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

What We Do

The Institute for Telecommunication Sciences (ITS) is the research and engineering laboratory of NTIA. We perform advanced communications research to inform spectrum policy and develop capabilities to solve emerging telecommunications issues. We serve as a principal Federal resource for solving the telecommunications concerns of other Federal agencies, state and local Governments, industry, and international organizations. We work to continually advance the state of the art in radio frequency (RF) propagation measurement, RF propagation modeling, spectrum monitoring and enforcement, electromagnetic compatibility analysis, interference mitigation strategies, evaluation of end-user experience, and engineering analysis of evolving technologies to manage and share spectrum efficiently. Learn more about ITS on our YouTube Channel or read about our research programs in the FY 2017 Technical Progress Report.


November 26, 2018

Behind every initiative to share spectrum are models of how radio waves in a particular band propagate through different environments. How far will a signal travel before it becomes too faint to be useful or...

August 7, 2018

The record attendance (nearly 170 experts from government, academia, and industry) at the 17th International Symposium on Advanced Radio Technologies (ISART) demonstrated the deep interest in the problem of modeling radio...

April 24, 2018

As demand for spectrum for commercial use continues to grow, policymakers are exploring spectrum sharing as a way to expand capacity while still fulfilling the needs of federal agencies. This model can work only if rules...

February 23, 2018

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...

February 6, 2018

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...

New Publications

This Month in ITS History

December 1901: First Radio Transmission Across the Atlantic

On December 11, 1901 Guillermo Marconi demonstrated that radio signals could be sent across the Atlantic. Marconi left a team at Poldhu in Cornwall, England, to transmit the signal, while he made his way to Signal Point in Newfoundland. Marconi set up his receiver and used a kite to raise his antenna. At the appointed time his staff in England sent three Morse code “dots” (S). The shortwave (1.6–30 MHz) radio signals reflected off the atmosphere to the receiver and Marconi heard the “S.” Because Marconi knew the signal to be transmitted ahead of time and when it was scheduled, some questioned his methods and even if he really heard the signal. However, repeated tests proved that the connection between Newfoundland and Cornwall was feasible. Within a year the Marconi Company was connecting ships up to 2,000 miles at sea to land based radio-telegraphs. Although Marconi had proved empirically that this method of reflecting radio waves beyond the earth’s horizon made radio viable for international messages, the principles of ionospheric reflection that allowed the feat were not well understood at the time. The use of shortwave communications by both commercial and amateur operators grew rapidly, while researchers rushed to explain it. The study of “skywave propagation” became a key focus of National Bureau of Standards radio research. Researchers began to map the ionosphere and perform extensive radio propagation measurements to understand how, when, and how far reflected radio signals could travel. In 1939 the first maps of the ionosphere were published in NBS reports, and in 1942 the Interservice Radio Propagation Laboratory (a predecessor to ITS) began providing the military with quarterly ionospheric propagation prediction reports. Changes in ionospheric conditions and solar flares strongly impact ionospheric propagation, but with improved understanding of the physics, better forecasting methods, and more sophisticated equipment, short wave radio is still used today, primarily for long range broadcasting, amateur radio, and over-the-horizon radar.