On July 15, the Obama administration announced plans to support the next generation of mobile tech with a $400 million Advanced Wireless Research Initiative. The money will help pave the way for 5G technologies, which can help build out new industries such as the internet of things.
The project will be led by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and unfold over the next decade. It will enable advanced wireless research with the deployment and use of four, city-scale testing platforms.
The Advanced Wireless Research Initiative stems from the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) Spectrum Frontiers vote, which took place July 14. The results of this vote made the US the world's first nation to make large amounts of high-frequency millimeter wave spectrum available for licensed and unlicensed use.
When combined with the current spectrum, this high-frequency spectrum will deliver lower latency, faster speeds, and greater capacity for wireless networks in the future. It's another step for an administration that has tried to emphasize and invest in technological advancements.
During Obama's two terms, the US has proven a leader in wireless broadband. More than 90% of the country's population has 4G/LTE coverage, according to the White House statement.
Part of the reason so many people in the US are on 4G is because of its flexible spectrum-first strategy. Following the FCC's recent decision, the government anticipates the US will continue to drive wireless innovation. It also has plans in place to do so.
Since 2010, wireless operators in the US have invested nearly $150 billion in 4G LTE. This includes an $85 million investment in advanced wireless testing platforms by public and private companies, including more than 20 tech organizations, in addition to the NSF.
The progress continues to build with greater investment in exploring new technologies and innovation. Over the next seven years, the NSF also plans to invest $350 million in academic research that can use the advanced wireless testing platforms.
These testing platforms, and the research that will be conducted on them, will deliver insights that businesses and academics can use to create wireless innovations that power users beyond 5G technology.
As a whole, these policy and research efforts related to the wireless spectrum are intended to build the next generation of wireless networks. The government claims these networks will be fast, high capacity, ultra-low latency, and up to 100 times faster than they are today.
Once these networks of the future are in place, they will provide the necessary support for applications related to new technologies like smart cities and the internet of things.
The Obama administration has some interesting ideas on the technological advancements that will be possible over the next 10 years. For example, it speculates that mobile phones and tablets will be able to download full-length HD movies in less than five seconds, a speed 100 times faster than downloads via 4G.
The government also foresees a future in which virtual reality training environments can enable entry-level employees to learn skills in fields like solar energy installation. Emergency room doctors will be able to receive real-time video and sensor-driven patient data from ambulances before they arrive at the hospital.
Six years ago Obama stated that "[t]he world has gone wireless and we cannot be left behind." This announcement is a strong sign the US will continue to research new breakthroughs in wireless innovation going forward.