Given that ITS and CTL are collocated in Boulder, Colorado, and have similar missions under the DOC, it is only natural that they collaborate and have established mechanisms to enhance such collaboration. This chapter describes PSCR, a highly successful long-term collaboration between ITS and elements of NIST (now all consolidated in CTL), and two newly created collaboration mechanisms, the CAC and the NASCTN.
For many years, ITS and NIST have provided unique technical testing services and support to the public safety community in the area of public safety communications and other technical services. The first interagency agreement between ITS and NIST to perform public safety services was signed in 1999, and a rebranding in 2007 designated the relationship with PSCR. The relationship has furthered the cooperative use of the capabilities of both ITS and CTL to serve the needs of public safety. Key PSCR work includes the following:
- Public safety broadband communications. A significant challenge faced by the public safety communications community is how to ensure interoperability across more than 8,000 public safety jurisdictions. PSCR leads discussions related to the development of requirements and standards, conducts testing and evaluation, cybersecurity research, and modeling and simulation. The FCC recently created the public safety 700 MHz spectrum allocation, providing an opportunity to create a unified broadband communications plan for public safety. PSCR provides a multi-vendor, neutral test environment for manufacturers and first responders to demonstrate their equipment.
- Public safety audio and video quality. Clear voice and video are key to situational awareness for first responders. PSCR develops performance parameters for testing and evaluating manufacturers’ equipment and participates in appropriate standards organizations in order to incorporate its findings into key technology standards.
- Compliance assessment program. Vendors of public safety radio and communications equipment have begun incorporating technology standards (which PSCR helped establish); however, purchasers were unable to verify compliance with these standards. PSCR, in partnership with the DHS Office of Interoperability and Compatibility, created an assessment program that allows voluntary testing to verify compliance at recognized laboratories.
PSCR provides the only objective, non-vendor-driven testing and evaluation services to the public safety community. Their demonstrated value stimulated a large influx of funding generated by the 2014-
2015 AWS-3 auction.1 PSCR has begun developing research roadmaps to articulate requirements and plans for the use of these funds.2 The first of these, “Location-Based Services R&D Roadmap,”3 was released in May 2015.
The committee notes that PSCR’s organizational structure, with a program manager from CTL and a deputy program manager from ITS, works well to coordinate efforts across these two independent laboratories. The committee also commends PSCR’s leadership for building an environment that engenders trust and communication across the two laboratories.
In 2013, NIST and NTIA signed a memorandum of understanding to create the CAC in Boulder4 to coordinate research programs between ITS and CTL. CAC offers several potential benefits to both laboratories. Better coordination of ITS and CTL can leverage telecommunications-related research and engineering capabilities of each laboratory, ensure non-duplication, and, at the same time, enable each organization to better accomplish its mission. Coupling under CAC could further support a prioritizing of projects that could be independent (supportive of each entity’s strengths) or that might be able to leverage resources of common goals such as public safety, spectrum research, and other communications work, which is central to the mission of the DOC.
In order to capitalize on this opportunity, the CAC management team must make specific efforts to couple CTL foundational research to ITS application work. At present, CAC is a virtual organization with no staff, funding, or resources of its own. Some possible activities that would support interactions and collaborations between CTL and ITS staff include formation of working groups around emerging areas of interest such as spectrum efficiency, spectrum sharing, and spectrum measurement and verification techniques. Assignment of leads in the working groups coming from both CTL and ITS, modeled after the existing collaboration in the public safety arena, can help to strengthen working relationships between the groups and could result in significant technological advances.
The co-directors of CAC are charged with conducting formal assessments of all NIST and NTIA advanced communications projects to determine if cross-agency participation could enhance these projects. This could be done at regular intervals, and projects could be moved between the various organizations—CAC, CTL, and ITS—to ensure effective use of resources and expertise among the laboratories. The success of CAC will also lie in identifying a small set of core efforts and setting up a process to fund and address them.
In a 2014 memorandum of understanding (MOU), the DOC made changes to the initial organization of CAC.5 Under the 2013 MOU, CAC’s director would be appointed by NIST, with input from NTIA.
1 Roger C. Sherman, Chief, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, “Putting Auction 97 in the History Books,” Federal Communications Commission, January 29, 2015, https://www.fcc.gov/blog/putting-auction-97-historybooks.
2 With this level of funding, there is a risk that PSCR work dominates the Boulder telecommunications laboratories. This could serve to undermine the valuable commercial communications work and the public safety communications that leverages those commercial technologies.
