NASCTN projects follow an open, transparent and comprehensive process for developing scientifically based test plans, facilitating access to member test ranges and laboratories, protecting controlled information, and validating test results before findings are reported. The five-stage NASCTN Framework serves as a common architecture across NASCTN's diverse spectrum sharing projects.
Stage I: Spectrum Sharing Test Request
The objective of NASCTN’s screening process is to ensure that the required information and a concise objective is available for each spectrum sharing test request and meets NASCTN criteria. To provide the most useful information, there is informal communication between NASCTN and the sponsor to discuss and refine the test request.
A NASCTN screen team is formed to evaluate the Spectrum Sharing Test Request to ensure it meets the objectives of NASCTN and the capabilities are best suited to conduct the test. The screen team collects related information to the request to better understand and refine the objectives of the test and presents the information to the Steering Committee for approval.
Stage II: Test Framework
Upon approval of the test request by the NASCTN Steering Committee, NASCTN forms a Tiger Team with appropriate subject matter experts from the Charter Members and support staff to develop the Test Framework, draft Project Management plan, and related documents. The objective of this stage is to perform the preliminary research and planning to identify the project approach, and scope overarching objectives, technical objectives, equipment requirements, technical skills, and cost and schedule. This time-limited stage (approximately 2 months) to draft a test framework, initial project management plan, and any formal agreements necessary for the next stage(s) of the process.
The initial community review cycle at this stage creates awareness early in the process and informs future test plan development. The NASCTN draft Test Framework is uploaded to the NASCTN portal and staffed to the stakeholders of the spectrum community for review and comment. Reviewers are provided a minimum of two weeks to review and comment on the test framework. NASCTN receives, adjudicates, and reconciles all comments. If required, an updated test framework is issued.
This stage enables a more deliberate and focused look at the test objectives and better-informed decisions in proceeding with the test by both the Steering Committee and sponsor. The information gathered at this stage can facilitate the sponsor’s decision to fund Stage 3, Test Plan Methodology, before funding Test Execution & Analysis.
The Test Framework and Project management plan is then submitted to the NASCTN Steering Committee and Sponsor for final approval to proceed and funding. This stage provides a detailed, defined scope and test approach for better-informed decisions, and is funded by NASCTN, independent from the test funding sponsor.
Stage III: Test Plan Methodology
The central part of the NASCTN process is the development of a rigorous plan that accurately measures and answers the objectives of the effort. NASCTN will form a test team to plan, conduct, and document the effort. The participants of the test team will vary based on the type of test and expertise required. Typically, test team members and resources will come from the NASCTN Member organizations, but can include specific expertise, facilities, and support from external organizations to successfully develop the test plan. NASCTN develops the test, metrology, and implementation plan to meet strict quality control measures. This effort implements:
- A formal Design of Experiment (DOE)
- Laboratory set-ups, exploratory discovery experiments, and factor selection activities which are essential to validating and refining the test plan before and during test execution.
- Identification and incorporation of analysis methods along with lab activities to deliver experiments under statistically optimal conditions given the constraints of available resources
- Exploratory discovery experiments to ensure that a thorough uncertainty analysis, test methodology, and test support are included or planned.
It is important to note that the sponsor provides inputs on objectives/goals, but the experimental design and test plan are developed independently by NASCTN. This neutrality facilitates oversight and quality control, attains greater access to expertise and resources, and ensures the continuous effectiveness of NASCTN’s spectrum-sharing test activities without compromise to the scientific rigor, impartiality, and impact of its projects.
The Project Management Plan details cost, schedule, performance, and resource expectations, and will be updated as the test plan is finalized.
- For NASCTN efforts sponsored by a non-federal entity, a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) will be developed. The CRADA defines the contractual, legal framework for the funding, procurement, conduct, access, and releasability of the NASCTN effort. The foundational objective is to retain as much transparency as possible, but political and technical sensitivities may impact a completely open testing environment. In these cases, independent trusted agents may be identified and cleared to monitor execution progress.
- For other federal entities, Interagency Agreements (IAA) will be developed. Long term IAA’s are maintained with the Charter organizations, which enables faster response.
In addition, following the development of the test plan, a workshop is held to present the plan to the spectrum community, following which, another comment period provides a second opportunity for review. As with Stage 2, NASCTN receives, reviews, adjudicates, and reconciles all comments and posts an updated test plan.
Before Stage 4 (test execution), NASCTN presents a briefing of the proposed effort to the NASCTN Steering Committee for quality review and final approval. A detailed briefing of the experimental findings and test plan is provided to the Sponsor for approval and funding.
Stage IV: Test Execution
After approval, NASCTN executes the effort. Periodic briefings are provided to the Sponsor and Steering Committee to ensure progress and alignment with objectives.
Facilities may involve NASCTN Member organizations, sponsor sites, or other. NASCTN team management is responsible for verifying the test methodology and ensuring that uncertainty analyses are strictly followed at all locations where measurements are executed.
Throughout the testing process, data validation and test results analyses are performed as per test plan.
Stage V: Summarize Findings
After the test is completed, the NASCTN test team develops a report that summarizes the findings, performs statistical analysis, and provides any caveats on the validity of data or information collected in the test.
The final test report is evaluated by a formal Editorial Review Board (ERB) process prior to public release. The objective of every NASCTN test report is unlimited public release. However, limitations on the distribution of the final report may be required based on the CRADA, proprietary, sensitive, or classified data, and may be further limited by handling instructions to only those organizations with a demonstrated need to the information.
All publicly releasable reports will be posted to an externally-facing NIST web-site. Final briefings will be held with the sponsor and the spectrum community to present the results of the test effort.
Spectrum Community Engagement and Awareness
All NASCTN activities and interaction with the spectrum sharing community are based on the premise of the maximum amount of transparency during all stages of the NASCTN process. This transparency supports the government’s goal of identifying and deploying spectrum sharing technologies as quickly as possible and is only constrained by legal, classification, or handling requirements. All releasable information related to on-going NASCTN efforts are posted to the NASCTN portal.
Providing awareness and engagement of NASCTN efforts to the spectrum community is a critical function of the NASCTN Team. This occurs throughout all stages of the NASCTN process. Many of the efforts that NASCTN accepts are likely to be highly controversial. Keeping this diverse community aware of the activities, information, and status and engaged in providing constructive feedback will provide the foundation for transparency of the NASCTN process. NASCTN does this through a variety of communications means, such as workshops, web conferences, telephone conferences, web-sites, email, and phone. The frequency and specific format will vary based on the needs of the NASCTN project.