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Remarks of Assistant Secretary Alan Davidson on Advancing Open Wireless Networks

Innovation Fund Award Event
Hosted by DISH Wireless
Remarks of Alan Davidson
Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information
National Telecommunications and Information Administration
Las Vegas, Nev.

January 10, 2024

It is terrific to join you all and to see this 5G network in action. It is especially great to be here during CES. I love CES because it always offers a glimpse of the innovations to come. DISH – with its open 5G network - is at the forefront of where we believe wireless innovation is heading.

Today, we will discuss the future of wireless innovation. I want to start by underscoring just how critical this technology is. 

5G networks and successor technologies will create new opportunities for our economy, for education and for healthcare. We take it for granted, but connectivity is already transforming our lives. You just have to look around the CES show floor to see how many of the products that people love – and the new products that people are going to love– are all about being connected. 

Wireless technology is also critical for U.S. economic and national security. The countries that invest in technology and innovation will lead the 21st century. Investments in wireless networks – which underpin so many other technologies – are vital to U.S. leadership, security, and prosperity.

5G is a dynamic technology, but today’s market for wireless equipment is static and highly consolidated. Just a few firms today provide the full set of radios and computers that power mobile phones. And some of those equipment vendors pose national security risks to the U.S. and our allies around the world.  

The result is a wireless equipment market where costs are high and resilience is low, and American companies are increasingly shut out. 

But change is on the way.  

We have a vision – a shared vision – of open and trusted networks deployed around the world. And the world is moving toward that vision.

A key part of achieving that vision is the investments we are making through the $1.5 billion Wireless Innovation Fund. The Innovation Fund is a 10-year program to catalyze new ways to build open and interoperable wireless networks. 

Today, we are announcing grants totaling nearly $80 million – including $50 million for DISH – to support next-generation open wireless networks. 

These grants – to six projects across five states – will fund new testing facilities and research and development.

These are the biggest grants to date from the Innovation Fund. With today’s news, we have announced more than $98 million in funding to foster an open, resilient and secure wireless ecosystem.  

The grants we are announcing today will support a range of projects, including cybersecurity, automation and energy efficiency R&D. We are also funding a testing facility in Arizona. 

But I want to put a spotlight on the $50 million we are awarding to DISH. 

With this funding, DISH and several industry partners will establish the Open RAN Center for Integration and Deployment or ORCID. ORCID is a new, state-of-the-art facility in Wyoming for testing open and interoperable wireless equipment. 

Let me tell you why this is so important: Testing is foundational to show true interoperability – to show that equipment from different vendors can seamlessly work together. Unfortunately, trusted testing is hard to do and can also be incredibly inaccessible to new and emerging players in the wireless market. 

We heard from dozens of players in the space that testing was a huge gap – and a place where government support would make a big difference. 

Our investment in the DISH facility will address both the technical and accessibility challenges of testing. It will serve as a “living laboratory” that combines lab and field testing in one place. It will be a one-stop shop for comprehensive testing, open to equipment vendors of all sizes. 

We are pleased that DISH will continue its partnership with international companies like Fujitsu since collaboration with our global partners is critical to accelerate open and interoperable approaches.  

And we are particularly excited that DISH will oversee this facility because of its long-standing commitment to open networks. DISH led the industry in championing open 5G networks like the one we have seen today. Now, DISH will be a trailblazer in testing and evaluation. 

To close, we are at a very exciting time for wireless networks. Open, interoperable networks will drive competition, make our supply chains more secure, and lower costs for consumers. They will improve resilience and protect our national security.

The grants made today – and the rest of the Innovation Fund investments – will help forge the path to that better future.

Thank you.