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Secure Open Radio Access Network (SO-RAN) in 5G network

   Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences

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  Dr Mohammad Shojafar, Prof Rahim Tafazolli  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

The University of Surrey is a global university with a world-class research profile and an enterprising spirit, located in one of the safest counties in England, within 35 minutes of London by train and minutes away from the Surrey Hills, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Recent investments have seen the opening of a world-class Sports Park and important updates to central facilities. ICS has been established for over ten years as one of a number of autonomous research centres at the University of Surrey. Housing over 160 researchers, PhD students and academic staff, its research focuses on future communication systems including mobile and wireless communications, satellite communications, and networking (management, protocols and security). 5GIC & 6GIC brings together leading academics and key industry partners in a shared vision to help define and develop the 5G infrastructure that will underpin the way we communicate, work and live our everyday lives in the future. PhD Studentships will cover, for three years or pro-rata part-time: full fees (at home or international rate), an annual stipend (c. £17,600), and a training grant for research and development expenses.

Research group(s)

Network Security

Project Description

Fifth generation (5G) mobile networks offer a variety of new use cases, particularly those relating to the Internet of Things (IoT). This gives 5G an increasingly central role in basic communications infrastructures, especially for critical infrastructures such as power, water, logistics and transport. It is, therefore, essential to be aware of the risks involved in implementing 5G as a communications infrastructure in the context of IT security. This type of risk analysis is the main focus of this project. 

The risk analysis considers the 5G RAN, focusing on Open-RAN (O-RAN) implementation, which O-RAN Alliance specifies. The key objectives of the project are divided into two phases. First, we aim to identify and analyse the risks associated with O-RAN. It covers the threats and risks identified in the current O-RAN specifications. It can be used as a starting point for deciding which countermeasures against threats are necessary to minimise these risks. Second, we plan to address such security challenges in customisable and creative ways by utilising the near-real-time Radio Intelligent Controller (RIC) xApps and non-real-time RIC rApps. 

To protect the network from threats, a detection system can be built which has two parts: near real-time detection, which takes place in a RIC xApp, and non-real-time detection, which takes place at the Service and Management Orchestration (SMO) and relies on enrichment data originating in an external system (e.g., 5G Core). The combination of near real-time logic at the near real time RIC for fast detection, with slower scale analysis and input from the Non-Real-Time RIC and SMO, provides a good mixture between quick reaction and advanced detection schemes. Lighter detection processes can be applied as xApps, while more advanced heavy processing Machine Learning (ML) analytics can run externally and send input to RIC.

Candidate Profile

  1. Knowledge in OpenRAN integration protocols between RU, DU and CU 
  2. Knowledge end-to-end RAN knowledge (2G, 3G, 4G, 5G) 
  3. Strong network security knowledge and skills
  4. Understanding of 3GPP standards, including procedures, call flows, KPI, statistics 
  5. Good knowledge of Linux OS, Docker or Kubernetes and Python
  6. Understanding of Networking Protocols like IP, TCP, SCTP, IPSEC

How to Apply

Applications should be submitted via the Information and Communication Systems PhD programme page. In place of a research proposal you should upload a document stating the title of the projects (up to 2) that you wish to apply for and the name(s) of the relevant supervisor. You must upload your full CV and any transcripts of previous academic qualifications. You should enter ’Faculty Funded Competition’ under funding type.


The studentship will provide a stipend at UKRI rates (currently £17,668 for 2022/23) and tuition fees for 3.5 years. An additional bursary of £1700 per annum for the duration of the studentship will be offered to exceptional candidates.

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