Alan Davidson, the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information and NTIA Administrator, offered information about the first funding round in the $1.5 billion Public Wireless Supply Chain Innovation Fund in an address today.
The fund, which is part of the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, aims to broaden service providers’ infrastructure equipment options and to encourage an open framework approach to network equipment.
The first round will include a $140.5 million tranche of funding. The focus in the first funding round will be on testing, evaluation and security, Davidson said.
The first application deadline is June 2, with awards made in August. Additional funding will be available next year.
The fund “will allow us to invest in the next-generation of wireless innovation to unlock opportunities for new and emerging companies,” according to Davidson’s remarks about the NTIA Wireless Innovation Fund, as prepared by NTIA.
“It will help us develop the global telecom market, strengthen our supply chain and give our allies trusted choices. It’s a long project – it will take a decade or more – and to get there, we need your help.”
A key goal of the program is to alleviate threats to the 5G supply chain created by a top heavy list of vendors, Davidson said. He noted that five incumbent vendors dominate the 5G equipment market and added that two of them – an apparent reference to Huawei and ZTE – are untrusted.
In addition to supply chain and competitiveness issues, the dearth of vendors could lead allies to use equipment from vendors in countries “that don’t share our values.”
Davidson said that the focus of the initial funding round was based on feedback from more than 200 attendees at the first public session for the program. He noted that 76% of respondents to NTIA’s written request for comments urged prioritization of testing and 70% said security investment is key.
The entire process is expected to take a decade or more, Davidson said.
Last month, the Commerce Department said that the initial funds will be used to:
- Develop new or improved testing methodologies to test, evaluate, and validate the interoperability, performance, and/or security of wireless networks.
- Expand testing and evaluation activities to determine and implement the interoperability, performance, and/or security of open and interoperable, standards-based 5G radio access networks.
NTIA is part of the Department of Commerce. Davidson said that the plan is to have another round of funding next year.