Softwarization of RadioAccess Network (RAN) resources has been heralded as a paramount component of fifth-generation (5G) cellular networks. By leveraging virtualization technologies, Infrastructure Providers (IPs) will create virtual networks built on top of the physical infrastructure. This critical innovation is predicted to concretely realize the vision of Cellular Connectivity as a Service (CCaaS), where the IP decides the physical resources (e.g., spectrum, power, base stations) to provide to each Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) according to their needs. CCaaS is envisioned to provide unparalleled levels of Quality of Experience to mobile users and ushers in new business opportunities between IPs and MVNOs. Recent advances have demonstrated the effectiveness of CCaaS in optimizing networking resources utilization versus traditional technologies. 
Technology Overview
Our researchers have designed a covert traffic embedding procedure that is flexible enough to deal with unpredictability. To successfully operate over existing cellular networks, Private Cellular Connectivity as a Service (PCaaS) must adhere to standard protocol implementations regulating transmission and reception operations in 4G/5G systems. 
To enable undetectable SteaLTE covert communications (SteaLTE, the first system realizing private cellular connectivity as a service for 5G), researchers have designed a scheme that adapts covert embedding procedures to hide transmissions by mimicking wireless channel noise.
In this invention, Northeastern researchers take RAN softwarization in a new direction with the concept of PCCaaS so infrastructure providers can deploy covert network slices whose existence is known only to a subset of receivers. To concretely realize PCCaaS, a SteaLTE, the first PCCaaS-enabling system for cellular networks is developed. 
To realize Private Cellular Connectivity as a Service (PCCaaS) for 5G networks, IPs temporarily instantiate and deploy private network slices operating over a common virtualized infrastructure. The word private identifies slices whose existence is known to a small subset of intended users only, and data is sent wirelessly in a covert and undetectable manner, pushing privacy, confidentiality, and cellular communications a step forward so infrastructure providers may deploy covert network slices.
SteaLTE implements a full stack steganographic system with packet schedulers and procedures to properly embed covert data streams on top of traditional 4G/5G cellular traffic. SteaLTE utilizes wireless steganography to disguise data as noise to adversarial receivers. It combines existing error-correcting codes, adaptive modulation schemes, and ARQ techniques, and it includes a steganographic mutual authentication mechanism where legitimate parties authenticate each other before exchanging any confidential information due to the fact that covert data has to necessarily be embedded over primary cellular traffic, which is inherently unpredictable.
Key Benefits
Utilizes wireless steganography to disguise data as noise to adversarial receivers
- Balances undetectability and performance by proposing a mechanism that mimics channel impairments so that received waveforms are almost indistinguishable from noise
- Provides an LTE-compliant steganographic protocol stack for PCCaaS based communications 
- Details packet scheduling and procedures that properly embed covert data streams on top of traditional cellular traffic, i.e., primary traffic 
Commercial Applications
- Enable Private Cellular Connectivity as a Service (PCCaaS) in cellular networks
- Enable private and secure communications among cellular networks users
- Secure law enforcement and first responders’ communications through covert communications over 5G systems
- SteaLTE is targeted to law enforcement and first-responders users that require access to commercial cellular networks with an additional security guarantee
Patent Information:
-Sensors tech
For Information, Contact:
Mark Saulich
Associate Director of Commercialization
Northeastern University
Tommaso Melodia
Leonardo Bonati
Salvatore D'Oro
Francesco Restuccia
5G Networks
5g NR
Cellular Networks
Next-generation Mobile Networks