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NSF awards $6.1M to accelerate advanced wireless research, push beyond 5G

The US National Science Foundation (NSF) announced a $6.1 million, five-year award to accelerate fundamental research on wireless communication and networking technologies through the foundation's Platforms for Advanced Wireless Research (PAWR) program.

Through the PAWR Project Office (PPO), award recipients US Ignite, Inc. and Northeastern University will collaborate with NSF and industry partners to establish and oversee multiple city-scale testing platforms across the United States. The PPO will manage nearly $100 million in public and private investments over the next seven years.

Over the last decade, the use of wireless, internet-connected devices in the United States has nearly doubled. As the momentum of this exponential growth continues, the need for increased capacity to accommodate the corresponding internet traffic also grows. This surge in devices, including smartphones, connected tablets and wearable technology, places an unprecedented burden on conventional 4G LTE and public Wi-Fi networks, which may not be able to keep pace with the growing demand.

NSF established the PAWR program to foster use-inspired, fundamental research and development that will move beyond current 4G LTE and Wi-Fi capabilities and enable future advanced wireless networks. Through experimental research platforms that are at the scale of small cities and communities and designed by the US academic and industry wireless research community, PAWR will explore robust new wireless devices, communication techniques, networks, systems and services that will revolutionize the nation’s wireless systems. These platforms aim to support fundamental research that will enhance broadband connectivity and sustain US leadership and economic competitiveness in the telecommunications sector for many years to come.

Establishing the PPO with this initial award is the first step in launching a long-term, public-private partnership to support PAWR. Over the next seven years, PAWR will take shape through two multi-stage phases:

  • Design and Development. The PPO will assume responsibility for soliciting and vetting proposals to identify the platforms for advanced wireless research and work closely with sub-awardee organizations to plan the design, development, deployment and initial operations of each platform.

  • Deployment and Initial Operations. The PPO will establish and manage each platform and document best practices as it progresses through the lifecycle.

The PPO will work closely with NSF, industry partners and the wireless research community in all aspects of PAWR planning, implementation and management. Over the next seven years, NSF anticipates investing $50 million in PAWR, combined with approximately $50 million in cash and in-kind contributions from over 25 companies and industry associations. The PPO will disperse these investments to support the selected platforms.


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