Last July, the White House Office of Science and Technology (OSTP) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) along with 26 founding companies announced their intention to build four testbeds in locations across the United States. The initiative called Platforms for Advanced Wireless or “PAWR” has been building steam for the last year. Earlier this year, USIgnite and Northeastern University were selected as the PAWR Project Office (PPO) to oversee and manage the advanced wireless testbeds, and subsequent research on the testbeds.
What is relevant and interesting for the wireless community at large is that these testbeds are intended to be “at scale” meaning a close facsimile to a real advanced wireless network. Facsimile might not be the best description as functionally these networks may have some relationship to networks deployed today, but the goal is to do something different and innovative – to create architectures and building blocks for new applications beyond today’s 4G networks and even beyond what is planned for 5G. The driving goal is to bridge the gap between academic/university research and corporate funded research ominously labeled “the valley of death”.
Over the years, the academic research community has continued to bring forth new and innovative ideas for advancing wireless research but many of these concepts stop at simulation because of expense, resources and/or time. Fundamentally new and novel ideas must be prototyped in a real world setting to evaluate the system level performance that cannot be accurately modeled with simulation alone. Industry researchers on the other hand tend to be constrained by product development goals directly tied to the business. In today’s business climate driven by Wall Street, expenses are closely scrutinized and big investments in research face increased scrutiny with an overriding emphasis to deliver in the short term.
By building four test beds at scale, researchers from both academia and industry will have platforms to jump start innovative thinking to take wireless communications research to the next level and to solve system level and network wide complex problems. With contributions from the NSF and 26 industry entities, the testbeds will benefit by the pooling the resources. In addition, commitments from city governments and municipalities further create a unique opportunity for utilizing existing infrastructure and the ability to deploy “at scale” in a wide geographic area.
On June 1, 2017 teams from around the country formally submitted their preproposals to the PPO for review and feedback. The official awards are not expected to be announced until next fall and many of us are eagerly awaiting the next step in this innovative approach to solving some of the biggest challenges facing wireless communications research today.