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Advanced Wireless Research Platforms in Development

Wireless network graphic

(Gerd Altmann, Pixabay)

10 April 2018. Test networks for advanced research on wireless technology are being established in Utah and New York by an academic-industry consortium coordinated by National Science Foundation. Platforms for Advanced Wireless Research, or PAWR, is building centers in Salt Lake City and New York City to study technology advances beyond currently planned upgrades to 5G wireless networks, funded initially with $8 million from NSF.

The PAWR — pronounced “power” — initiative aims to develop advances in wireless technology in real-world urban settings. The platforms, says NSF, are being designed to enable academic labs and industry groups to experiment with new technologies on a larger scale than lab environments alone can provide. Among the applications expected to benefit from these test beds are vehicle-to-vehicle communications, telemedicine, immersive video, and virtual reality.

Early design work on PAWR was carried out by the Wireless Networks and Embedded Systems lab at Northeastern University in Boston and US Ignite, a not-for-profit group in Washington, D.C. promoting advanced research and development in wireless technologies, which will continue to oversee the project. Tommaso Melodia, an engineering professor at Northeastern, is the principal investigator on both of the new urban center research platforms. The agency says a PAWR Industry Consortium of equipment vendors, device manufacturers, and wireless carriers committed to provide $50 million in cash and in-kind contributions for the research platforms, to match the $50 million offered by NSF over the next 7 years.

The Utah platform is a joint project of University of Utah in Salt Lake City and Rice University in Houston testing wireless broadband and communications. That network is expected to cover a 5 square-mile area in downtown Salt Lake City and the university campus, driven by software that enables operators to dynamically modify its features without swapping out equipment. Network nodes will be installed throughout the test area, as well as on commuter buses and municipal vehicles, like street sweepers.

The software component of the Utah project is based on Rice University’s research in multi-input/multi-output programmable features anticipated in 5G networks and beyond. This test network is expected to manage communications with mobile nodes having predictable schedules, such as buses, and those with unpredictable movements, such as maintenance vehicles. The Utah team also anticipates connecting with already existing fiber networks, as well as various programmable devices provided by end-users.

The New York City project — an undertaking of Columbia University, New York University, and Rutgers University in New Jersey — plans to establish a research platform in a high-density urban environment, a 1 square-mile area of West Harlem. The New York team also expects to test software-programmable devices, and connect them to already existing networks and equipment. In addition, the researchers anticipate supporting edge-cloud computing that makes possible local and distributed processing of data from widespread devices, such as sensors on everyday appliances, rather than sending it all to a central location.

The PAWR project is a continuation of an initiative begun in 2016 by NSF to boost research and development in the U.S. on wireless technologies. The agency says it also supports basic research on the science underlying wireless technologies and efforts to apply the advances to needs of the larger society.

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