US unveils $400 million 5G roadmap

Following the FCC’s decision to free up more than 11 GHz of high frequency spectrum, the US has gone all in on 5G by creating a new government research initiative and more than $400 million of investment.

The Advanced Wireless Research Initiative (AWRI) will be housed by the National Science Foundation and is a dedicated effort by the US government to test wireless technologies in millimetre wave licensed and unlicensed spectrum. Last week, the FCC voted in favour of proposals to open up a bunch of high frequency spectrum for American telco testing; and the announcement from the White House suggests plans have been ready for some time waiting for the Commission’s go ahead.

The AWRI will benefit from more than $400 million in government funding, with the aim of establishing city-wide network testing infrastructure in four major cities across the country. While specific cities are yet to be identified, trials will begin at the start of 2017. It would be fair to suggest Texas and Washington might be targeted since early tests by Verizon and T-Mobile, in partnership with a variety of vendors, took place in these two states among a couple of others.

Of the $400 million investment, £350 million is going into fundamental research on advanced wireless technology projects, with the target of taking technological breakthroughs from proof-of-concept to real-world testing at scale. There’s an additional $85 million investment by an NSF-private sector partnership for the design and build of the four city-scale advanced wireless testing platforms; the participants of which are listed further below.

The testing platforms cited as being part of the project will see the deployment of a software-defined radio antenna network system city-wide, which will allow wireless companies to test, prove and refine the technologies and algorithms being used in a real-world setting.

Announcing the launch of AWRI, the White House claims it is the first country in the world to make vast quantities of high-frequency millimetre wave spectrum available for both licensed and unlicensed use. It also said the US is the “world leader” in 4G deployment, and it expects to continue to spearhead future wireless innovation, claiming the new steps will enable it to “win” the next generation of mobile technology.

The US has been pursuing this aggressive approach to 5G R&D despite the lack of international standards for 5G being fully confirmed. In spite of this, the ground work being laid by the US now will set it in good stead to evolve its technological practices when final specification for 5G is released – currently expected for late 2017 or early 2018.

The full list of wireless organisations participating in the programme is below.

  • 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.
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