Today, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo announced the formal launch of the Public Wireless Supply Chain Innovation Fund, which will invest $1.5 billion in the development of open and interoperable networks.
The innovation fund’s first Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) will focus on open radio access network (open RAN) technology. The Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) anticipates it will award up to $140.5 million during the first tranche of grants. The first round of awards will provide for R&D and testing activities related to interoperability, performance and security of 5G RAN technology.
Today’s NOFO kicks off the application window for funding, with applications due on June 2. NTIA will begin to award the first grants in August.
Later NOFOs will build upon the foundational work of this first NOFO.
Ultimately, the goal of the Public Wireless Supply Chain Innovation Fund is to open the telecom ecosystem to innovation and entrepreneurship in the U.S. and its allied countries.
The U.S. government first became gung-ho about open RAN technology a few years ago after politicians became concerned that telecom equipment from Chinese vendors posed a threat to national security. They view open RAN as an alternative to the Chinese equipment and also as a way to encourage U.S. innovation in the telecom marketplace. Since then, the government has accepted public input via a formal Request for Comment. And the NTIA conducted a listening session on the topic in January, which drew nearly 200 attendees.
“The Wireless Innovation Fund will help catalyze an open approach to 5G and next generation networks,” stated Assistant Secretary of Commerce Alan Davidson, today. “With the investments from this initiative, the U.S. can foster much-needed competition in the global wireless market and create a more resilient and secure wireless supply chain.”
Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Frank Pallone, said, “I’m grateful for NTIA’s leadership in implementing this provision from my USA Telecommunications Act and look forward to seeing the marketplace for trusted equipment vendors flourish.”