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National Science Foundation doles out $600,000 for wireless research

WASHINGTON – The Platforms for Advanced Wireless Research (PAWR) program, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and a consortium of 35 leading wireless companies and associations, today announced two finalists in the competition to name a fourth city-scale wireless research testbed aimed at studying novel ways to reduce the cost of broadband delivery to rural communities. The finalists are ARA, a Wireless Living Lab for Smart and Connected Rural Communities, led by Iowa State University and the city of Ames, Iowa; and NEXTT, the Nebraska Experimental Testbed of Things, led by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the city of Lincoln, Nebraska.

As part of the final round of competition, the NSF is providing, through the PAWR Project Office (PPO), funding of $300,000 each to ARA and NEXTT for further platform development work. This funding is designed to allow the platforms to develop a platform design that incorporates various novel broadband delivery technologies for research and experimentation. This work will ensure that the team ultimately selected for the next platform in the PAWR program is positioned for an accelerated deployment process at the start of 2021.

Both the ARA and NEXTT teams are focused on integrating multiple wireless technologies and supporting a range of configurations for last-mile and backhaul network architectures. These heterogenous network testbeds will create new possibilities for expanding affordable broadband service, and specifically for experimenting with delivery models designed to lower deployment costs and extend coverage in rural America.

"When selecting the finalists, we considered important technical factors such as support for multiple application environments and enabling technologies, ability to innovate and future-proof a hybrid rural network architecture, and demonstrated understanding of how to provide experimenter support," said Abhimanyu Gosain, Director of Industry Engagement for the Institute for the Wireless Internet of Things at Northeastern University, and Technical Program Director for the PPO. "Based on the comprehensive and holistic evaluation, we are excited to work with the NEXTT and ARA teams to refine their platform vision over the next six months."

Through the summer and fall, the ARA and NEXTT teams will work closely with the PPO to strengthen their deployment plans, match resources to specific platform needs, and tighten their operational structures to improve the chances for research success. The final selection of the fourth PAWR platform will be based on technology comprehensiveness – including the level of interoperability and technology integration demonstrated – as well as the proposed user experience for future researchers on the platform.

"We are pleased to have two finalists with strong technical expertise and multi-stakeholder commitment, particularly given the importance of improving rural broadband and ensuring a foundation of connectivity upon which all Americans can build," said Joe Kochan, CEO of US Ignite, Inc., and Project Director for the PPO, which spans US Ignite and Northeastern University. "These teams have the potential to support groundbreaking research, and we're thrilled to be able to fund further development work in a way that will position them well for future opportunities both within and beyond the PAWR program."

The final PAWR platform chosen will join three existing testbeds funded by the public-private partnership: POWDER in Salt Lake City, which is focused on software-defined networking and massive MIMO research; COSMOS in the West Harlem neighborhood of New York City, targeting programmable networks and innovation in optical backhaul; and AERPAW in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina, focused on wireless communications for unmanned aerial systems (UAS).

PAWR

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