city-focused applications. Its high-bandwidth, low-latency network is expected to allow these applications to transmit data faster than one gigabit per second and reduce response times to a few milliseconds, improving performance 10-fold over current wireless networks.

“This is going to be a unique outdoor lab for advanced wireless networking technologies,” said Gil Zussman, associate professor of electrical engineering and the Columbia principal investigator on the project. Zussman is collaborating with fellow electrical engineering professors—Harish Krishnaswamy, an expert in millimeter wave (mmWave) technology and full duplex wireless, and Zoran Kostic, who focuses on smart cities and mobile data systems— and computer science and electrical engineering professor Henning Schulzrinne, who contributes dynamic spectrum and edge cloud computing expertise to the project. All of the team members are affiliated with Columbia’s Data Science Institute (DSI). “Having an opportunity to run experiments in a real-world environment like COSMOS can take wireless networking and smart cities research to a whole new level.”

Covering one square mile in West Harlem, the testbed is bordered by City College to the north, Columbia University’s Morningside Heights campus to the south, the Hudson River to the west, and Apollo Theater to the east.

The COSMOS testbed will cover one square mile in West Harlem, with City College to the north, Columbia University’s Morningside Heights campus to the south, the Hudson River to the west, and Apollo Theater to the east.

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