3 Ryan Felts and Marc Leh, Corner Alliance, Inc., Dereck Orr and Tracy A. McElvaney, Public Safety Communications Research Division, Communications Technology Laboratory, “Location-based Services R&D Roadmap, NIST Technical Note 1883,” May 2015, http://dx.doi.org/10.6028/NIST.TN.1883.
4 Memorandum of Understanding between the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration for the Intent to Establish a Center for Advanced Communications, May 24, 2013, http://www.nist.gov/public_affairs/releases/upload/NIST-NTIA-MOU-CAC.pdf.
5 Memorandum of Understanding, 2014.
The 2014 MOU designates that the directors of ITS and CTL would serve as co-directors of CAC.6 The committee understands the desire to ensure that each laboratory is adequately represented within the new CAC. However, there is substantial concern that co-leadership may make setting and implementing priorities challenging, especially given the virtual nature of CAC. This model relies on a good working relationship between the counterparts, which can take significant time to build. Additionally, a change in leadership could limit the ability of CAC to move forward, just as ITS’s lack of a director resulted in the slow launch of CAC.
Collaboration across research divisions will also require an increase in working knowledge of the counterpart’s expertise and a working trust. The committee notes an absence of this between the two research laboratories (with PSCR being a notable exception). Laboratory leaders will need to build a collegial relationship with one another and work to build a similar relationship within each research and technical division. This task, while not necessarily technical in nature, will be an important piece if the collaborative goals of CAC are to be met. Furthermore, laboratory leaders may need to incentivize the sharing of resources and collaboration among staff.
NASCTN had its genesis in 2009 when the Department of Defense (DOD) developed the idea for a single entity to address the increasing commercial demands on spectrum occupied by DOD systems. In 2010, this initial concept gained support through the Presidential Memorandum “Unleashing the Wireless Broadband Revolution”7 and NTIA’s “Ten Year Plan and Timetable to Make Available 500 Megahertz of Spectrum for Wireless Broadband.”8 During the National Executive Council on Space-Positioning, Navigation and Timing deliberations on the company LightSquared in 2011, then Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter and Deputy Secretary of Transportation John Porcari affirmed the need for an independent and impartial organization, environment, and process for testing and evaluating new spectrum-sharing technologies to support policy decisions.9 Momentum built in 2012 with the publication of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) report Realizing the Full Potential of Government-Held Spectrum to Spur Economic Growth10 and a 2013 Presidential memorandum directing NIST and NTIA to establish a plan to accelerate the development and deployment of spectrum-sharing technologies.11 The NASCTN transition team consisting of NIST, NTIA, and DOD staff was established in Boulder, Colorado in 2013. The NTIA director, NIST director, and DOD chief information officer signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) establishing NASCTN on March 11,
6 CAC has been slow in organizing in part because ITS was without a director until April 2015. Given that ITS did not have a director until recently, much of CAC’s current work has been completed by the CTL director.
7 Presidential Memorandum, “Unleashing the Wireless Broadband Revolution, Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies,” The White House, June 28, 2010, https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-pressoffice/presidential-memorandum-unleashing-wireless-broadband-revolution.
8 National Telecommunications and Information Administration, Ten Year Plan and Timetable to Make Available 500 Megahertz of Spectrum for Wireless Broadband (President’s Spectrum Plan Report), October 29, 2010, http://www.ntia.doc.gov/report/2010/ten-year-plan-and-timetable-make-available-500-megahertz-spectrumwireless-broadband-pre.
10 President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, Realizing the Full Potential of Government-Held Spectrum to Spur Economic Growth, 2012, https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/pcast_spectrum_report_final_july_20_2012.pdf.
11 Presidential Memorandum, “Expanding America's Leadership in Wireless Innovation, Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies,” The White House, June 14, 2013, https://www.whitehouse.gov/thepress-office/2013/06/14/presidential-memorandum-expanding-americas-leadership-wireless-innovatio.
2015. Although a part of the formation of the organization as noted above, at the time of this report, the Department of Transportation has not joined this group.
NASCTN was established to increase commercial and federal access to the spectrum by helping to accelerate the design and deployment of spectrum-sharing technologies through accurate testing and modeling. The intent is to create an environment of trust to support impartial testing and evaluation of new spectrum sharing technologies and, ultimately, balanced policy decisions that are driven by scientifically sound tests and evaluations. NASCTN is structured as a one-stop shop for coordinating access to federally owned, federally operated, or federally funded spectrum test facilities. NASCTN is meant to enable sound policy decisions based on effectively engineered sharing solutions produced by member laboratories.
