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Institute for Telecommunication Sciences
the research laboratory of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration

What We Do

The Institute for Telecommunication Sciences (ITS) performs cutting-edge telecommunications research and engineering with both federal government and private sector partners. As its research and engineering laboratory, ITS supports NTIA by performing the research and engineering that enables the U.S. Government, national and international standards organizations, and many aspects of private industry to manage the radio spectrum and ensure that innovative, new technologies are recognized and effective. ITS also serves as a principal Federal resource for solving the telecommunications concerns of other Federal agencies, state and local Governments, private corporations and associations, and international organizations. The FY 2015 Technical Progress Report describes research performed in the past fiscal year.

Save The Date! ISART 2017

ISART 2017: Spectrum Mining at Millimeter Waves Set for August 15-17 in Broomfield, Colorado

Digging for Capacity: As more spectrum users squeeze into the lower frequency bands, more are also exploring the higher frequencies to meet their capacity needs. Millimeter wave frequencies, approximately 20 GHz and above, are able to meet some needs. ISART 2017, the 16th in this series of high quality symposia will explore millimeter waves, the technical challenges they present, and applications that use them. This year’s tutorial and four panels will approach this topic from five different perspectives: regulation, industry, standards, measurement and modeling, and systems. Industry demonstrations and poster sessions from academia will round out the conference. The goal of ISART 2017 is to get us all talking, exploring new ideas, brainstorming, and perhaps even solve a couple of millimeter wave obstacles. To take advantage of potential synergies, a CSMAC meeting and a WSRD meeting are scheduled during the same week. Read more here, check out the Draft Agenda and the Panel Descriptions.

Research Spotlight: A Promising Crowdsourcing Research Experiment

The results are in—when it comes to speech intelligibility testing, the crowd and human subjects in a lab have a lot in common. Initial results from a crowdsourced speech intelligibility test designed by ITS align closely with similar testing done in the lab. Since crowdsourced testing requires significantly less time and money than laboratory testing, this could help ITS quickly gather large amounts of high-quality speech intelligibility data as part of a more efficient overall test plan.

ITS conducts speech intelligibility testing to identify strengths and weaknesses in new telecommunications offerings. While intelligibility is necessary in any telecomm system, it can be especially important for telecommunications that support public-safety operations. Getting a clear message through on the first try can be critical and may even be a matter of life and death. Protective gear, harsh noise conditions, and the necessity of hands-free operation can present serious intelligibility challenges to the fire, medical, and law enforcement personal who protect us.

For years ITS conducted various types of subjective testing in tightly controlled laboratory conditions, with sound isolated chambers, professional sound equipment, and individually recruited and supervised listeners. It was quite impressive—and also very costly. These tests allowed ITS to sort through emerging telecom options to find those that sound better or work better in some respect.

The lab approach is classic in science and engineering—you control everything that you possibly can so that you can attribute the variation in results to the thing that you are trying to measure. But an equally iconic rule in statistics says that more data is better. Turning away from the lab and deploying a subjective test to the uncontrolled, self-selecting, anonymous crowd of workers at the Mechanical Turk is one way to get more data. But would that data be worth anything at all?

NTIA Technical Memo TM-17-523: A Crowdsourced Speech Intelligibility Test that Agrees with, Has Higher Repeatability than, Lab Tests, released in February 2017, describes ITS’s first crowdsourced speech intelligibly test and demonstrates that this method has great potential.

Read more …


New Publications

This Month in ITS History

March 1915: NBS Radio Section Funded

On March 4, 1915 the National Bureau of Standards received its first appropriation for radio research. The Bureau had been investigating radio-wireless technology since 1913 in the electricity division, but, for the first time, the new budget for Fiscal Year 1916 included a separate line item of “$10,000 for the investigation and standardization of methods and instruments employed in radio communication.” F.A. Kolstler and J.H. Dellinger, well regarded researchers from the electricity division, divided the leadership of the new radio lab. While Kolstler was named chief of the section on the organizational paperwork, his duties were focused on military applications for the new technology. Dellinger, listed as a research assistant, was in charge of personnel, publications, and his own research lab. By the next year, the radio section had outgrown its lab space and Congress appropriated an additional $50,000 for the construction of a building south of the Bureau’s existing electrical building. The 1918 construction costs of the two-story Radio Building included two one-hundred-fifty foot antennas. Over the years the work of the radio section changed to keep up with new technologies and new needs. Its name also changed—the NBS Radio Section became the Inter-service Radio Propagation Laboratory in 1940, the Central Radio Propagation Laboratory in 1946, the Institute for Telecommunication Science and Aeronomy in 1964, and finally the Institute for Telecommunication Sciences in 1967. ITS is the country’s principal resource for governmental radio research and still works to improve the scientific understanding that underlies cellular, satellite, and public safety communications as well asother radio technologies such as Wi-Fi, radar, and GPS.