FCC Approves Two New Innovation Zones to Research 5G and Beyond Technologies

August 5, 2021

Written by Caio Castro
Federal Communications Commission
CATEGORY: Exclusives
TAGS: 6G, 5G, fcc, OpenRAN

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has approved the establishment of two new Innovation Zones in Massachusetts and North Carolina, covering over 39 square kilometres in the aggregate. Both will provide platforms for researchers to investigate beyond 5G technologies and promote platforms to test the integration of Open radio access networks (Open RAN).

“Our 5G future is about connecting everything, moving to a new network world that will open up possibilities for communications that we cannot even fully imagine today,” said FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel during the FCC’s August Meeting.

“By exponentially increasing the connections between people and things around us, this technology could become an input in everything we do, improving agriculture, education, health care, energy, transportation, and more. In the United States, if we want to reap the full benefits of this 5G future, it is essential we take action to advance our wireless leadership,” she announced.

The Boston Innovation Zone will be located at the Northeastern University and will cover 4.4 square kilometres (1.69 square miles), split into two areas. It will support the transition of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Colosseum network emulator to a shared platform usable by the academic community to accelerate research in wireless networked systems.

Among its functionalities, the Colosseum allows researchers to emulate full-stack communications and support artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms.

The first area is located at Northeastern University’s main campus in Boston, MA, and will cover approximately 2.07 square kilometres (0.8 square miles). 

The second area is located at Northeastern University’s satellite campus in Burlington, MA, and will cover around 2.33 square kilometres (0.9 square miles).

On the other hand, the Raleigh Innovation Zone, at North Carolina State University, will host the Aerial Experimentation and Research Platform for Advanced Wireless (AERPAW).  This initiative will create a city-scale platform to focus on new use cases for wireless technologies supported by unmanned aerial systems, including telecommunications, transportation, infrastructure monitoring, agriculture, and public safety.

According to the FCC, the AERPAW testbed will be the first platform to allow testing at scale of open beyond-5G solutions in unmanned aerial systems.

The first area of this Innovation Zone encompasses approximately 27.1 square kilometres (10.5 square miles) for testing over the NC State University campus, a suburban residential area, and a rural research farm.

The second area will extend into the town of Cary, NC, and cover approximately 7.76 square kilometres (3 square miles).  The FCC anticipates this region will support four fixed towers with permanent wireless transceivers.

“Experimentation and innovation are critical to advancing the development of our communication networks. The FCC has a responsibility to encourage such efforts because they will hopefully lead to more benefits that will expand and enhance connectivity and promote US leadership and economic competitiveness around the world,” added FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks about the innovation zones.

The FCC also expanded the New York City Innovation Zone (known as COSMOS). It will now also cover the three Columbia University and City College of New York campus areas with a technical focus on ultra-high-bandwidth and low-latency wireless communications with tightly coupled edge computing.

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