NSF Awards $12 Million for Radio Spectrum Research

NSF Awards

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has announced 11 awards, worth a total of $12 million, to support activities aimed at enhancing the public's access to the radio frequency spectrum i.e. the part of the electromagnetic spectrum used to facilitate telecommunications and modern information systems essential for public safety, transportation and national defense.

The radio frequency spectrum is a finite but exceedingly valuable natural resource that facilitates a variety of applications and services. The research activities supported by these awards represent bold new approaches with the potential to contribute to improvements in the efficiency of radio spectrum utilization while protecting passive sensing services, and allowing traditionally underserved Americans to benefit from current and future wireless-enabled goods and services.

In recent years, smartphone use and demand for wireless broadband access have intensified, increasing use of the radio frequency spectrum. At the same time, traditional methods of assigning frequencies, coupled with the rise of new wireless technologies for radar and unmanned aerial vehicles, have contributed to shortages in available radio frequencies. Expanding access to the spectrum while protecting certain radio wavelengths, such as those allocated to radio astronomy or passive remote sensors that monitor the Earth's environment, were identified as several "grand challenges" faced by wireless communications experts in facilitating better use of the radio spectrum.

Research that enables solutions to these grand challenges is helping realize the vision of enhanced radio spectrum utilization, thus enabling fast, reliable and low-cost wireless access for all Americans, including those in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods, while maintaining critical functions performed by government and scientific users.

These three-year awards continue the National Science Foundation's ongoing investment in radio spectrum research, which over the past five years has supported more than 140 awards through an investment of over $60 million. The investments respond directly to the Federal Communications Commission's National Broadband Plan and align with the recently announced Advanced Wireless Research Initiative, which seeks to sustain U.S. leadership in wireless communications and technology.

Increasing spectrum efficiency and access requires careful consideration of the interplay of the physical sciences, engineering, computer and information sciences, mathematics, economics and public policy.

The awards seek solutions along four major axes, including:

  • Innovative radio hardware and access architectures to enable spectrum sharing.
  • Harmonious co-existence of heterogeneous wireless technologies.
  • Development of automated detection mechanisms and compliance certification methods.
  • Spectrum access for science services.

The new awards will support the following principal investigators and projects: