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Institute for Telecommunication Sciences
the research laboratory of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration

What We Do

The Institute for Telecommunication Sciences (ITS) performs cutting-edge telecommunications research and engineering with both federal government and private sector partners. As its research and engineering laboratory, ITS supports NTIA by performing the research and engineering that enables the U.S. Government, national and international standards organizations, and many aspects of private industry to manage the radio spectrum and ensure that innovative, new technologies are recognized and effective. ITS also serves as a principal Federal resource for solving the telecommunications concerns of other Federal agencies, state and local Governments, private corporations and associations, and international organizations. The FY 2015 Technical Progress Report describes research performed in the past fiscal year.

Save The Date! ISART 2017

ISART 2017: Spectrum Mining at Millimeter Waves Set for August 15-17 in Broomfield, Colorado

Digging for Capacity: As more spectrum users squeeze into the lower frequency bands, more are also exploring the higher frequencies to meet their capacity needs. Millimeter wave frequencies, approximately 20 GHz and above, are able to meet some needs. ISART 2017, the 16th in this series of high quality symposia will explore millimeter waves, the technical challenges they present, and applications that use them. This year’s tutorial and four panels will approach this topic from five different perspectives: regulation, industry, standards, measurement and modeling, and systems. Industry demonstrations and poster sessions from academia will round out the conference. The goal of ISART 2017 is to get us all talking, exploring new ideas, brainstorming, and perhaps even solve a couple of millimeter wave obstacles. To take advantage of potential synergies, a CSMAC meeting and a WSRD meeting are scheduled during the same week. Read more here, check out the Draft Agenda and the Panel Descriptions.

Research Spotlight: A Promising Crowdsourcing Research Experiment

The results are in—when it comes to speech intelligibility testing, the crowd and human subjects in a lab have a lot in common. Initial results from a crowdsourced speech intelligibility test designed by ITS align closely with similar testing done in the lab. Since crowdsourced testing requires significantly less time and money than laboratory testing, this could help ITS quickly gather large amounts of high-quality speech intelligibility data as part of a more efficient overall test plan.

ITS conducts speech intelligibility testing to identify strengths and weaknesses in new telecommunications offerings. While intelligibility is necessary in any telecomm system, it can be especially important for telecommunications that support public-safety operations. Getting a clear message through on the first try can be critical and may even be a matter of life and death. Protective gear, harsh noise conditions, and the necessity of hands-free operation can present serious intelligibility challenges to the fire, medical, and law enforcement personal who protect us.

For years ITS conducted various types of subjective testing in tightly controlled laboratory conditions, with sound isolated chambers, professional sound equipment, and individually recruited and supervised listeners. It was quite impressive—and also very costly. These tests allowed ITS to sort through emerging telecom options to find those that sound better or work better in some respect.

The lab approach is classic in science and engineering—you control everything that you possibly can so that you can attribute the variation in results to the thing that you are trying to measure. But an equally iconic rule in statistics says that more data is better. Turning away from the lab and deploying a subjective test to the uncontrolled, self-selecting, anonymous crowd of workers at the Mechanical Turk is one way to get more data. But would that data be worth anything at all?

NTIA Technical Memo TM-17-523: A Crowdsourced Speech Intelligibility Test that Agrees with, Has Higher Repeatability than, Lab Tests, released in February 2017, describes ITS’s first crowdsourced speech intelligibly test and demonstrates that this method has great potential.

Read more …


New Publications

This Month in ITS History

March 28, 1978: NTIA Established

In 1978 President Carter drafted Reorganization Plan No. 1 to reduce the staff of the Executive Office by about 15%. A portion of the cuts came from eliminating the Office of Telecommunications Policy (OTP), and shifting its responsibilities to the Commerce Department. The order went into effect on March 28th, implemented by Executive Order 12046. The Executive Order only laid out the structure of Executive Office agencies. The Commerce Secretary created the National Telecommunications and Information Agency (NTIA) from the Office of Telecommunications (OT). The functions transferred from OTP to Commerce included the President's authority to assign frequencies to radio stations belonging to the United States, carry out radio spectrum management, and conduct long-range spectrum planning in cooperation with the Federal Communications Commission. The reorganization also transferred functions related to telecommunications planning and the communications satellite system. ITS, which had been an institute in OT, became the research and engineering arm of NTIA. The new structure wasn’t finalized for some time. NTIA operated for 14 years on the authority of Carter’s reorganization and executive order, until Congress passed the NTIA Organization Act of 1992, which codified NTIA's authority and incorporated its organizational structure, including ITS. ITS was designated as a research office, separated from NTIA’s policy makers to protect the independence of its research. ITS is not a regulatory office, so it can work closely with technology and telecommunications companies without conflicts of interest. ITS is also authorized to enter into interagency agreements to assist other federal agencies with telecommunication issues.