The Pentagon has announced three new projects aimed at fostering innovation in next-generation wireless technologies beyond 5G, to include establishing a new “Open6G” research hub.

The new projects are part of DoD’s Innovate Beyond 5G (IB5G) program to bolster collaboration with academia and industry, and has included over $7 million awards to date to begin establishing the initiative.

“The DoD has a vital interest in advancing 5G-to-NextG wireless technologies and concept demonstrations,” Sumit Roy, the Pentagon’s IB5G program director, said in a statement. “These efforts represent our continuing investments via public and private sector collaboration on research and development for critical ‘beyond 5G ‘technology enablers necessary to realize high performance, secure, and resilient network operations for the future warfighter.”

The new Open6G research and development hub will be managed by Northeastern University’s Kostas Research Institute, through a $1.8 million cooperative research agreement with the Army Research Laboratory.

“The effort will focus on Open RAN research and open source implementation of 5G protocol stack features to support emerging beyond/enhanced 5G applications,” DoD said in a statement. “Open6G will serve as the DoD’s hub for development, testing, and integration of trusted enhancements, supporting an industry and federal government NextG ecosystem pursuing 6G technology goals.”

A second project under the IB5G initiative will focus on spectrum exchange security and scalability, following a $1.6 million award to Zylinium Research to manage the project.

“Spectrum-sharing technologies are becoming more critical as wireless networks face increasing user demand. Zylinium Research developed Spectrum Exchange—a network service appliance that receives, schedules and allocates spectrum resources—in response to this need,” the DoD wrote. “This current effort will leverage blockchain in order to provide data persistence, scalability, and robustness to create a secure and distributed Spectrum Exchange.”

Nokia Bell Labs received a $3.7 million award for a third project to collaborate with DoD to work on “Massive Multi-Input/Multi-Output” (MIMO) technology for future wireless technology applications. 

“Massive MIMO is a critical enabler for the warfighter due to its ability to increase resiliency and throughput for wireless tactical communications,” DoD wrote. “The effort will explore key technology components that enable scaling MIMO technology across different bands/bandwidths and DoD-oriented use cases.”