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Opening Remarks from Alan Davidson Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information

Opening Remarks
Wireless Innovation Fund Information Session
Alan Davidson
Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information  
National Telecommunications and Information Administration
Washington, D.C.
May 4, 2023
As prepared for delivery


Welcome and thank you all for participating in today’s information session. I’d also like to thank Amanda Toman, the head of our Wireless Innovation Fund, and the rest of the team for their work on today’s event and this important initiative.

We are thrilled to share details and answer questions about the launch of the first round of funding from our $1.5 billion Public Wireless Supply Chain Innovation Fund.

As a starting point, we need to support American competitiveness at home and around the world. American leadership and innovation in technology has been critical to our economic and national security for decades. And our success in leading the world in wireless telecommunications is a key component of that.

To continue to lead, American companies and entrepreneurs, along with our partners, must be at the cutting edge of these technologies. The Wireless Innovation Fund was borne out of the need to increase the resiliency, diversity and security of the wireless equipment ecosystem in order to maintain that leadership.

Right now, we do not have the global ecosystem of trusted vendors that we need. There are only five incumbent vendors dominating the 5G equipment market – and two of them are untrusted firms. 

This consolidation leaves us vulnerable to supply chain disruptions and puts us at a competitive disadvantage. It also means our allies lack options. They may be forced to use network architecture built by vendors from countries of concern that don’t share our values.

The Wireless Innovation Fund will help change all that. 

It will allow us to invest in the next-generation of wireless innovation to unlock opportunities for new and emerging companies. It will help us develop the global telecom market, strengthen our supply chain and give our allies trusted choices.  It’s a long project – it will take a decade or more – and to get there, we need your help.

A few months ago, I spoke to over 200 attendees at the first public session for the Wireless Innovation Fund. But more importantly, we listened and we learned.

We heard that testing, evaluation, research and development are going to be critical if we're going to catalyze new approaches to wireless networks. 76% of the respondents to our request for comments in this space cited the need to prioritize testing. And nearly 70% said we need to invest in security.

And so our first Notice of Funding Opportunity responds to that input in a few important ways.

First, we focus on the testing and evaluation of open and interoperable networks. This includes expanding industry-accepted testing and evaluation activities to assess these networks; developing new or improved testing methodologies to validate them, and addressing specific wireless testing needs.

Second is the emphasis on security. Research and development should make sure to minimize network risk, build trust and mitigate potential vulnerabilities. And finally, we are extending eligibility to international applicants as a result of the feedback we received.

Our goal is to deliver the first grants from this first $140.5 million tranche in August. You have until June 2 to apply for this funding. We expect to open up another round of funding next year.

We’re here today to answer your questions and help provide some insight into the federal awards process. We’re joined by Carolyn Dunn, our grants expert, who can shed some light on best practices and next steps, as well as Jaydee Griffith, the Wireless Innovation Fund’s technical lead. Put them to work!

It’s important that we get this right, and we need your help to do so. 5G and its successors are already revolutionizing how we work and how we live. But to unlock their full potential, we need to open this global market for wireless infrastructure and encourage new approaches.

In closing, we believe that open and interoperable networks are the way of the future. Our Wireless Innovation Fund will help put the U.S. and its partners at the forefront of that innovation. 

This is about ensuring our economic and national security in wireless communications for years to come. The investments we make now will help create an open, diverse and resilient marketplace. Let’s get to that future, together. Thank you.