The Obama Administration announced today the launch of a $400 million Advanced Wireless Research Initiative led by the National Science Foundation (NSF). This new program will enable the deployment and use of four city-scale testing platforms for advanced wireless research over the next decade and builds upon the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Spectrum Frontiers vote yesterday.

FCC’s vote yesterday made the United States the first country in the world to make vast quantities of high-frequency millimeter wave spectrum available for both licensed and unlicensed use.

This spectrum, in combination with other spectrum already available, promises to enable faster speeds, quicker response times “lower latency,” and increased capacity in future wireless networks. These super-fast, ultra-low latency, high-capacity networks will enable breakthrough applications for consumers, smart cities, and the Internet of Things that cannot even be imagined today.

NSF said it is committing $50 million over the next 5 years, as part of a total $85 million investment by NSF and private-sector entities, to design and build four city-scale advanced wireless testing platforms, beginning in FY 2017.

As a part of this investment, NSF also announced a $5 million solicitation for a project office to manage the design, development, deployment, and operations of the testing platforms, in collaboration with NSF and industry entities.

Each platform will deploy a network of software-defined radio antennas city-wide, essentially mimicking the existing cellular network, allowing academic researchers, entrepreneurs, and wireless companies to test, prove, and refine their technologies and software algorithms in a real-world setting.

These platforms will allow researchers to conduct at-scale experiments of laboratory-or-campus-based proofs-of-concept, and will also allow four American cities, chosen based on open competition, to establish themselves as global destinations for wireless research and development.

NSF is also said it plans to invest $350 million over the next 7 years in fundamental research on advanced wireless technology projects that can utilize NSF’s share of time on these platforms.

Additional Announcements

The Administration also announced additional coordinated efforts and investments across Federal agencies to help accelerate the growth and development of advanced wireless technology. They include:

  • Two prize challenges to enhance wireless broadband connectivity. The first challenge will focus on providing rapid, large-scale wireless connectivity to restore critical communication services in the aftermath of a disaster. The second will seek innovative solutions to provide low-cost, seamless connectivity in urban areas, leveraging fiber optics in overhead light poles.
  • A $6 million jointly-funded solicitation with Intel Labs on information-centric wireless edge networks, with the goal of developing the ability to process very large quantities of information with response times of less than one millisecond.
  • A $4.7 million joint NSF- and Academy of Finland-funded solicitation to support joint U.S.-Finland research projects on novel frameworks, architectures, protocols, methodologies, and tools for the design and analysis of robust and highly dependable wireless communication systems and networks, especially as they support and enable the Internet of Things.
  • Federal funding of a Millimeter Wave Research Coordination Network to foster biannual meetings of international researchers to identify emerging challenges, share cutting-edge research, and form collaborations around millimeter-wave broadband wireless networks.
  • A large-scale networking platforms “Communities of Practice” workshop designed to gather international expertise on best practices that can successfully guide the advanced wireless research testing platforms being announced today.
  • Follow-on NSF workshop on ultra-low latency networks, with the goal to identify research challenges and pathways that need to be solved in order to support ultra-low response times across networks.

DARPA Announcement

DARPA announced its plans to demonstrate the viability of the technologies being developed for its latest Grand Challenge, the Spectrum Collaboration Challenge (SC2), within the testing platforms being announced today.

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Announcements

  • The creation of a multi-disciplinary working group—the Future Generation Communications Roadmap—focused on identifying key gaps and R&D opportunities related to future-generation communications systems and standards.
  • A coordinated channel measurement, verification, and comparison campaign within indoor environments by the NIST-supported 5G mmWave Channel Model Alliance.

