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Dec 13 -- 1) Public Wireless Supply Chain Innovation Fund Implementation

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) requests comment on the implementation of the Public Wireless Supply Chain Innovation Fund, as directed by the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022 (Act). Through this Notice and Request for Comment (Notice), NTIA seeks broad input and feedback from all interested stakeholders—including private industry, academia, civil society, and other experts—on this grant program to support the promotion and deployment of open, interoperable, and standards-based radio access networks (RAN). Submit written comments on or before 5 p.m. EST on January 27, 2023.

With the passage of the Act, Congress has taken a proactive step in driving the adoption of open, interoperable, and standards-based RAN and supporting a more competitive and diverse telecommunications supply chain. This historic $1.5 billion investment aims to support U.S. leadership in the global telecommunications ecosystem, foster competition, lower costs for consumers and network operators, and strengthen our supply chain.

Today's fifth generation wireless technology (known as “5G”) infrastructure market is highly consolidated, with a small group of vendors making up the majority of the marketplace. This lack of competition can reduce supply chain resilience and security, contribute to higher prices, make it challenging for new, innovative U.S. companies to break into the market, and ultimately will exacerbate the digital divide. Additionally, certain equipment and services produced or provided by particular vendors in this marketplace have been deemed to pose an unacceptable risk to the national security of the United States. Some of these vendors, including Chinese telecommunications companies Huawei Technologies Company and ZTE Corporation, have been shown to have links to the Chinese government and/or the Chinese Communist Party, giving rise to security risks. Those risks are compounded by financial support from the government of China and preferential access to the Chinese market, which enable them to offer lower cost financing terms and, in some cases, below-market export credit subsidies to foreign mobile operators to purchase their equipment. The United States Government is working to mobilize the full range of department and agency tools and coordinating with like-minded partners to support network operators in procuring trusted, secure RAN.

In line with the Executive Branch's policy to promote the development of Open Radio Access Networks (or Open RAN), alongside other policies, technologies, and architectures that support 5G vendor diversity and foster market competition, the Act invests $1.5 billion over 10 years to accelerate the development and deployment of open and interoperable, standards-based RAN.

More specifically, the Innovation Fund will support the following activities:

1. Promoting and deploying technology, including software, hardware, and microprocessing technology, that will enhance competitiveness in 5G and successor wireless technology supply chains that use open and interoperable interface radio access networks.
2. Accelerating commercial deployments of open interface, standards-based, interoperable equipment, such as equipment developed pursuant to the standards set forth by organizations such as the O-RAN Alliance, the Telecom Infra Project, [3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP)], the Open-RAN Software Community, or any successor organizations.
3. Promoting and deploying compatibility of new 5G equipment with future open standards-based, interoperable equipment.
4. Managing integration of multi-vendor network environments.
5. Identifying objective criteria to define equipment as compliant with open standards for multi-vendor network equipment interoperability.
6. Promoting and deploying security features enhancing the integrity and availability of equipment in multi-vendor networks.
7. Promoting and deploying network function virtualization to facilitate multi-vendor interoperability and a more diverse vendor market.

NTIA, in consultation with the Federal Communications Commission, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense, and the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, is responsible for establishing the grant criteria and administering the program. NTIA has established multiple avenues for the public to offer input to inform program design and implementation. This includes a public virtual listening session [January 24], as well as the opportunity for stakeholders to respond to this Notice.

This investment will leverage NTIA's leadership in the areas of 5G and future generation telecommunications, supplier diversity, and spectrum management, among others. The program will also build upon the Department's grantmaking expertise, as NTIA continues to advance the $65 billion Internet for All program.

This critical investment will help drive U.S. wireless innovation, foster competition, and strengthen supply chain resilience. It will also help 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. In comparison to traditional telecommunications networks, which utilize a single supplier's proprietary equipment, open and interoperable, standards-based RAN prevents vendor lock-in by facilitating competition. This competition allows operators to procure the best solutions for their specific needs by mixing and matching network components, rather than procuring proprietary end-to-end solutions from a single supplier. Open and interoperable, standards-based RAN may also reduce costs for consumers and network operators in the long run by improving efficiency through automation, supporting more seamless network updates, and potentially lowering capital expenditures (CapEx) and operating expenses (OpEx).

