4 cities to host wireless research platforms

4 cities to host wireless research platforms

The Obama administration's new Advanced Wireless Research Initiative will deploy and use four city-scale testing platforms to study the next generation of wireless technologies.

As part of the initiative announced July 15, the National Science Foundation will lead a 10-year, $400 million Platforms for Advanced Wireless Research (PAWR) program, which builds on the Federal Communications Commission’s vote last week to make the United States the first country to offer high-frequency millimeter wave spectrum for licensed and unlicensed use.

Taken together, the initiative and the vote aim to pave the way for the development of the next generation -- known as 5G -- of wireless technologies that can support growing wireless traffic with faster transmission speeds and increased capacity.

The initiative includes an $85 million investment in advanced wireless testing platforms under a public/private effort involving NSF and more than 20 technology companies and associations. As part of the effort, NSF also plans to invest another $350 million over the next seven years in academic research that can use the testing platforms.

Starting in fiscal 2017, each testing platform will deploy a network of software-defined radio antennas citywide, “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,” the White House said. The four cities will be chosen based on an open competition.

The goal of the platforms, according to NSF, is “to support cutting-edge, multi-disciplinary experimental research” in areas such as cloud-enabled radio-access networks, software-defined radio transceivers, resource-sharing algorithms, spectrum sharing, wireless network security, network planning, heterogeneous network architectures, spectrum policy enforcement, end-user application performance and spectrum data analytics.

According to US Ignite, which is working with NSF on the program, topic areas to be enabled by the research platforms include:

mmWave, which would enable research and development and systems testing at the millimeter-wave bands above 26 gigahertz, with a target of 100 gigabit/sec in data rates for small-cell networks that cover a few city blocks.

Dynamic spectrum, which would focus on the bands below 6 GHz and find opportunities in existing networks.

Architecture, which would test architectures for next-generation networks that operate with a wireless edge.

Mobility-at-scale, which would address larger network mobility problems.

Wide-area whitespace, which would use whitespace-based wireless networks to design, build and demonstrate 1 gigabit/sec connectivity to remote locations via long-range wireless mesh connections.

Network metrology, which would further the measuring and monitoring of wireless network performance and support research on ways to boost network security, reliability and performance.

NSF’s industry partners include AT&T, Juniper Networks, Oracle and Verizon, among others. Last week, the Telecommunications Industry Association announced its commitment to PAWR.

“Federal government leadership in generating new research and development remains critical to advancing wireless technologies, especially as we approach the reality of 5G networks,” TIA CEO Scott Belcher said in a statement. “While the United States has been a leader in 4G, continued investment in next-generation wireless technologies is essential for sustaining technological leadership in the competitive global marketplace.”

About the Author

Stephanie Kanowitz is a freelance writer based in northern Virginia.

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