Iowa State University and partners receive major National Science Foundation research grant to drive innovation in rural broadband connectivity

Hongwei Zhang with some of the hardware that powers CyNet, an advanced wireless network system and a forerunner of the ARA project.

Hongwei Zhang and other researchers installed hardware in Iowa State University Research Park for CyNet, an advanced wireless network system that is the forerunner of ARA ‘s new broadband project in rural areas. Larger photo. Photo by Christopher Gannon.

AMES, IA – The Advanced Wireless Research Platforms (PAWR) the program announces Iowa State University and its partners as the fourth test site in a diverse portfolio of large-scale research platforms located in the United States. Defined as ARA: Wireless living lab for intelligent and connected rural communities, the new platform in central Iowa complements the technical specialties of the earlier PAWR platforms, adding a focus on broadband technologies in rural areas.

ARA will set up its wireless lab at Iowa State University, Ames and surrounding farms and rural communities in central Iowa. Creating a deeply programmable infrastructure, ARA will include a wide range of wireless technologies, as well as an application focused on precision farming in both crop and livestock farms. The NSF The grant includes $ 8 million in federal funding and a corresponding investment in the form of cash and in-kind contributions from partners in the PAWR industrial consortium. In addition to $ 7 million from NSF, the ARA platform received another $ 1 million in financial support from US Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

The leader of the ARA project for the state of Iowa is Hongwei Zhang, a professor in the department Electrical engineering and computer technology. “ARA enables the exploration of broadband infrastructures for rural and remote areas and has high-performance, programmable platforms for wireless access, wireless transmission and end and cloud,” Honghei said. “By supporting basic communication services such as ultra-reliable low-latency communication, the ARA allows for field research, such as teleoperating vehicles or unmanned aerial vehicles, which are of interest to rural and urban areas but are difficult to conduct in urban early stages. of the study. “

“This is the primary mission of Iowa State University – to provide our research and innovation to meet the needs of Iowans,” said the University of Iowa. President Wendy Winterstein. “Rural broadband has become a staple. Iowa State is very excited to work with our partners to develop affordable wireless technologies that will help connect and create opportunities for families, schools, farms, and communities across the state. “

With the launch of this rural broadband platform, ARA joins PAWR test sites, including: DUST-RENEWAL in Salt Lake City, Utah; SPACE in New York’s West Harlem neighborhood; and AERPAW in the Research Triangle area of ​​North Carolina. The PAWR program is designed to accelerate the development and commercialization of promising technologies and applications, ensuring continued US leadership in wireless communications while preparing the emerging workforce for new job opportunities in the digital economy.

Details of the ARA platform

ARA is located outside of Iowa State University with a team that will work closely with government, community and industry partners. Involve selected partners Iowa Communications Network (ICN), Iowa Department of Transportation (IDOT), Iowa Communications Interoperability System (ISICS), Iowa Regional Utilities Association (IRUA), Iowa Communication Alliance,, city ​​of Ames,, Story County, local school districts, The Mesquak tribal nation, Forest farms, American cellular,, Collins Aerospace, and John Deere. Researchers from the University of California, Irvine, Ohio State University and the International Institute of Computer Science are also key members of the project team.

The ARA test site will create a heterogeneous network environment that includes a wide range of wireless technologies. For feedback, ARA will create a high-capacity multimodal wireless network, including low-orbit satellite connections (LEO), free-space optical platform (FSOC) and long-wavelength millimeter wave (mmWave), and microwave point-to-point communication. . In the Radio Access Network (RAN), the ARA will use massive MIMO with low UHF (mMIMO) and other platforms to allow exploration of multiple frequencies, including TVWS, CBRS, and several others.

The ARA platform will include software radio stations (SDR) and programmable equipment. This virtualized and programmable network will support research in areas such as band aggregation, channel linking, dynamic and spectrum sharing; as well as flexible, high-performance and wireless wireless transmission and access; which are expected to lay the groundwork for a more affordable agricultural broadband service.

To learn more about ARA, visit

For more information on the PAWR program, visit

For the National Science Foundation
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports basic research and education in all areas of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2019, its budget is $ 8.1 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 countries through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives over 50,000 competitive funding proposals and makes about 12,000 new funding awards.