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24 May 2022

National Spectrum Consortium’s new chief puts Open RAN high on the agenda

By Wireless Watch Staff

Joe Kochan has been appointed as the new executive director of the USA’s National Spectrum Consortium (NSC), and has put Open RAN and spectrum sharing – both considered key to future US 5G competitiveness – at the heart of his agenda.

The NSC’s chair, Salvador D’Itri – who is also VP of federal affairs at Federated Wireless – said in a statement that he was “confident Joe will help us accelerate the development of next-generation technologies to support critical federal missions and ensure US competitiveness”.

The NSC works with the government to provide access to more than 400 members of US industry and academia with activities related to spectrum and wireless networks. Kochan most recently worked as CEO of US Ignite, a public/private partnership set up to collaborate with smart cities and research testbeds. Before that, he was a founder of rural fixed wireless provider DIgitalBridge Communications.

He told FierceWireless that he sees significant potential for the Department of Defense, and the federal government more broadly, to use Open RAN and flexible radio networks that can operate in many kinds of spectrum. He believes that the NSC and the DoD will have key roles to play in increasing funding for US-based Open RAN developments and trials.

In 2020, the Department of Defense awarded the Spectrum Forward Other Transaction Agreement (OTA) to the NSC to accelerate the development and deployment of next-generation technologies. The OTA is a five-year project with a maximum value of $2.5bn.

Kochan will also be heavily focused on spectrum sharing, and software-defined radio evolution, as ways to make more airwaves available and improve the way they are used.

“You have sharing issues beyond just the traditional ones with DoD,” he said, including sensing issues with radar, satellite and terrestrial communications used for defense purposes. As for making the flexible and open technologies fully robust and trustworthy he acknowledged: “I think there’s a ton of work that has to be done.”

He added that many lessons have been learned from the CBRS scheme, which provides the top level of priority access to federal incumbents, but otherwise is available, in licensed and shared formats, for mobile broadband. “These problems have to get solved and the federal government has to figure out how to share spectrum, how to get more nimble, how to fund the Open RAN research that we all know is going to be important,” he said.