The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) received 127 applications requesting $1.39 billion to support testing and research and development activities related to open and interoperable wireless networks.

According to a June 9 press release, NTIA will leverage the $1.5 billion Public Wireless Supply Chain Innovation Fund to make up to $140.5 million available in this first round of funding to be awarded in August.

The Public Wireless Supply Chain Innovation Fund, which flows from the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, is one of the latest efforts to move the nation away from reliance on Chinese companies that provide wireless 5G networking, like Huawei.

“NTIA’s Innovation Fund will address the urgent need to increase the resilience, diversity and security of the wireless equipment market,” said Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information Alan Davidson.

“The overwhelming interest in this first round of funding shows the private sector is stepping up to meet that need. These are the important first steps in this critical project to help us drive competition, strengthen our supply chain, and provide our allies additional trusted, innovative choices,” he said.

The grant program – jumpstarted in December – will invest the money over 10 years to accelerate the development and deployment of open and interoperable, standards-based radio access networks.

The agency hopes the program will “unlock” opportunities for U.S. companies, particularly small and medium enterprises, to compete in a market historically dominated by a few foreign suppliers – including high-risk suppliers that raise security concerns.

Applications for the first round of funding opened on April 12 and were due on June 2. NTIA will evaluate the applications and make the first awards in August, the agency said.

These first round of funds are expected to be used for a range of research and development and testing activities, including:

  • Expanding industry-accepted testing and evaluation activities to assess and facilitate the interoperability, performance, and security of open and interoperable, standards-based 5G radio access networks; and
  • Developing new or improved testing methodologies to test, evaluate, and validate the interoperability, performance, and security of these networks, including their component parts.

According to the press release, applicants requested $146 million for research and development projects, and $1.2 billion for testing and evaluation activities.

NTIA said there is currently no timeline or estimate of when the next round of funding opportunities will be available.

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