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NSF leads $400M federal effort to boost advanced wireless research

The National Science Foundation (NSF) will invest more than $400 million over the next seven years to support fundamental wireless research and to develop platforms for advanced wireless research in support of the White House’s Advanced Wireless Research Initiative. These investments will support the research community in experimenting with and testing novel technologies, applications and services capable of making wireless communication faster, smarter, more responsive and more robust.

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. (Earlier post.)

In the last decade, wireless usage across the US has expanded significantly, with nearly 350 million smartphones, connected tablets and wearable devices in use—more than double the number from a decade ago—carrying more than 100,000 times the traffic they supported in 2008. Experts anticipate as many as 200 billion connected devices globally by 2020. The need for ultra-high-speed, high-bandwidth and low-latency (rapid-response) wireless connectivity will only increase.

Among the factors driving the need for improved wireless technologies are the prospects of vehicle-to-vehicle communications to support self-driving cars and increase highway safety; remote surgery and telemedicine to improve patient care; and immersive video and virtual reality content to enhance personal experiences and productivity.

Fundamental research and development on next-generation wireless technologies, along with important spectrum policy work carried out by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), will drive information technology- and innovation-based economic growth.

As part of the Advanced Wireless Research Initiative, NSF announced a series of commitments to achieve the nation’s long-term communications and IT goals:

Platforms for Advanced Wireless Research (PAWR). NSF, in partnership with leading wireless industry companies, announced the formation of a collaboration to design, deploy and operate four platforms for advanced wireless research over the next seven years. Each of these research platforms will be the size of an entire small-sized US city and will enable a number of research thrusts, including dynamic wireless spectrum use, millimeter wave spectrum use, network architectures and network security/privacy.

Reflecting the importance of the research platforms to the US wireless industry, more than 20 companies and private-sector associations, including equipment vendors, device manufacturers and wireless carriers, have cumulatively pledged more than $35 million in cash and in-kind donations to enable the construction of these research platforms.

These companies announced the following contributions to the testing platforms:

  • 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.

Additionally, these associations are making the following contributions to the testing platforms:

  • The Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS) will provide technical assistance and staff time on the design and deployment of the testing platforms. ATIS will also support the testing platforms by identifying potential opportunities for research to be conducted on the platforms.

  • CTIA will contribute engineering and technical assistance to help align industry R&D and university research to be conducted on the testing platforms with next-generation wireless networks, devices, and applications.

  • The Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA), will provide technical and engineering expertise in wireless network deployment, Internet of Things, interoperability, and software-defined networking. TIA will also assist with expanding industry awareness of the testing platforms.

NSF will commit more than $50 million towards this effort, beginning in Fiscal Year 2017. This investment includes $5 million over the next five years to establish a PAWR Project Office (PPO). A new solicitation posted today calls for project proposals to manage the PPO.

Open challenges to enhance wireless broadband connectivity in support of important societal challenges. NSF will issue two challenges, with monetary prizes totaling $1 million, in support of enhancing wireless broadband connectivity to address important societal challenges. 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 ways to provide low-cost, seamless connectivity in urban areas by leveraging fiber optics in light poles. Both challenges will officially launch later this year.

Joint solicitation with Intel on information-centric wireless edge networks. As part of an ongoing partnership with Intel Labs, NSF issued a new program solicitation with Intel to support $6 million in basic research on innovative network architectures that optimize wireless edge networks as a way to process very large quantities of information with response times of less than one millisecond.

Joint solicitation with the Academy of Finland on Wireless Innovation between Finland and the US (WiFiUS). As part of an ongoing partnership with the Academy of Finland, NSF issued a new joint solicitation that will invest $5 million to support US-Finland collaborative research projects on novel frameworks, architectures, protocols, methodologies and tools for the design and analysis of robust and highly dependable wireless communications systems and networks, especially as they support and enable the internet of things.

Coordination with DARPA on the Spectrum Collaboration Challenge. NSF is coordinating with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to promote the participation of US-based student teams in the DARPA Spectrum Collaboration Challenge, a competition to develop radios with advanced machine-learning capabilities. NSF issued a Dear Colleague Letter that calls for proposals to support up to six teams annually for the duration of the challenge. These student-led teams will be trained and advised by NSF-funded scientists and engineers who are experts in wireless spectrum research.

Research Coordination Network on millimeter wave (mmWave) research. NSF is supporting an international network of researchers from industry, academia and federal agencies as part of an effort to identify emerging challenges, share knowledge of cutting-edge research and form collaborations in the arena of broadband wireless networks operating in the mmWave spectrum, capable of delivering nearly 1 gigabit per second of data to individual devices.

Large-Scale Networking Platforms “Communities of Practice” Workshop. NSF is funding a workshop to convene an international community of practice that can identify important lessons learned and best practices from past platform efforts, and thus help successfully guide the PAWR program announced today.

NSF Workshop on Ultra-Low Latency Networks. NSF announced that it is supporting a workshop that aims to identify research challenges that need to be solved to support ultra-low response times in communication networks for applications such as ubiquitous virtual reality and remote surgery. The workshop will be held in October 2016.

Above and beyond the investments in advanced wireless research platforms and other activities described above, NSF anticipates investing $350 million over the next seven years in fundamental research and at-scale testing and experimentation on critical components of wireless technologies and policies, bringing the total NSF investment to roughly $400 million.

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