In Europe, since its establishment in 2008, the Future Internet Research and Experimentation (FIRE) initiative has contributed in bridging the gap between visionary research and large-scale experimentation on new networking and service architectures and paradigms. Through the successful organization of three waves of research projects, an extensive and multidisciplinary open network testbed facility has been developed.
Despite the diversity in the FIRE facilities in terms of available infrastructure and access technologies, there is currently a lack of truly open and operational LTE testbeds (and cellular testbeds in general). By “open” we mean that the facilities are available to external experimenters and that the latter can configure the testbed to some extent, according to their needs. By “operational” we refer to flexibility in accessing the core, gateways, access points and user equipment of the testbeds, and the capability to run full end-to-end services.
This lack is certainly not due to reduced interest from the community. On the contrary, there is a steadily increasing demand from the research community, including the industry, to have access to LTE experimentation facilities in different countries. However, the constraints typically posed by operators and large vendors, typically due to commercial considerations, restrict the configuration capabilities to an extent, which usually discourages testbed operators from deploying such infrastructure.
FLEX (FIRE LTE testbeds for Open Experimentation) aims to remove these constraints through the development of a truly open and operational LTE experimental facility. Based on a combination of truly configurable commercial equipment, truly configurable core network software, fully open source components, and on top of those, sophisticated emulation and mobility functionalities, this facility will allow researchers from academia and industry to test services and applications over real LTE infrastructure, or experiment with alternative algorithms and architectures of the core and access network.