The Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has awarded more than $42 million from the Public Wireless Supply Chain Innovation Fund to a consortium led by AT&T and Verizon.

AT&T and Verizon will lead the Acceleration of Compatibility and Commercialization for Open RAN Deployments (ACCoRD) project. The project will focus on the creation of a test, evaluation and research and development center in the Dallas Technology Corridor and a satellite facility in the Washington, D.C. area. The facilities will test Open RAN performance, interoperability, and security and research new ways of testing.

The NTIA, which is part of the Department of Commerce, is attempting create stronger, more secure and resilient telecommunications supply chains.

“Evaluating how different products integrate with one another is a crucial part of facilitating the more diverse vendor ecosystem that many in the industry and government envision,” Robert Soni, the vice president of radio access networks for AT&T, said in a blog post.

“Operators need to have confidence that different vendors’ products will work together at scale before adding them to their network. And this testing is especially important to us, since it creates an opportunity to build on our work with Ericsson and discuss with a broader group the technical details of building an Open RAN platform that will enable us to incorporate products from alternative vendors in the future.”

NTT DOCOMO (Japan) and Reliance Jio (India) are unfunded founding members of ACCoRD. The University of Texas at Dallas will assist in maintenance at the center in that area, while Virginia Tech, Northeastern University, Iowa State University and Rutgers University will provide neutral laboratory support.  

Suppliers include Microsoft, Nokia, Radisys, Airspan, Ericsson, Fujitsu, Rakuten, Samsung, Mavenir, VMWare, RedHat, Wind River, Ciena, Cisco, Dell, Intel, Amdocs, Keysight and VIAVI. 

The award—$42,299,693.72—came in the fourth and final round of Wireless Innovation Fund awards made based on the initial Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) in the program. So far, the fund has awarded $140 million. The overall program budget is $1.5 billion, which is designed to support the development of open and interoperable wireless networks.

Last June, applicants asked for more than $1.4 billion in first round funding, which is more than ten times more than what the round made available. The NTIA said that it received 127 applications, which asked for $146 million for research and development projects and $1.2 billion for testing and evaluation activities.

The Wireless Innovation Fund made awards for $5.5 million and $13 million last August and November respectively.

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