Finding 6.1. Long a supporter of networking research and network deployment, NSF is moving toward a more strategic emphasis on telecommunications research.
Although NSF’s Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) directorate has long supported a networking research program, its Engineering (ENG) directorate supports research in such areas as wireless communications, and several of its engineering research centers have addressed telecommunications, these efforts have not reflected a comprehensive, coordinated research strategy. Modest funding for telecommunications programs has also been accompanied by a reportedly small and shrinking proposal acceptance rate.
The creation in 2004 of CISE’s Network Technology and Systems (NeTS) program, however, represents an increased emphasis on telecommunications research at NSF. The new program spans a wide range of research topics in the control, deployment, and management of future networks and provides a framework for interdisciplinary work. Still in development as of this writing, the new Global Environment for Networking Investigations (GENI)—aimed at the exploration of new architectural ideas in experimental facilities that allow investigation at large scale—would represent a major initiative in this area.
Finding 6.2. DARPA’s support for telecommunications research is now focused more on meeting specialized military needs than on stimulating broader technology advances of use for both commercial and military purposes.
DARPA-sponsored research has led to many significant telecommunications advances in such areas as packet-switched networking, development of ARPANET and the Internet, optical communications, and ad hoc radio networks, as well as to the establishment of successful U.S. telecommunications companies that are now global leaders, including Broadcom, Rambus, and Aetheros. In addition, DARPA has historically played an important role in promulgating visions that stimulated commercial development and adoption of new technologies, as well as in building communities of researchers. In recent years, the focus of DARPA research has shifted toward more immediate or specialized military needs. Putting aside the debate about the extent to which the military’s research portfolio should concentrate on the short term versus the long term, a consequence is the loss of an important source of support for longer-term telecommunications research.
The recommendations below lay out steps that the United States should take to develop and sustain a multifaceted, reinvigorated telecommunications research program. The recommendations envision a greater role for government-sponsored and university research in telecommunications than has been evident in the past and also envision additional investment by industry in more work of a fundamentally high-risk character with more attention to overall architectural issues. The recommendations are all aimed at so-called precompetitive activities; when the time arrives for development, implementation, and deployment, it will be up to equipment and software suppliers to create and manufacture the products and to service providers to deploy the necessary facilities and services.
Determining how much funding to provide for such a telecommunications research initiative involves, of course, a complex set of budgetary tradeoffs among research programs and between research and non-research activities. The committee does not make a recommenda-