Northeastern University’s wireless research efforts won the first grant from the US government’s new Wireless Innovation Fund.
The $1.5 billion fund, created as part of the 2022 CHIPS Act, awarded NU $2 million for research into the energy efficiency of cutting edge cellular gear and software.
The goal of the fund is to help US companies take the lead in new wireless tech and reduce dependency on foreign-made equipment, Amanda Toman, director of the wireless innovation fund, said at an event on Tuesday at NU.
“Just a few firms manufacture most of the components we need to operate the 5G networks that consumers love and American businesses depend on and some of those equipment vendors pose national security risks,” Toman said. “The result is a wireless equipment market where costs are high and resilience is low and American companies are increasingly shut out. The wireless innovation fund aims to change that.”
Funding for wireless innovation in the CHIPS Act followed years of efforts by US regulators to remove low cost, Chinese-made telecommunications gear from the country’s networks. But carriers had difficulty finding comparably priced replacement gear.
Northeastern is among the leading academic centers for wireless research and is already looking into applying artificial intelligence and developing 6G, the next generation of tech to replace 5G. The university has set up a massive testing facility in Burlington called Colosseum that can simulate all kinds of conditions for testing wireless setups. On its Boston campus, the university’s Arena network tests the latest transmission gear in real world conditions. And two years ago, the Federal Communications Commission designated the university’s programs as one of four innovation zones favored for testing new wireless technologies.
Under the new grant, university researchers will use all of those facilities to investigate the power usage of new gear and software, said professor Tommaso Melodia, who heads NU’s Institute for the Wireless Internet of Things. “We need to reduce energy waste and we need to make sure that the energy consumption of these systems is lower than legacy systems,” Melodia said.
Two other grants from the wireless fund were awarded on Tuesday. New York University got $2 million for research on spectrum sharing and Virginia AI company DeepSig got $1.5 million for using AI to evaluate wireless performance.