July 15, 2016
Twenty-first century businesses need 21st century infrastructure—modern ports, and stronger bridges, faster trains and the fastest Internet…I intend to protect a free and open Internet, extend its reach to every classroom, and every community, and help folks build the fastest networks so that the next generation of digital innovators and entrepreneurs have the platform to keep reshaping our world.President Obama, 2015 State of the Union
Under President Obama, we have seen technological breakthroughs and strategic investments that have propelled the United States to the forefront of wireless broadband—with world-leading 4G/LTE coverage for more than 98 percent of U.S. citizens. Today, the Obama Administration is announcing new steps to maintain U.S. leadership and win the next generation of mobile technology with 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.
That vote 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. The United States leads the world in 4G deployment in significant part because of its spectrum-first, flexible-use strategy, and the Administration expects the United States to continue to spearhead future wireless innovations because of the FCC’s actions yesterday.
The Advanced Wireless Research Initiative announced today will also build on President Obama’s seven-and-a-half-year track record of accomplishment in wireless and wireline broadband policy, and on the nearly $150 billion in 4G LTE investment by wireless operators since 2010. It includes an $85 million investment in advanced wireless testing platforms by a public-private effort, including NSF and more than 20 technology companies and associations; plans by NSF to invest an additional $350 million over the next 7 years in academic research that can utilize these testing platforms; and complementary efforts by other Federal agencies. These platforms, and the fundamental research supported on them, will allow academics, entrepreneurs, and the wireless industry to test and develop advanced wireless technology ideas, some of which may translate into key future innovations for 5G and beyond.
Collectively, these spectrum policy and research efforts will accelerate the deployment of a new generation of wireless networks that are up to 100 times faster than today. 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. Possible advances in the next decade could bring:
MORE THAN SEVEN YEARS OF INNOVATIVE WIRELESS POLICY
President Obama has prioritized wireless and wireline broadband since his first day in office. Through forward-thinking spectrum policy initiatives, targeted Federal spending, and aggressive private investment, the United States has become a world leader in wireless, with more than 98 percent of Americans having access to fast 4G/LTE mobile broadband at speeds up to ten times faster than 8 years ago. This progress is about more than just faster download speeds: Internet access provides substantial economic benefits across the U.S. economy, including for job-seekers and workers, as highlighted by a recent report from the President’s Council of Economic Advisers.
One of President Obama’s first actions was to sign the Recovery Act to help the nation recover from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. The Act funded nearly $5 billion in broadband investments, including support for more than 114,000 miles of broadband infrastructure, especially in under-served areas, to connect anchor institutions and wireless towers. The Administration also supported targeted tax incentives to provide wireless companies with the incentives and certainty they needed to invest tens of billions in infrastructure and services. And President Obama challenged Federal agencies to streamline permitting for broadband and wireless infrastructure deployment, and supported “Dig Once” policies for fiber-optic backhaul along America’s roads and highways.
President Obama also committed the Administration to making available 500 MHz of Federal and nonfederal spectrum by 2020 for mobile and fixed wireless broadband use. Through concerted effort from nearly two dozen Federal agencies, the Federal Government has made available half of that amount already, including raising more than $40 billion for American taxpayers through the FCC’s Advanced Wireless Services 3 (AWS-3) auction last year. The FCC’s ongoing incentive auction promises to make available up to 126 MHz of additional prime spectrum.
Recognizing the increasing complexity of the wireless world, the Administration has also made sharing a central part of its wireless policies, reflecting the recommendations of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. Commercial companies and Federal agencies are collaborating to explore innovative new ways to free up valuable airwaves. Sharing was a key to the unprecedented success of the AWS-3 auction, and underpins the first-of-its-kind three-tier access system established for the 3.5 GHz band. The Federal Government has also taken bold steps to increase the availability of unlicensed spectrum by opening up white spaces between television channels and is exploring the possibility of expanding access to the 5 GHz band that currently supports advanced Wi-Fi services.
