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Communications Technology Laboratory

CTL promotes the development and deployment of advanced communications technologies through dissemination of high-quality measurements, data, and research supporting U.S. innovation, industrial competitiveness, and public safety.



AI May Be Better for Detecting Radar Signals, Facilitating Spectrum Sharing

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NIST’s Antenna Evaluation Method Could Help Boost 5G Network Capacity and Cut Costs

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards...

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This is Not a Game: NIST Virtual Reality Aims to Win for Public Safety

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NIST’s Communications Technology Laboratory (CTL) advances the measurement science underlying wireless technologies ranging from the microchips that generate and process signals to the antennas that send and receive them. Our work establishes the metrological foundations for higher speeds, better connections and more ubiquitous access amid rising wireless demand from governments, businesses, and you. With expertise honed over decades of theoretical and experimental work in antennas and wireless propagation, materials science and electronics measurement and testing, CTL serves an independent, unbiased arbiter of trusted measurements and standards to government and industry. We focus our efforts in three primary program areas, all of which are establishing vital technological foundations for the ongoing wireless revolution.



Drone Operator

CTL works with a diverse innovation ecosystem to help solve public safety’s most critical communication technology gaps and drive innovation forward. NIST CTL’s Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) Division serves as the headquarters for the CTL Public Safety Program, bringing together research, development, testing, and evaluation expertise from across NIST, other government agencies, and the private sector to address the challenges of nationwide public safety communications interoperability. Drawing on critical requirements provided by public safety practitioners, the CTL Public Safety Program provides insight to wireline and wireless standards committees developing standards for voice, data, image, and video communications.


CTL Divisions work closely together to develop theory, metrology, standards, and testing for the development and deployment of the technologies upon which the future of wireless communications depends. These activities fall into three main program areas: Trusted Spectrum Testing, Next Generation (5G & Beyond) Wireless, and Fundamental Metrology for Communications. The divisions continue to invent new ways to accomplish this mission, including the world’s first robotic-arm antenna testing system, state-of-the-art channel models for complex environments, electro-optic sampling for on-chip metrology, and quantum field probe for electric field strength measurements, among others. The National Advanced Spectrum and Communications Test Network (NASCTN) provides robust trusted spectrum testing processes and validated measurement data necessary to develop, evaluate and deploy spectrum sharing technologies that can increase access to the spectrum by both Federal agencies and non-federal spectrum users. The RF Technology research portfolio spans on-chip measurements of the transistors that generate wireless signals, the testing of free-field signals and the antennas that send and receive them, and the characterization of the integrated circuits that receive and process signals. The Wireless Networks Division specializes in communications networks and protocols as well as in the digital communications technologies that make those networks possible. Division staff perform both theoretical and empirical research to develop simulation models, experimental testbeds, and proof-of-concept prototypes that are used to evaluate new technologies and to refine existing standard specifications for wireless networks and systems. 

News and Updates

Using Lasers to Save Lives

Scenario: you’re driving to your new job at a university campus and using your Global Positioning System (GPS)-enabled smartphone to tell you—and your car—how

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

First Responder Communications

First responders must be able to communicate during an emergency. Too often in critical situations, communications among public safety agencies are hampered by

Projects and Programs

Local Control

The ability for public safety personnel to have access to local control of users on the network during an emergency is vital to operations. The Public Safety


PSCR Haptic Challenge Environments

This Unreal Engine project has been created specifically for the PSCR Haptic Challenge. It features three different first responder scenarios that will be

LTE Coverage Tool

This experimental application was developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Public Safety Communications Research Division (PSCR)

Tools and Instruments

LTE Coverage Tool

This experimental application was developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Public Safety Communications Research Division (PSCR)


2019 Van Duzer Prize

The Van Duzer Prize, awarded to the best-contributed paper published in IEEE Transactions on Applied Superconductivity during each volume...

Press Coverage

The tech first responders really want

Responders who are first on the scene of medical emergencies, natural disasters, fires, crime scenes and domestic disputes don’t want more gadgets to help them

Major MCPTT landmark reached

Critical Communications World
With funding from PSCR, the first pre-verification of a Mission Critical Push-to-Talk conformance test case has been achieved.


Director, Communications Technology Lab and Director, NIST Boulder Laboratory