RALEIGH – The Triangle area’s various efforts to develop further as a hub for wireless communitions – such as drones and 5G – received a big boost Wednesday from the Federal Communications Communication which designated Raleigh along with Boston as “Innovation Zones.”
“These Innovation Zones will support cutting-edge research and development that is crucial for advancing our wireless leadership,” said FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “Moreover, by bringing together operators, vendors, vertical interests, and other government agencies, we are helping to spur a market for more secure and open 5G technologies. I am grateful to city and research facility leaders, and our partners at the National Science Foundation, for working with us to deliver these opportunities.”
According to the FCC the designations will “help spur the development and integration of 5G network technologies and open radio access networks, or Open RAN.”
New York City and Salt Lake City were chosen as Innovation Zones in 2019.
Tom Snyder, head of RIoT – the Regional Internet of Things users group based in Raleigh, hailed the move as one that will boost drone and other emerging technologies. RIoT is working closely with North Carolina State University and the Wireless Research Center [WRC] on a variety of programs.
“This is good news for our area, and as you surmised, these Innovation Zones mirror the NSF PAWR [Platform for Advanced Wireless Research] project locations,” Snyder told WRAL TechWire. “WRC continues to work closely with NC State and other partners on the AERPAW [Aerial Experimentation and Research Platform for Advanced Wireless Platform]. We are excited since this FCC Innovation Zone designation, if approved, makes it even easier for industry and academic collaborators to run pilot projects and studies in our area.”
The Triangle, Wake County and the state of North Carolina continue to draw interest for drones, such as in product delivery. And the WRC is avetiley involved along with RIoT on numerous internet of things and other wireless projects. NCSU and partners landed a $24 million grant in 2019 for wireless and drone networks under the NSF PAWAR initiative.
“When WRC and RIoT formed, we recognized the opportunity for the greater RTP region to be the hub of the Data Economy, in the same way that Silicon Valley became the hub of the internet age.,” Syyder says. “This FCC designation is yet another proof point our region is a global center of excellence for data collection, wireless communication and data analytics, which are the primary components of the Data Economy. It provides early access ability to test not only new technologies, but also new use cases across all industry sectors. This helps draw collaborators from across the globe to work here in Raleigh and the surrounding communities.”
The FCC noted that designated zones are sites for “wireless technology test beds extend the geographic areas in which already licensed experimental program licensees can conduct tests.”
Parties have flexibility to conduct multiple non-related experiments in the zone, and the designation allows experimental program license holders, which are licensed to operate elsewhere, to also use the Innovation Zones.
Here’s what the FCC said about Raleigh:
“The Raleigh Innovation Zone, in collaboration with North Carolina State University, will house Aerial Experimentation and Research Platform for Advanced Wireless (AERPAW), which will focus on new use cases involving wireless communications and unmanned aerial systems. AERPAW will focus on how cellular networks and advanced wireless technologies can enable beyond visual line-of-sight unmanned aerial systems to accelerate development, verification, and testing of transformative advances and breakthroughs in telecommunications, transportation, infrastructure monitoring, agriculture, and public safety. The AERPAW testbed will be the first platform to allow testing at scale of open 5G-and-beyond solutions in unmanned aerial system verticals.”