CHIPS Act Bringing Hope for US Autonomy in 6G and Semiconductors

October 18, 2023

Written by Caio Castro
6G Technology Chip
CATEGORY: Exclusives

More than one year after becoming law, the CHIPS Act seems to show signs of traction across the United States, including for 6G matters.

The act, signed in 2022, devotes $52.7 billion to advancing the American semiconductor manufacturing industry. Out of the total, $39 billion goes to manufacturing incentives, $2 billion for the legacy chips used in automobiles and defence systems, and $13.2 billion to R&D and workforce development.

Another $500 million will be invested in international information communications technology security and semiconductor supply chain activities.

Even though the bulk of the money will address current technologies, a share is reserved for the future generation of networks.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has received $ 1.5 billion in funding to develop open, interoperable wireless networks. While the near-term goals for the funding focus on 5G, the long-term objectives put 6G in the spotlight.

“[To guide our goals] For the long-term, we started by asking what 6G is going to look like,” said Amanda Toman, Head of Wireless Innovation Fund at NTIA, at the 6GSymposium Fall. The fund is responsible for managing the $ 1.5 billion figure and fostering the adoption of open and interoperable future wireless networks.

According to her, the short-term goals include efforts to:

  • Support continued refinement and expansion of Open RAN specifications.
  • Increase 5G Open RAN adoption by carriers and private networks.
  • Develop third-party testing and certification in the US.
  • Accelerate developments in 5G Open RAN performance, security, and interoperability.
  • Advance 5G Open RAN trials and pilots.
  • Develop 5G Open RAN best practices and training.

For the long-term objectives:

  • Support advances in Open RAN specifications.
  • Open RAN deployed by carriers and private networks.
  • The U.S. is a competitive global player in telecommunications and Open RAN development and deployment.
  • 6G specifications are inherently open and interoperable.
  • Open RAN architecture boasts additional security, power consumption, cost, and product features.

With this roadmap in mind, Toman aims to achieve success in setting up the foundations for the internet we will use in 2030. But “success” is a broad term, and it could have several meanings depending on who you ask. “For me, success means having a vibrant ecosystem of vendors and suppliers providing solutions,” she added.

Part of the effort in creating this “vibrant ecosystem” is opening the doors for collaboration. In a recent request for comments, the Innovation Fund received 89 responses from organisations such as carriers, cloud and network edge providers, wireless equipment suppliers, academia, and industry groups.

The survey showed that 76% of the respondents think the body needs to prioritise testing. Nearly 70% suggested that the Innovation Fund should invest in security, and almost half emphasised the importance of specifications that could assist with Open RAN integration.

Grow Flowers in Your Backyard

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed how dependent the US is on semiconductor imports, especially from Asian countries. With an increasing demand for chips and several factors, such as lockdowns and geopolitical tensions factoring in, the world has experienced a chip shortage in recent years.

This is something Ayodele Okeowo, Director of Intergovernmental Affairs for the CHIPS Program Office, does not want to see repeating with 6G.

“To keep the manufacturing capacity, we need to keep investing in future technologies,” he said during the 6GSymposium.

According to him, the CHIPS Act will support efforts in three key areas to ensure self-sufficiency:

  • Economics security
  • National security (Produce semiconductors domestically)
  • Future innovation

“If we are not leading in the development of the productions of these technologies, we will not be able to lead [in areas like] standardisation,” he finished.

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