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Advanced communications

NIST promotes the development and deployment of advanced communications technologies by advancing the measurement science underlying wireless technologies for higher speeds, better connections and more pervasive access to communications systems.

Secure, reliable, high-speed wireless communications are critical to the economic and national competitiveness of the United States. Advanced communications are enabling dramatic changes in how consumers, manufacturers, governments and others provide and consume information, transact business, provide and use essential services, and shop, among other tasks. An analysis by Accenture predicts that by 2022 there will be approximately 29 billion connected devices globally, 500 million of which will be connected to 5G wireless networks. This insatiable societal demand for connectivity will require significant advancements in communication technologies. Accenture forecasts that over the next several years, wireless providers will invest approximately $275 billion in U.S. infrastructure, creating up to three million new jobs and boosting annual GDP by $500 billion.

NIST is currently the U.S. government’s leader in fundamental and applied research, standards and government-academia-industry coordination for advanced communications technologies. 

Learn more about NIST’s work in advanced communications and NIST leadership in three spaces:

NIST Advanced Communications: By the Numbers

200+ NIST staff and associates in the Communications Technology Laboratory // 30+ NIST experts leading global standards development organizations // 180+ participants from 80+ industry, academia and government organizations led by NIST in the 5G mmWave Channel Model Alliance // 320+ technical publications in advanced radio frequency electromagnetics and advanced wireless since 2015
Credit: B. Hayes/NIST

History of NIST Communications leadership

building in the foreground; mountains in background
Credit: NIST
In October 1949, Congress authorized $4.5 million for "the construction and equipment of a radio laboratory building for the National Bureau of Standards," which was established in Boulder, CO. Construction began in 1951 and was dedicated in September 1954 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

NIST has led in developing innovative, ground-breaking solutions for communication technologies since the early 1900s. Specialists from NIST created the first-ever radio receiver that could run on alternating current electricity, and pioneered a number of military applications including radio triangulation used to find ships and coordinate counter battery fire during World War I. 

The establishment of the DOC Boulder Labs in the 1950s, now the hub for NIST’s Communications Technology Laboratory (CTL), was in large part to support radio communications research and standards programs for the then-nascent technology.

Over the ensuing 70 years, NIST’s efforts in communication technologies, including its current work related to 5G-and-beyond advanced communications, are recognized as being among the best in the world and contribute directly to U.S. competitiveness and leadership in this technology sector, including in enabling the infrastructure for 5G-and-beyond communications.

News and Updates

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PSCR Webinar: Using Lasers to Save Lives

Wed, Dec 9 2020, 11:00am - 12:30pm MST (11:00am - 12:30pm MST)
This December, NIST’s Public Safety Communications Research division will host a webinar featuring the award winners of

Industry Impacts

Alliance for 5G Networks

The next generation of wireless communications technology will allow many more devices to send information much faster, making possible everything from virtual

Projects and Programs

Waveform Metrology Project

Today's economy relies on high-speed communications that ride fiber-optic networks, and CTL physicists play a crucial role in providing the means to test the

Quantum Communications and Networks

The Quantum Communication and Networks Project develops quantum devices and studies them for use in quantum communications and networking applications. Our goal

Impact of LTE Signals on GPS Receivers

The National Advanced Spectrum and Communications Test Network (NASCTN) has completed the Impacts of LTE Signals on GPS Receivers project and has released the

High-Speed Electronics

This project supports the microwave, telecommunications, computing, and emerging nanoelectronics industries through research and development of high-frequency


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USGv6 Capabilities Table

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The USGv6 Capabilities Table (UCT) provides a concise tabular summary of the technical requirements of the USGv6 profile. For ease of reference, the UCT is