FCC creates two ‘innovation zones’ to test next-gen wireless


The FCC is supporting its momentum for next-generation wireless technology by configuring entire areas dedicated to the advancement of technology. The agency has created two “innovation zones” in New York City and Salt Lake City that will serve as test benches for 5G and other wireless formats. Participants can perform multiple experiments with a single approval, even if they are not related. Ideally, companies and researchers can exceed the limits of cellular, broadband or local networks without interfering with daily service.

The testers must comply with the FCC guidelines for a given area, including the authority of the zone administrator, and provide early notice for their projects.


The New York City area will support COSMOS (mobile wireless test bench defined by enhanced open-source cloud software for city-scale development) in West Harlem and will be run by Columbia University, Rutgers University and the NYU. The Salt Lake City area will support POWDER (Platform for open experimental research based on wireless data with massive MIMO capabilities) and will run on multiple “connected corridors” with the leadership of Rice University and the University of Utah.

There is no guarantee that these areas will lead to important advances. It is easy to designate an innovation space, but it is completely different to attract development teams that can shake the industry. However, it is not often that wireless technology researchers have access to relatively large regions, and this could unify disparate test efforts. As things stand, the United States is not always at the forefront of wireless technology (such as 5G medium frequency). This could help the country catch up or move forward in key areas.

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