The National Science Foundation (NSF) recently announced their partnership with the Department of Defense, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Apple, Google, IBM, and other industry players to coordinate new research into the connectivity landscape of tomorrow, future-facing Wi-Fi and 6G capabilities.

This partnership comes through NSF’s Resilient and Intelligent NextG Systems (RINGS) program, and the foundation anticipates $40 million in total funding across 48 awards. The research initiative comes from the impacts of inadequate and uneven broadband connectivity nationwide and perspectives on advanced wireless capabilities. NSF began to explore the possibility of supporting a new program to help develop secure and robust next-generation networks that go well beyond today’s 5G networks. The NSF wants the next generation of communications networks to be safe and resilient from the ground up.

Simultaneously, multiple tech companies approached NSF to collaborate in research and development into future generations of mobile wireless communication systems.

“We pitched our idea of building resilient networks from scratch as the motivating driver for a joint program, which they found appealing,” said Thyaga Nandagopal, acting deputy division director of NSF’s Division of Computer and Network Systems. “This was the genesis of the program.”

This research effort results from the nation’s strife’s of ongoing cybersecurity intrusions across the government and industries. Up-and-coming, post-5G systems will likely encompass much more connections but also potential threat vectors. Combining intelligence and autonomy will underpin a range of critical and personalized services across the U.S.’s education, transportation, public health, defense, and other major sectors. The economy could become highly dependent on them, NSF predicted.

“Any failure, tampering, or degradation in-network service can have highly disruptive, if not potentially catastrophic, effects,” Nandagopal said.

Ultimately, the goal for RINGS is to back research that will lead to secure and reliable NextG systems and support underlying technologies that’ll be needed to reach the demands expected of such networks over the next 20 years.

Two- and four-year higher education institutions, including community colleges, are invited to submit proposals to address at least one of the various research vectors listed by NSF by July 29.

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.