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 2016 Technical Progress Report describes research performed in the past fiscal year.

Spectrum Efficiency Metrics: A New Report

The Radio Act of 1912 dictated perhaps the first spectrum efficiency requirement when it said that “In all circumstances, except in case of signals or radiograms relating to vessels in distress, all stations shall use the minimum amount of energy necessary to carry out any communication desired. Formal spectrum efficiency studies began over half a century ago, but there is still no widely-accepted method for applying generalized spectrum efficiency metrics to specific radio (i.e., wireless) systems and services. Without metrics, it is impossible to demonstrate improvements in spectrum efficiency.

NTIA is committed to ensuring that the government’s use of this valuable resource is as efficient and effective as possible. But what does it mean to be an efficient user of spectrum? And how can future systems make better use of spectrum? ITS digs into these questions in NTIA Technical Report TR-18-530, A 53-Year History of Spectrum Efficiency Studies and Recommended Future Directions, a new report that reviews more than 50 years of studies examining domestic and international spectrum efficiency to hone insights for future research.

The literature review found broad consensus on the general form of fundamental spectrum efficiency metrics spectrum efficiency metrics for terrestrial broadcasting, mobile, and fixed services. But the application of generalized spectrum efficiency metrics to specific radio systems and services, each with messy individual idiosyncrasies, is more problematic, and complexity increases when we attempt to apply these metrics to spectrum sharing scenarios and rapid network densification.

Based on the research, ITS makes a number of recommendations to address spectrum sharing, and suggestions for how best to focus future spectrum efficiency studies to enable the United States to maximize spectrum opportunities.

Save the Date!

ISART 2018 
Path Lost: Navigating propagation challenges for ultra-dense wireless systems
July 24-26, 2018, in Broomfield, Colorado

Network densification in response to the explosion in demand for wireless data presents technical economic, and regulatory challenges ... Network operators are looking to ultra-dense networks and ever-shrinking cell sizes to build capacity, but existing propagation models have an inadequate level of fidelity to represent these environments. ... ISART 2018 will bring together leading experts from government, academia, and industry to explore the current state of the art and map the path forward to the next generation of foundational propagation models. Read more here ...

ITS Releases New Open-Source Code to Boost Spectrum-Monitoring Research

Spectrum monitoring—long-term continuous measurement of the radio frequency environment from multiple sensors—is widely seen as essential to enabling increased exploitation of spectrum. Monitoring is expected be the cornerstone to modern spectrum management that is proactive and automated instead of reactive and static, enabling dynamic spectrum sharing by billions of new connected devices while protecting the operations of incumbent critical radio services. 

Effective spectrum monitoring requires low cost programmable sensing hardware, secure and robust networking infrastructure, and meaningful data analytics and data visualization. ITS has been working to advance development of all three through its participation in the development of the IEEE 802.22.3 Spectrum Characterization and Occupancy Sensing (SCOS) standard. ITS has released a first reference implementation of a sensor-control operating platform proposed as part of the SCOS standard. Scos-sensor software, shared through a public GitHub repository, is a robust, flexible, and secure platform for remote spectrum monitoring that allows operation of one or many spectrum sensors, such as a software-defined radio (SDR), over a network. Read more here ...

New Publications

This Month in ITS History

April 1942: IRPL Publishes First Ionospheric Predictions

In April of 1942, shortly after the U.S. entry into World War II, the Interdepartmental Radio Propagation Laboratory (IRPL) published its first ionospheric predictions. These predictions on the height and state of the ionospheric layer of the Earth’s atmosphere were used to determine which frequencies and paths would be most effective for radio communication. The ionosphere is made up of shifting plasma that reflects radio waves; it is necessary for radio communication in most situations. Knowing the height and state of the atmospheric layer allows more distant communication with reduced interference. IRPL had been sounding the ionosphere with radio waves and reporting their findings since 1939. By 1942, they could recognize patterns in the data that allowed them to predict the changing state of the atmospheric layer. Since the predictions were used heavily by the military to communicate with troops in the field, the published predictions remained top secret until the end of the war. Publishing ionospheric predictions was one of the most important missions undertaken by IRPL and its successor agencies for many years. ITS no longer publishes ionospheric predictions, but continues to improve telecommunication for everyone by studying the propagation of radio waves and developing new prediction algorithms.