Ericsson installed a private wireless network at Purdue University Airport that will be used to improve the airport’s security and efficiency and will serve as a model for other airports. The network is part of Purdue University’s Lab to Life testbed that encourages collaborative partnerships between academia and industry.  

The private wireless network has a 4G and 5G dual-mode core, it operates on Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) General Authorized Access (GAA) spectrum, and connects to a fiber network for backhaul.

Saab is the first industry partner to participate in the Purdue University Airport’s Lab to Life program. The company installed Aerobahn, a platform that helps airlines and airport operators manage surface operations more efficiently, and deployed SAFE, a public safety communications system used in airport operations centers. Saab also installed sensors that it is using to track aircraft. All of Saab’s systems are running on the Ericsson private network.

Purdue University Airport is one of only a handful of airports in the U.S. that is owned and operated by a university, and it is used by the University’s aviation program. The airport conducts over 125,000 aircraft operations annually, making it the second busiest airport in Indiana. However, it does not serve any commercial airlines.

The airport and the Lab to Life testbed are part of Purdue’s Discovery Park District, a 400-acre mixed use development next to the university’s campus.  Saab already has a relationship with Purdue and built a manufacturing facility in Discovery Park District in 2021. Erik Smith, president and CEO of Saab in the U.S., said that the company believes that by showcasing its airport systems running over the private 5G network, it can demonstrate ways to improve airport efficiency that can then be replicated by other airports around the U.S.

Troy Hege, vice president of innovation and technology for Purdue Research Foundation, which manages Discovery Park District, said this isn’t the first private wireless network for Discovery Park District. The district also has a 4G private wireless network running on CBRS spectrum that supports its smart city applications.

Hege said that while both private wireless networks are currently using CBRS GAA spectrum, Purdue University does have a contract in place with a Priority Access License (PAL) holder so that if any of its corporate partners want to use licensed spectrum, Purdue can accommodate them.

The Discovery Park District also has its own edge data center and an open access fiber network that is being used by three different ISPs to deliver fiber connectivity. Hege said that the Purdue University Airport private network connects to the Discovery Park edge data center and the fiber network for backhaul. Plus, because Discovery Park runs its own data center, it can accommodate edge computing applications.

While Purdue Research Foundation’s Lab to Life concept is intended to promote collaboration, it relies on its corporate partners to then commercialize any use cases that are demonstrated in its different Lab to Life environments. However, the foundation does benefit from this arrangement because often the corporate partners will sponsor research projects or help build awareness of what the university is doing.

The Purdue Research Foundation is exploring other potential wireless concepts for its Lab to Life program. Hege said it is considering an open RAN deployment and a millimeter wave deployment that would involve industry partners.

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