Powder Living Lab

Powder will cover three distinct areas in Salt Lake City: a hilly campus environment, a dense urban downtown, and a mid-density residential corridor that connects the two. Each of these area has its own RF, terrain, and mobility characteristics, giving users a chance to target certain types of deployments or to try out their ideas across all three. In addition to the outdoor deployments, Powder will have a small indoor deployment for its "tech preview", and a controlled environment with equipment in radio isolation boxes with programmable attenuation.

The map below shows the current planning for the Powder deployment; construction will be ongoing until 2021, and plans may change during that time.


Indoor Preview

Flux Group Offices

For its technology preview, Powder has deployed a small number of SDRs and COTS UEs indoors in an office environment. This equipment is intended for users to get a sense of what the platform will be able to do when it is deployed at a larger scale: users get direct, low-level access, and we have built a canned "profile" that turns these into a fully-function LTE/EPC network within a few minutes. Each SDR is a USRP B210 with a pair of small antennas, and the UEs are Nexus 5 phones.

This deployment is on the third floor of the Merrill Engineering Building on the University of Utah campus, and the offices belong to the Flux Research group who lead the Powder project. This is a typical office environment, with computers, office, equipment, etc., and is occupied during typical office hours.

University of Utah Campus

University of Utah Campus

The first area to be deployed will cover most of the University of Utah campus. The campus covers about 6 km2 along the foot of the Wasatch Mountains, and has numerous hills and other topographic features. The area has numerous office, lab, and classroom buildings ranging from one to twelve stories. Campus is also home to three hospitals, thirty three residential buildings, an arena, and a stadium. The University has an enrollment of about 30,000, and with faculty and staff, the typical weekday population is around 50,000.

All "base stations" on campus will be located on rooftops, providing ample space for outdoor equipment and for equipment racks indoors. Most will be co-located with commercial cell tower equipment, giving an RF "view" of the area that is similar to that seen by production networks. The campus is well-connected by fiber: all base stations will "home run" via dark fiber to a small datacenter in the "Fort Douglas" area, and from there, will have access to a large datacenter in the Merrill Engineering Building (shared with the Emulab and PhantomNet testbeds).

The campus area has several bus routes that we will use as "mobile couriers" for experiments involving true mobility. The fixed shuttle bus routes will provide fairly predictable mobility. We also plan to use campus parking and maintenance vehicles as less predictable couriers.

Downtown Salt Lake City

Downtown Salt Lake City

Downtown Salt Lake City is one of the densest urban environments in the Intermountain West. The region that will be covered by the Powder platform is roughly coincident with the city's Central Business District. This is an area with office, retail, residential, and industrial activity, and it plays host to sporting events, large conventions, and more.

Our deployment in the downtown area will largely be on rooftops, but not necessarily on the tallest buildings in the area. This makes the region ideal for doing experiments with shadowing, multipath, interference, etc.

Using a combination of fiber from a number of local networks, all base stations in this area will aggregate at the University of Utah's Downtown Data Center, a large, well-connected facility that will have more than 1,000 servers available to Powder users via the federated CloudLab Utah and Apt facilities.

Controlled Environment

PhantomNet Equipment

In addition to the outdoor Living Lab environments, Powder has a controlled environment in which experimenters can get repeatable, controlled conditions. These devices are all in radio isolation boxes, and use waveguides (cables) rather than antennas to connect to one another. These waveguides are connected to an RF attenuator matrix, which controls which radios can "see" each other and can do limited emulation of signal fading effects. This controlled environment means that experiments are not bound by FCC regulations (eg. they can use frequencies that would be disallowed over the air), and it can be of great use when doing early development of new protocols, factoring out the effects of a live environment.

This equipment comes from the PhantomNet testbed, and more information about it is available in the PhantomNet documentation.

Salt Lake City skyline