National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Announcements

NTIA announced the following actions by its Institute for Telecommunications Sciences (ITS) that build on its spectrum test bed and other measurement programs:

  • This fall, ITS will be sponsoring undergraduate and graduate student wireless spectrum research that will utilize the spectrum test bed that ITS is developing in collaboration with the University of Colorado-Boulder (CU-Boulder) to span the Federal and university campuses.
  • Along with the Center for Advanced Communications, ITS will be demonstrating its Measured Spectrum Occupancy Database (MSOD) project at the August 1-3 International Symposium on Advanced Radio Technologies in Colorado.
  • ITS will be expanding its Urban and Indoor Radio Frequency (RF) Propagation Measurement campaign that advances urban and indoor propagation research by making advances in measuring and characterizing radio frequency propagation characteristics in both urban and indoor environments to include four more cities to provide additional data to improve the accuracy of RF propagation models in urban terrain.
  • ITS will begin utilizing its expertise in electromagnetic compatibility research this fall to perform electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) analyses and conduct empirical tests of potential device-to-device interference in a mobile network operating within an independent fixed network infrastructure. Lab tests and simulations will be performed initially, followed by experimental validation of results in the field.

Private-Sector Announcements

More than twenty private-sector companies and associations in the U.S. wireless industry have cumulatively pledged more than $35 million in cash and in-kind support to the design, development, deployment, and ongoing operations of these testing platforms. They include:

  • AT&T will provide on-site mobile connectivity in the cities selected as testing grounds for advanced wireless platform research.
  • Carlson Wireless Technologies will contribute equipment, technology, and expertise in TV white spaces and dynamic spectrum sharing, allowing researchers to examine a variety of use cases including residential broadband and the Internet of Things.
  • CommScope, in support of the testing platforms, will contribute connectivity solutions such as antennas, RF cabling, cabinets, small cells, and fiber optics.
  • HTC will support the testing platforms by providing technical expertise, mobile devices, IoT sensors and virtual reality systems.
  • Intel will contribute its portable 5G mobile trial platform and server equipment to the testing platforms, to assist in research on mmWave, multi-antenna array, steerable beamforming, novel radio interface techniques, and anchor-booster architecture.
  • InterDigital will contribute financial support to the testing platforms and access to tools focused on areas like spectrum and bandwidth management, heterogeneous networks and backhaul.
  • Juniper Networks will contribute software, systems, and expertise to help with the design and architecture of multiple research platforms to advance orchestration and authentication of massively-scalable, massively-distributed IoT networks, as well as new approaches to secure these networks.
  • Keysight Technologies will support the testing platforms with a range of current and next-generation cellular and WLAN hardware and software products and with wireless experts to deliver consulting and testing assistance.
  • National Instruments will provide equipment from its software defined radio platform to support next-generation wireless communications research in areas like mmWave and Massive MIMO.
  • Nokia, together with Nokia Bell Labs, will provide financial contributions, research collaborations, governance, and product platform support, and will focus on software-defined radios, the Internet of Things, remote sensing, mmWave, security, new use cases and applications, and dynamic spectrum sharing.
  • Oracle will provide core network controls, analytics, and network orchestration to researchers and help them understand the impact of subscriber behaviors, enhance orchestration, and bolster security.
  • Qualcomm will contribute financial support as well as engineering equipment and guidance to help enable the testing platforms to explore new and innovative communication systems.
  • Samsung will contribute research design and engineering expertise to the testing platforms, with a particular emphasis on technologies for future wireless networks in the 28GHz and other millimeter wave bands, as well as continued enablement for the Internet of Things.
  • Shared Spectrum is contributing to the testing platforms technical expertise in dynamic spectrum sharing to support the design and architecture of research platforms.
  • Sprint will support research and development to further the progress of advanced technologies slated for 5G and beyond. Sprint will provide technical expertise on network design, use cases, and architecture requirements for core and radio access networks and the devices that will access them.
  • T-Mobile USA, Inc. will provide technical expertise to the testing platforms, including staff engineering assistance or advice in the design and deployment of the testing platforms.
  • Verizon will contribute technical expertise to the testing platforms, such as staff engineering assistance in the design and deployment of the testing platforms, and in fixed and mobile systems, indoor and outdoor environments, and residential and commercial buildings.
  • Viavi Solutions will provide test, measurement, assurance, and optimization solutions for lab and field trials for network and services to enable next-generation technologies for the always-connected society and Internet of Things.