This Notice offers an opportunity for all interested parties to provide vital input and recommendations for consideration in the development and implementation of NTIA's Innovation Fund grant program. NTIA seeks public input and feedback from a wide array of stakeholders to inform the implementation of the Innovation Fund grant program. This is a historic investment, requiring the combined efforts of the Federal government, state and local governments, the U.S. private sector, non-governmental organizations, and likeminded partners from around the world.

This Notice seeks public comment to bolster NTIA's work and to improve the number and quality of ideas under consideration as the agency develops Notices of Funding Opportunity (NOFOs). These NOFOs will be used to solicit applications for Innovation Fund grants and will provide information about the size of the awards, who is eligible to apply, the evaluation criteria for selection of an awardee, required components of an application, and how to submit an application.

This Notice also offers an opportunity for stakeholders to provide detailed comments and recommendations on the kinds of projects and programs the Innovation Fund should aim to support. Rather than focusing on the benefits of open, interoperable, and standards-based network deployments, such as Open RAN, or more general policy general policy recommendations detailed in previous FCC and NTIA processes,
this Notice particularly welcomes comment on: (1) practical solutions to the key challenges to adoption of open and interoperable, standards-based RAN; (2) recommendations for the kinds of projects that the Innovation Fund should support; and (3) the kinds of criteria that should inform how Innovation Fund grants are awarded.

NTIA welcomes input on any matter that commenters believe is important to NTIA's Innovation Fund implementation efforts. Commenters are invited to comment on the full range of issues presented by this Notice and are encouraged to address any or all of the following questions, or to provide additional information relevant to implementation of the Innovation Fund.

Questions [1-5] on the State of the Industry -- Understanding the current state of the telecommunications industry is important to determining how any topics should be prioritized in the Innovation Fund, and what level of funding a topic should receive. . . .

Questions [6-8] on Technology Development and Standards -- Understanding the current state of open and interoperable, standards-based RAN and the standards that inform its development will assist NTIA in maximizing the impact of grants. Questions in this section will be used to assess the maturity of the technology and related standards to help determine which topics should receive additional investment. . . .

Questions [9-12] on Integration, Interoperability, and Certification -- Challenges associated with systems integration and component interoperability can hinder the adoption of open and interoperable, standards-based RAN. This section will help NTIA structure the NOFOs in a way that most effectively addresses these challenges and facilitates adoption. NTIA also welcomes feedback on the effectiveness of certification regimes in driving open and interoperable, standards-based RAN adoption. . . .

Questions [13-16] on Trials, Pilots, Use Cases, and Market Development -- A key aim of the Innovation Fund is to promote and deploy technologies that will enhance competitiveness of 5G and successor open and interoperable, standards-based RAN. We have seen a range of Open RAN trials, pilots, and use cases underway across the United States and internationally to date. This section will inform the types of NOFOs NTIA publishes and administers as the Department works to accelerate adoption. . . .

Questions [17-20] on Security -- Strengthening supply chain resilience is a critical benefit of open and interoperable, standards-based RAN adoption. In line with the Innovation Fund's goal of “promoting and deploying security features” to enhance the integrity and availability of multi-vendor network equipment, and Department priorities outlined in the National Strategy to Secure 5G Implementation Plan, this section will inform how NTIA incorporates security into future Innovation Fund NOFOs. . . .

Questions [21-26] on Program Execution and Monitoring -- The Innovation Fund is a historic investment in America's 5G future. As such, NTIA is committed to developing a program that results in meaningful progress toward the deployment and adoption of open and interoperable, standards-based RAN. To accomplish this, we welcome feedback from stakeholders on how our program requirements and monitoring can be tailored to achieve the goals set out in 47 U.S.C. 906. . . .

Additional Questions [27-28] -- NTIA welcomes any additional input that stakeholders believe will prove useful to our implementation efforts. . . .

FRN: https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2022-26938
2)  Public Wireless Supply Chain Innovation Fund Listening Session

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) will convene a virtual industry roundtable listening session on the Public Wireless Supply Chain Innovation Fund. The listening session is designed to collect stakeholder input to help inform the development and administration of the Innovation Fund grant program. The listening session will be held on January 24, 2023, from 10:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Eastern Standard Time.

NTIA will convene the virtual public listening session on January 24, 2023, from 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m EST. The meetng time is subject to change. See https://www.ntia.gov for information
FRN: https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2022-26939

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