FCC authorizes city-scale 5G testbeds in NYC, Salt Lake City

With the new zones, participants can conduct multiple unrelated tests across different locations and spectrum bands under a single license authorization. (Getty Images)

The Federal Communications Commission has authorized its first two city-scale testbeds for wireless communications and network technology experiments, including 5G, across a range of spectrum bands.

The testbeds, dubbed ‘Innovation Zones,’ are located in Salt Lake City and the West Harlem neighborhood of New York City. The new zones (PDF) extend the reach and bring new spectrum assets to both areas’ existing Platforms for Advanced Wireless Research (PAWR) programs launched in April 2018, which are funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and an industry consortium of more than 30 partners.

“These projects will test new advanced technologies and prototype networks like those that can support 5G technologies,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai in a statement.

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Although licensed tests were already being conducted in these areas under the PAWR programs, they were restricted to select spectrum bands across a small, narrowly-defined geographic area, according to PAWR. With the new zones, participants can conduct multiple unrelated tests across different locations and spectrum bands under a single license authorization.

“Our intent is to ensure these two Innovation Zones within the PAWR program are used to explore and evaluate novel uses of wireless spectrum for both commercial/federal use and scientific research while also protecting existing implementations of spectrum that are already providing value,” said Ashley Zauderer, program director of Electromagnetic Spectrum Management at the National Science Foundation, in a statement.

The PAWR Project Office, led by US Ignite and Northeastern University, will be the frequency coordinator for the FCC Innovation Zones.

RELATED: Salt Lake City, New York City to support wireless test beds that go beyond 5G

The New York City testbed encompasses just under a tenth of a square mile area, allowing fixed and mobile experiments across frequencies including 2.5-2.6 GHz, 3.7-4.2 GHz, 5.9 GHz, 28 GHz, and 38.6-40 GHz. The NYC testbed allows millimeter wave testing and involves collaboration by Rutgers University, Columbia University, and New York University, which jointly run COSMOS (Cloud Enhanced Open Software Defined Mobile Wireless Testbed for City-Scale Deployment), in partnership with the City of New York.

The Salt Lake City zone includes three connected areas that cover about 4 square miles. The areas give researches options for testing over a campus at the University of Utah, within a downtown area, and over a corridor location that connects the two. Experiments at the Utah location can be conducted in certain lower and mid-frequency bands, including the C-band (3.7-4.2 GHz), and frequencies ranging from 700 MHz up to 7.1 GHz.

Rice University is also a partner at the Salt Lake City Zone, and together with the University of Utah jointly runs POWDER (A Platform for Open Wireless Data-driven Experimental Research with Massive MIMO Capabilities), which the new FCC zone supports.

PAWR proposed the two locations to the FCC saying they “will enable experimental exploration of robust new wireless devices, communication techniques, networks, systems, and services that will revolutionize the nation's wireless ecosystem, thereby enhancing broadband connectivity, leveraging the emerging Internet of Things (IoT), and sustaining US leadership and economic competitiveness for decades to come.

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