$420 million available to create open wireless networks

May 9, 2024

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has announced a second Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO), with $420 million available for innovations in open radio units for 5G and 6G cellular networks, as well as commercializing the findings.

The $1.5 billion Public Wireless Supply Chain Innovation Fund is intended to develop these units, crucial components atop cell phone towers for transmitting and receiving signals. Those units are the largest and most expensive segment of carrier networks. Increasing the availability of open radio units, both domestically and internationally, is key to encouraging adoption of open networks.

“To secure our telecom supply chain, America and its allies need to build more innovative, affordable, and secure wireless equipment,” Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said. NTIA falls under the umbrella of the Commerce Department.

This NOFO draws from the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, which was designed to drive wireless innovation, promote competition and fortify supply chain resilience. By supporting the development of open radio units, this second funding round aims to ensure wireless technology is developed by the United States and its allies, rather than vendors from nations posing security threats.

“This $420 million investment will help shore up our supply chain and create opportunities for companies from the U.S. and our allies,” NTIA Administrator Alan Davidson said. “Open, interoperable networks will facilitate competition, make our supply chains more secure, and lead to lower costs.”

The 2024 round of funding focuses on two primary areas:

  • Commercialization of open radio units: Speeding up the progress of open radio units to meet the requirements of wireless carriers and be prepared for commercial trials.
  • Innovation in open radio units: Enhancing the overall performance and capabilities of open radio units through targeted research and development.

NTIA anticipates awarding between $25 million and $45 million per commercialization award, and $5 million to $10 million per innovation award. The deadline for applications is July 10, and the agency plans to start awarding grants from this second funding opportunity in fall 2024.

In the initial Notice of Funding Opportunity, NTIA granted over $140 million to 17 grantees, supporting testing, research, development and the establishment of testing and evaluation facilities.

Photo by Igor on Unsplash

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