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

Institute for Telecommunication Sciences / Programs / Center for Advanced Communications / Center for Advanced Communications

Center for Advanced Communications (CAC)

The CAC was created to investigate and initiate collaborative efforts in spectrum research between NIST and ITS using the highly successful Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) program as a model. ITS has extensive experience performing spectrum measurements and analysis for spectrum sharing studies including ultrawideband, broadband over power line, dynamic frequency selection, and dynamic spectrum access, while NIST performs world class metrology to help improve measurement techniques. Through a series of information exchanges, reviews of existing research programs, and assessments of current spectrum regulatory activities, the project team selected spectrum monitoring, clutter loss measurements, and millimeter wave research as kickoff collaboration projects.

The 2010 Presidential Memorandum “Unleashing the Wireless Broadband Revolution” outlined a number of initiatives to be undertaken by different Federal agencies in pursuit of expanded wireless broadband access to promote “America’s future competitiveness and global technology leadership.” While immediate attention focused on the initiative to free up 500 MHz of additional spectrum for wireless broadband use, the memorandum also addressed the need for new technologies to fully, robustly, and efficiently exploit that spectrum. The Secretary of Commerce, in consultation with other Agencies, was directed to work through NTIA to “create and implement a plan to facilitate research, development, experimentation, and testing by researchers to explore innovative spectrum-sharing technologies.”

In response to that directive, in April 2014 NTIA and NIST signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that laid the foundations for the Center for Advanced Communications (CAC), a cooperative research effort that aligns the world-class advanced communications capabilities of both organizations. CAC unites key research and engineering activities from two Department of Commerce sister agencies under an umbrella of national excellence for collaborative research and engineering. One of CAC’s objectives is also to coordinate and tackle several national priorities outlined in the Presidential Memorandum  “Expanding America’s Leadership in Wireless Innovation.” such as monitoring and supporting advances in new spectrum sharing technologies and policies. Work began in FY 2014 on critical new spectrum measurement initiatives, radio analysis tools, capabilities, and test-beds that support accelerated development, testing, and deployment of advanced communications technologies for commercial and government sectors.

  • Spectrum Monitoring: A CAC goal is to conduct spectrum monitoring over the entire lifecycle of new radio technologies, from the earliest proposals for spectrum sharing, to conformity assessment of newly deployed systems, to longer term surveillance testing which regulators may use to support enforcement actions. Toward that end, the Spectrum Monitoring Pilot Program was initiated in 2013 to investigate the efficacy of spectrum monitoring in support of research and spectrum regulatory proceedings.
  • Simulating Spectrum Utilization Scenarios: To determine if sharing is even feasible in specific bands under specific circumstances, policy makers planning for enhanced spectrum utilization through sharing depend on predictions of the performance of communications technologies that may not yet exist and of existing technologies in environments in which they have not previously operated. Propagation prediction is usually an empirical process that depends on measured data to validate prediction models; where this data is not available, researchers turn to software simulations.
  • Millimeter Wave Research: Many projects to enhance spectrum utilization focus on frequency bands that can best be exploited by current technology and are consequently both the most coveted and the most crowded—the so-called “sweet spot” for current cell phone technologies. Millimeter wave research focuses on developing new technologies capable of operating in frequency bands that cannot now easily or cost-effectively be used for cellular services.
  • Clutter Loss Measurement: Clutter losses are the additional pathloss caused by man-made structures and foliage—over and above those predicted by terrain based propagation models. These effects had not been considered by the Commerce Spectrum Management Advisory Committee (CSMAC) working groups which evaluated opportunities for spectrum sharing in the 1695–1710 and 1755–1780 MHz bands. A joint ITS/CTL project in this area is working to suggest improvements to test design and data analysis to achieve better understanding and modeling of clutter losses for more accurate assessment of sharing scenarios.
  • NASCTN: When CAC was formed, the National Advanced Spectrum and Communication Test Network (NASCTN) was envisioned as a CAC component that provides a single point of access to a network of government, academic, and commercial capabilities able to coordinate the use of intellectual capacity, modeling and simulation, laboratory, and test ranges to meet national spectrum interests and challenges. One important task for NASTCN is coordination of spectrum sharing involving Department of Defense (DoD) communications systems. In March 2015, the Departments of Commerce and Defense signed a memorandum of agreement that establishes a new collaborative framework to facilitate access to a wide range of laboratory and test facilities that support development of improved methods for sharing wireless communications channels.
  • ISART: CAC assumed sponsorship of the International Symposium on Advanced Radio Technologies (ISART). Traditionally hosted by ITS, ISART brings together participants from government, academia, and industry to discuss ground-breaking developments and applications of advanced radio technologies.