APPLYING THE SUCCESSFUL LESSONS OF 4G TO THE WIRELESS CHALLENGES OF TODAY AND TOMORROW
During the last seven and a half years, wireless use has exploded, underpinning significant U.S. economic growth and productivity. More than 350 million smartphones, connected tablets, and wearable devices are in use across the United States, more than double the number from a decade ago. Wireless networks carry more than 100,000 times the traffic they were supporting in 2008. Millions of Americans rely daily on products and services provided by new wireless companies and applications that could only be dreamed of a decade ago. The President remarked 6 years ago that “[t]he world has gone wireless and we cannot be left behind.” And indeed, the United States has surged ahead, with U.S. competitive advantage in connectivity forming a foundation for rapid growth in the global information and innovation economy.
Much of the credit for this growth is due to America’s innovators, entrepreneurs, path-breaking wireless network companies, private-sector investors, and the unparalleled productivity of America’s workers. In addition, America’s success in 4G is also a story of a clear policy strategy that favored making spectrum available early and establishing flexible-use rules to enable innovators and entrepreneurs to define the future of wireless technologies and applications. By avoiding a rigid, top-down, standards-setting process and technology roadmap, the American spectrum strategy enabled a flourishing of technologies and ideas, and an open competition that allowed successful technologies to win in the marketplace of ideas.
Also contributing to the American success story in wireless is another clear policy strategy—sustained Federal investments in fundamental academic research that leads to technology breakthroughs that drive growth in the American economy. Time and time again, Federally-funded researchers have contributed to breakthroughs that have helped to harness airwaves once considered low value—including the high-frequency bands that the FCC just opened up. In addition, NSF, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and other Federally-funded academic research into new channel access, antenna, modulation, and other technologies has made important contributions to the 3G and 4G revolutions, the broad deployment of Wi-Fi, millimeter wave (mmWave) technologies, and new dynamic spectrum-sharing arrangements.
Today, the importance of ultra-high-speed, high-bandwidth, low-latency wireless connectivity is only increasing. The burgeoning Internet of Things will add significantly to wireless needs, with 50 billion connected devices anticipated globally by 2020. Devices are also expected to continue to consume ever-greater amounts of data—traffic in North America is expected to grow at a 42 percent compounded annual growth rate between 2015 and 2020.
To meet these demands, the United States must build on the successful strategies it used to become a leader in 4G, starting with spectrum. The FCC took a critical step yesterday in this regard with its Spectrum Frontiers ruling. The rules adopted yesterday open up vast amounts of spectrum for new uses and offer additional spectrum flexibility, while preserving a path forward for continued and expanding Federal and satellite deployments. The FCC also proposed opening up even more spectrum in the future, to ensure that the United States remains a leader in wireless technology.
Today’s announcements to invest in cutting-edge fundamental wireless research will leverage the Commission’s efforts to make spectrum available for flexible use.
INVESTING MORE THAN $400 MILLION IN ADVANCED WIRELESS RESEARCH
NSF today 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 announces 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 announcing 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. This will allow a broad base of NSF-funded experiments on potential breakthrough technologies to be taken from proof-of-concept to real-world testing at scale, here in the United States.
COMPLEMENTARY FEDERAL ANNOUNCEMENTS TODAY
In addition to these testing platforms and research investments, the Administration is also announcing additional coordinated efforts and investments across Federal agencies to help accelerate the growth and development of advanced wireless technology.
Find more information here to learn more about these NSF announcements.
Reflecting the importance of these research testing platforms to the development of wireless technology, 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. In addition to financial support, these entities will be providing design support; technical networking expertise; networking hardware, including next-generation radio antennas, software-defined networking switches and routers, cloud computing, servers, and experimental handsets and devices; software; and wireless network testing and measurement equipment.
These companies are announcing today the following contributions to the testing platforms:
These associations are announcing today the following contributions to the testing platforms: