USA gets its 5G ducks in a row with Advanced Wireless Research Initiative

You know what would be really interesting, and powerful? A national 5G agency that coordinated research directions with City and Government priorities, planning and permit laws, spectrum policy and business, industrial & consumer benefits.

For a while now as the EU has pushed through its Horizon 2020 projects and the 5G-PPP, and the South Korea, Chinese and Japanese blocks committed huge sums to wireless R&D and committed operators to national-level broadband rollouts, some have wondered whether the USA would ever respond in kind.

Some have said that part of the reason for the USA’s lack of a coordinated response to these 5G efforts stemmed from its “success” in LTE. Viewed a certain way this success is measurable because the USA not only has a lot of IPR in LTE at a tech level. but is way ahead in terms of market adoption.

The FCC’s and US Government’s messaging has been that if it makes spectrum available and open and fair then the market will fill in the rest. Witness our LTE subscriber numbers, they say – we have 5% of the world’s population and 30+% of its LTE subscribers. 

Well today that changed a little, with the announcement of a range of measures, ranging from direct investment in large scale test platforms to partnerships with commercial companies.

Overall the government announced a $400 million Advanced Wireless Research Initiative, that will be led by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Details of these are below.

If these technical advances could be allied to a body looking at planning and site approvals, and be properly coordinated with spectrum policy, and also encompass the demands of business and industry, then you could have something like a national 5G agency. It needn’t be viewed as a top-down statist view, imposing technology choices or mandating technology deployments – rather it is about creating the right environment for the wider market to meet and develop. . 

In any case, here’s a rundown of what was included in today’s announcements. The plan is to:

Establish four city-sized test platforms for research and testing over the next decade. Each platform will deploy a network of software-defined radio antennas city-wide,

Invest $85 million in these advanced wireless testing platforms in public-private partnership. $50 million of this will come over the next 5 years.

Invest $350 million over 7 years in academic research that can use these test platforms.

Two competitions: the first to focus on providing post-disaster comms connectivity, the second to seek low-cost solutions to provide connectivity in urban areas, leveraging fiber optics in overhead light poles.

A joint $6 million project with Intel Labs looking at Information Centric wireless edge networks

A $4.7 million joint project between NSF and Academy of Finalnd to support research projects on designing very robust and dependable networks, especially related to the IoT.

Federal funding of mmWave research coordination.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is announcing a group to idenify gaps and R&D opportunities in future generation comms. This includes a 5G mmWAve Channel Model Alliance

A clutch of companies have announced that they have pledged over $35 million to design and develop and operate these testing platforms.

These companies are:

        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