NASCTN will rely on network of technical staff, resources, capabilities, and facilities made available by NIST, NTIA, and DOD and future NASCTN members; NIST will provide a program manager. Test facilities will initially be made available by NIST, NTIA, and DOD. The current NASCTN members are soliciting potential additional members. From the NASCTN website, key functionalities of the enterprise include the following:
- Creating a trusted capability for federal, academic and industry spectrum users to facilitate spectrum sharing studies; optimize access to engineering capabilities; and engage federal, academic, and industry spectrum users’ in active collaboration;
- Performing outreach and engagement activities within their respective communities in order to identify spectrum-related testing and evaluation needs, and to disseminate information about the availability and access requirements of engineering capabilities;
- Protecting controlled information (e.g. proprietary, classified, and commercially sensitive) against unauthorized uses and disclosures, pursuant to applicable statutes, regulations, and agreements, while facilitating sharing of member controlled information;
- Facilitate access to available spectrum test data, analyses, and reports that can be made available to federal, academic, and industry spectrum users to assist in testing, technology assessments, and other research; and
- Facilitating coordination, rapid access, and engagement of member engineering capabilities.12
The potential value of NASCTN, as described above, is obvious to the committee; however, despite the NASCTN transition team moving to Boulder in 2013, the NASCTN processes are still in their formative stages and, therefore, have not proven themselves to be capable of meeting the desired in-take and project allocation role. CAC is in a similar position; collaboration between ITS and CTL is imperative but it has yet to be seen if the current model will be successful. CAC must determine the best way to manage across two technical laboratories with very different cultures. The committee is unsure if the current management model of CAC will be sufficient, but the leadership could explore ways to better manage this collaboration.
CAC can function as a coordinating organization to ensure that work is not duplicated across CTL and ITS and ensure that both laboratories focus on work that reflects their strengths, although the committee is unsure if a formal organization is needed (versus a process to manage coordination across the Boulder telecommunications laboratories). However, CAC could facilitate collaboration by serving in a centralized program management role to further national priorities in communications and spectrum use and coordinate research programs outlined by ITS and CTL. Furthermore, laboratory leadership will need to make a concerted effort to build an environment that encourages and facilitates collaboration in Boulder.
12 Reprinted from National Institute of Standards and Technology, Communications Technology Laboratory, “National Advanced Spectrum and Communications Test Network (NASCTN),” http://www.nist.gov/ctl/nasctn.cfm, accessed September 10, 2015.
The committee is encouraged by the collaborative nature of PSCR. The success of PSCR provides an excellent example of the advantages of CTL and ITS coordinating their expertise and resources. The PSCR model can also be used to enhance NASCTN efforts and processes. The sharing of personnel and laboratory equipment, capabilities, and resources has been very successful at PSCR. However, lack of funding support for ITS personnel and capabilities may pose another obstacle for collaborative work. For example, it appears that funding for PSCR is increasingly coming from NIST, whereas funding from NTIA for ITS has been slowly decreasing. Because of this, ITS has not kept up with changing technologies, and NIST has not been able to leverage its expertise nearly as much in the emerging LTE and broadband technology areas. If ITS resources for PSCR, CAC, and NASCTN are to be of value it needs to invest in new staff and physical resources (e.g., at Table Mountain Field Site and Radio Quiet Zone) to ensure that ITS can meet the research demands of current and future technology deployments in a manner similar to NIST.
FINDING: CAC is in the very early stages of planning and development. The current co-leadership structure may make setting and implementing priorities challenging.
FINDING: PSCR is an example of successful collaboration between ITS and CTL, providing essential public communication services to the federal government and the public safety community.
FINDING: NASCTN, as described, would respond to important national needs but its processes are still in their formative stages and, therefore, it has not yet demonstrated its ability to meet these needs or to effectively coordinate use of federally supported test facilities.
RECOMMENDATION: ITS and CTL leadership should work to build an environment of trust and collaboration across both laboratories.
RECOMMENDATION: The Public Safety Communications Research Program should be considered as a template for collaboration across the Boulder telecommunications laboratories.
RECOMMENDATION: The National Advanced Spectrum and Communications Test Network should be made fully functional as soon as possible to be able to handle the important mission that it has been assigned. This includes the recruitment of customers and additional government, academic, and industrial organizations to utilize the skills in the various affiliated laboratories.