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Bringing 4G LTE closer to students: A low-cost testbed for practical teaching and experimentation
Cellular technologies are widely used in the ICT domain, that paving the way towards new opportunities for education and practical experimentation. It also tackles software-related engineering areas, from Digital Processing (DSP) to Software Defined Networks and Network Virtualization applications. Due to the various constraints such as limited access to hardware components, high costs of such equipment, and spectrum regulations that must not be violated, practical education in telecommunications, electrical engineering, and electronics usually lacks the opportunity to pursue experimentation on the realistic cellular deployments. Therefore, in this paper we present a network testbed that allows students to experiment with a fully functional 4G LTE system with no radio. This testbed system mimics the realistic 4G LTE deployment, supporting students towards acquiring valuable knowledge in the field of cellular networks. It is low-cost due the fact there is no need for radio components or Software Defined Radio (SDR) devices, with no limitation on frequency utilization and regulations. The testbed provides seamless scalability for education classes as it can be deployed on top of any machine with general-purpose processor, installing the whole system within two networked PCs or in a fully virtualized environment. We present the testbed framework, as well as the hands-on practices on incorporating such low-cost realistic testbed into the education within various engineering fields.