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Transforming Spectrum Sharing: NTIA Seeks to Fund Innovation in Software Defined Radio Technology

May 14, 2024

By: Charles Cooper, Associate Administrator, Office of Spectrum Management

NTIA’s new round of funding from the $1.5 billion Public Wireless Supply Chain Innovation Fund presents a unique opportunity to advance spectrum-sensing technology, in turn potentially driving more efficient use of airwaves for the public and private sectors.

Spectrum sharing is an effective way to increase commercial access to spectrum resources while protecting and enhancing government operations. Spectrum-sensing technology incorporated into a sharing system or framework could protect incumbent operators while making more spectrum available for other beneficial uses. These sensor technologies would be able to detect and identify government radio signals among all of the various radio signals and avoid interfering with them.  

One objective of this funding opportunity’s second focus area is to propel the development of advanced Software Defined Radio (SDR) technology that meets the needs of modern mobile networks. Projects funded under this initiative will target several critical advancements:

  • Spectrum Sharing: Incorporate enhanced spectrum sensing into SDR platforms that, among other things, could protect incumbent government operations, promoting safe and efficient use of shared spectrum bands.
  • Ease-of-Programmability: Increase programmability of SDR systems, allowing modular access to all functional subsystems.
  • Energy Efficiency and Spectrum Agility: Develop wideband SDR solutions that are energy-efficient and spectrum-agile, including potential support for upper mid-band spectrum in the 7 GHz and 24 GHz bands.
  • Carrier Aggregation: Create single-radio SDR solutions capable of carrier aggregation.
  • Plug-and-Play Capabilities: Innovate high-powered, multi-band plug-and-play daughterboards for broader application.

The Innovation Fund has already distributed over $140 million through 17 different awards from the first round of funding. These awards will flow through network operators, universities, and non-profit entities to fuel advances in disaggregated networks, network security, artificial intelligence in propagation and interference modeling, and more.

NTIA’s second Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) will award up to $420 million for projects that drive commercialization and innovation in open radio units. This round presents another opportunity for forward-thinking innovators to change the telecommunications landscape.

With the Innovation Fund’s inclusion of projects focusing on SDR technology, there’s never been a better time to contribute to the next generation of mobile cellular networks. We encourage all interested parties to review NOFO 2 and bring your innovative ideas forward.

Interested spectrum sharing innovators should:

  • Visit NTIA’s website to understand the detailed application guidelines.
  • Prepare a proposal demonstrating how your spectrum-sensing project aligns with the objectives for SDR technology.
  • Submit your application via the designated portal by July 10.
  • Join our informational meeting to aid applicants in understanding the scope and requirements:
    • 10 am ET May 17, 2024
    • Virtually or at MITRE 1, 1H220, Colshire Drive, McLean, VA 21090
    • Registration: Free but pre-registration here is required.

This meeting is essential for anyone looking to apply. You will have the chance to interact with NTIA officials and get detailed insights that could help you refine your proposal.

For more details or to start the application process, visit NTIA’s website.