Advanced Wireless Research Initiative

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Advanced Wireless Research at NSF

Wireless broadband communications networks have become an essential component of society, enabling novel services in the public and private sectors. Breakthrough innovations in wireless communications increase the ability of people, government, and businesses to interact with one another, supporting technological, economic, and social growth.

The demand for faster communications, broader availability and lower latencies of wireless services calls for government support to drive research and innovation to meet the needs of our always-connected world. National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded research has greatly contributed to modern wireless communication networks and systems, as evident through technologies like spectrum auctions, spectrum sharing, massive MIMO antennas, millimeter-wave (mmWave) frequency devices, and wireless telemetry.

NSF is an organization dedicated to driving research, innovation, and education; therefore, we invest in a range of programs, including public and private partnerships to advance the state of the art in advanced wireless research.

Enabling Research Advances in Advanced Wireless

NSF’s leadership of wireless research has four intertwined components:

  • Supporting fundamental research that enable advanced wireless technologies, including core programs, cross-cutting initiatives, and partnerships. NSF’s Directorate for Computer and Informational Science and Engineering (CISE) supports research on systems and security of wireless systems, as well as communication theory, information theory, hardware architectures, and algorithms. NSF’s Directorate for Engineering supports research on devices, circuits, and systems, while the Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences supports research on passive spectrum use.
  • Establishing and supporting experimentation on testbeds, including platforms for advanced wireless research, which are enabled by an industry consortium of private partners.
  • Catalyzing academic, industry, and community leaders to work together to develop innovative wireless approaches to address societal challenges, and facilitate education and workforce development.
  • Engaging in interagency research and development coordination through participation and leadership in the NITRD Wireless Spectrum R&D Interagency Working Group (WSRD) and Advanced Wireless Test Platforms (AWTP) team.

Our efforts provide insights that are used to develop faster, smarter, more responsive, and more robust wireless communications, which have profound implications for science and society.

The advanced wireless research portfolio within NSF covers a range of existing and emerging research areas. Some examples include: Massive MIMO, mmWave technologies, beamforming, advanced low-power electronics for better and efficient spectrum use, meta-materials and intelligent surfaces, free-space optics, high-fidelity filter design, etc.;

  • Interference management/cancellation, novel spectrum uses, measurement-driven precision channel models, wireless sensing, on-demand spectrum sharing, etc.;
  • Multi-modal communication networks that leverage fixed and mobile infrastructure, such as high-altitude platforms, satellites, UAVs, autonomous vehicles and other mobile platforms;
  • Programmable wideband radios, Software Defined Networking, network function virtualization, networking slicing, microservices architecture, mobile edge cloud, cloud-based radio access network , data-driven service optimization, etc.; and
  • Zero-trust networking, “security-by-design” and resilience, automated network configuration and management of heterogeneous networks, etc.

Ongoing Efforts

Resilient and Intelligent NextG Systems (RINGS)

In April 2021, NSF announced a new partnership with federal agencies and private industry organizations to launch the Resilient and Intelligent Next-Generation Systems (RINGS) program. This NSF-led initiative seeks to accelerate research in areas with potentially significant impact on Next-Generation (NextG) networking and computing systems.

NextG systems are future versions of today’s cellular, Wi-Fi and satellite networks that are expected to connect billions of people and revolutionize the relationship between users’ devices and cloud services. The new systems will enable enhanced data streaming, communications, analytics and automation. These future networks and systems will provide key support to societal priorities such as education, transportation, public health and safety, defense and associated critical infrastructure.

Central to NextG systems is resiliency, which is needed to survive, gracefully adapt to, and rapidly recover from malicious attacks, component failures, and natural and human-induced disruptions. Therefore, the RINGS program will seek to advance the underlying technologies to guarantee worldwide availability, security and reliability of NextG systems.

NSF is partnering with the Department of Defense’s Office of the Undersecretary for Defense for Research and Engineering (DOD [OUSD R&E]) and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), as well as Apple, Ericsson, Google, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Nokia, Qualcomm, and VMware.

N=RINGS Partner logos

Spectrum Innovation Initiative (SII)

Rapid advances in technology demand an efficient use of the public wireless spectrum, i.e., “the airwaves,” for the provision of mobile broadband data, access to the Internet of Things (IoT), telehealth, intelligent transportation systems, and scientific discovery.

NSF’s Spectrum Innovation Initiative (SII) presents a suite of opportunities to address the pressing challenges arising from the growing demand of electromagnetic spectrum use, including passive and active applications.

Through this initiative, NSF is focused on cultivating research and innovation in spectrum usage in the following ways: (1) National Radio Dynamic Zones (NRDZ), (2) National Center for Spectrum Innovation and Workforce Development (3) Spectrum Research Activities and (4) Education and Workforce Development.

For current opportunities, please visit the SII program page.

Platforms for Advanced Wireless Research (PAWR)

Research platforms the size of a small U.S. city will foster use-inspired, fundamental research and development that will enhance advanced wireless networks. The platforms—called PAWR (pronounced "power")—will enable academic and industry researchers to experiment with approaches at scale — or "in the wild"—which cannot be studied in lab environments.

PAWR is a public and private partnership funded in equal parts by NSF and an industry consortium of over 30 industry leaders like Juniper, Ericsson, Nokia-Bell Labs, Interdigital, Samsung, Intel, Qualcomm, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon.

The program is managed through the NSF-funded PAWR Project Office (PPO) led by US Ignite, Inc., and Northeastern University to guide the design, development, deployment, and operations of the advanced wireless research platforms. NSF's PAWR program is currently supporting the deployment and initial operations of three advanced wireless research platforms conceived by the U.S. academic and industrial wireless research community. The fourth platform—aimed at studying novel ways to reduce the cost of broadband delivery to rural communities—will be selected between two finalists.

NSF-Funded Advanced Systems Testbeds

Active NSF-funded wireless researchers may propose, as part of their supplemental funding requests, experiments that utilize the PAWR platforms as these platforms become “generally available” for experimenter use (as indicated on the PAWR program website for each PAWR platform). For more detail, please see the active Dear Colleague Letter (DCL).

Funding Opportunities for Advanced Wireless Research

Research Programs

Testbed/Research Platforms Infrastructure Programs

International Partnerships

  • Dear Colleague Letter (NSF 21-035): NSF and The Academy of Finland (AoF) Collaborative Research Opportunities in artificial intelligence and wireless communication technologies.
  • Dear Colleague Letter (NSF 21-020): Special Guidelines for Submitting Collaborative Proposals under U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) and French Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR) Collaborative Research Opportunities.
  • Dear Colleague Letter (NSF 20-094): Special Guidelines for Submitting Collaborative Proposals under National Science Foundation (NSF) and US-Israel Binational Science Foundation (BSF) Collaborative Research Opportunities.
  • Dear Colleague Letter (NSF 20-064): United States-Ireland-Northern Ireland R&D Partnership.

Workshops, Webinars and FAQs

Page last updated April 27, 2021.