Today, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) released its first Notice of Funding Opportunity for development of next-generation wireless infrastructure under the new Public Wireless Supply Chain Innovation Fund (“Innovation Fund”). According to NTIA’s announcement, this first tranche of funding will include up to $140.5 million in grants, ranging from $250,000 to $50 million, specifically to support expanded testing and evaluation of the performance, security, or interoperability of open, interoperable (“open-RAN”) wireless networks. Companies (both for- and nonprofit), higher education institutions, industry groups, and consortia of multiple organizations are eligible to apply.
The CHIPS and Science Act provided $1.5 billion over 5 years for the Innovation Fund to promote U.S. innovation and competitiveness in 5G and next generation wireless technologies and reduce dependence on foreign vendors. Future Innovation Fund support will be available to companies and organizations to:
- Promote and deploy technology, including software, hardware, and microprocessing technology, that will enhance competitiveness in 5G and successor wireless technology supply chains that use open and interoperable interface radio access networks.
- Accelerate commercial deployments of open interface standards-based compatible, interoperable equipment, such as equipment developed pursuant to the standards set forth by organizations such as the O-RAN Alliance, the Telecom Infra Project, 3GPP, and the Open-RAN Software Community.
- Promote and deploy new 5G equipment with future open standards-based, interoperable equipment.
- Manage integration of multi-vendor network environments.
- Identify objective criteria to define equipment as compliant with open standards for multivendor network equipment interoperability.
- Promote and deploy security features enhancing the integrity and availability of equipment in multi-vendor networks.
- Promote and deploy network function virtualization to facilitate multi-vendor interoperability and a more diverse vendor market.
Applications for the first tranche of funding are due to NTIA through Grants.gov by June 2, 2023, and NTIA expects to announce its first grants by August 8, 2023