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News Release 13-107

National Science Foundation Participates in White House Initiatives in Wireless Broadband and Technological Innovation

NSF program targets new ways to share the airwaves

radio towers

NSF is making strategic investments in research on more efficient use of the nation's airwaves.

June 14, 2013

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

In conjunction with the recently-released Presidential Memorandum on Expanding America's Leadership in Wireless Innovation, the White House has announced that the National Science Foundation (NSF), along with other federal agencies, will make strategic investments in research and development to make more efficient use of the nation's airwaves.

Efficient use of the radio spectrum is becoming increasingly important as the rapid growth in wireless applications is placing an increasing demand on a limited supply of radio frequencies. Increased access to the radio spectrum will not only promote economic development through new technologies and applications, but also ensure that public and private entities can efficiently support critical capabilities, such as public safety and defense. NSF is responding to this national need by supporting research to find innovative, efficient ways to share the spectrum available.

In 2012, NSF introduced the Enhancing Wireless Access to the Radio Spectrum (EARS) program to invest in academic and small business research that can help identify better and more efficient ways to use the available airwaves. These improvements have the potential to significantly improve radio spectrum utilization and meet the nation's broadband needs. The EARS program invests across math, physical sciences, engineering, computer science and economic sciences, and research awards have totaled $23 million in its first year of funding (FY 2012). Additional research awards will be made in 2013.

So far, the EARS program has supported a variety of cutting-edge multidisciplinary research, including:

  • Development of algorithms to compress spectrum measurement data into 140 characters or less, which can be tweeted among mobile wireless devices that are cooperating to share spectrum
  • A "spectrum observatory" that continuously monitors spectrum activity at multiple sites across the Chicago area to identify frequencies and bands that are suitable for sharing
  • New technology and communications techniques that may allow mobile wireless communications at gigabits-per-second speed using frequencies much higher than are traditionally used now
  • Addressing spectrum bandwidth needs by enabling local spectrum markets for enhanced access and flexible services
  • Development of novel ways for passive (non-transmitting) Earth remote sensing satellites to time-share bands that are presently heavily used for backhaul communications from cell phone towers

In October, NSF will hold a workshop for EARS grantees to present their research projects to key stakeholders. The workshop is expected to provide a forum for information-sharing among the public and private sectors, and for identifying future areas of mutual collaboration.


Media Contacts
Dana Topousis, NSF, (703) 292-7750, email:
Abby Deift, NSF, (703) 292-4934, email:

Program Contacts
Andrew W. Clegg, NSF, (703) 292-4892, email:

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2018, its budget is $7.8 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 50,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards.

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