NSF News

NSF announces fourth wireless research platform to drive innovation in rural broadband connectivity in Ames, Iowa

The U.S. National Science Foundation, together with an industry consortium of 35 leading wireless communications companies, announced the fourth testbed in a diverse portfolio of large-scale wireless research platforms located throughout the United States. The new regional testbed features wireless research to enable high-throughput, universal and affordable rural broadband. The testbed will demonstrate the benefits of such broadband connectivity through a focus on precision agriculture in both crop and livestock farms.

NSF's Platforms for Advanced Wireless Research, or PAWR, public-private partnership, will establish a wireless "living lab" across Iowa State University, the city of Ames, and surrounding farms and rural communities in central Iowa. The project titled ARA: Wireless Living Lab for Smart and Connected Rural Communities is a testbed that complements the technical specialties of earlier PAWR platforms. In addition to a wide range of wireless technology, it creates a deeply programmable infrastructure including services that directly benefit precision agriculture in both crop and livestock farms.

"This public-private partnership showcases NSF's unique ability to foster a national innovation ecosystem," said NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan. "By bringing together academia, industry, government and local communities, the Iowa platform will support breakthrough solutions to connect the unconnected. As a result, we will be able to strengthen our efforts to address our Nation's digital divide, finally allowing millions of Americans to gain access to basic information and resources."

In addition to the $7 million PAWR program funding from NSF and the industry consortium, the new platform is receiving an additional $1 million in financial support from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture within the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The ARA testbed is based out of Iowa State University where a team of researchers, including students, will collaborate with state, community and industry partners. Partners include the Iowa Communications Network, Iowa Department of Transportation, Iowa Statewide Interoperable Communications System, Iowa Regional Utilities Association, city of Ames, local school districts, Meskwaki Tribal Nation, Woodland Farms and U.S. Cellular.

With the launch of the rural broadband platform, Iowa's ARA joins three other PAWR testbeds: POWDER-RENEW in Salt Lake City, Utah; COSMOS in the West Harlem neighborhood of New York City; and AERPAW in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina.

The PAWR program is a $100 million public-private partnership designed to accelerate the development and commercialization of promising technologies and applications by providing means for research and experimentation on novel wireless concepts, technologies, applications and services outside the lab or "in the wild," and by broadening access to such resources. The result will be development of future generations of wireless networks, ensuring continued U.S. leadership in wireless communications while also preparing the emerging workforce for new job opportunities in the digital economy.

For more information on the PAWR public-private partnerships and platforms visit NSF.