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Wireless Networks Division

The Wireless Networks Division works with the networking industry to research, develop, promote, measure, and deploy emerging networking technologies and standards that revolutionize how networks are operated and used.





NIST CTL’s Wireless Networks Division works with industry to develop, deploy, and promote emerging technologies and standards that will dramatically improve the operation and use of wireless networks. Our team, based at NIST’s main campus in Gaithersburg, Md., specializes in communications networks and protocols. We perform both theoretical and empirical research to develop simulation models, experimental testbeds, and proof-of-concept prototypes that we use to evaluate new technologies and to refine existing standard specifications for wireless networks and systems.

Drone Networks

Our work on next generation wireless communications impacts all of CTL’s core programs:  Public Safety Communications, Fundamental Metrology for Communications, Trusted Spectrum Testing, and NextG (5G & Beyond). We also lead the NextG Channel Model Alliance, a nexus for global efforts to develop the future radio channels over which next-generation 5G wireless networks will operate at data rates up to a thousand times greater than what is possible today. Our diverse portfolio of work is possible thanks to an extensive collaboration network in the form of key partnerships within NIST and across industry, government, and academia. 



CTL’s Wireless Networks Division specializes in two areas of wireless technology research and analysis:
   • Communications networks and protocols, which involves data transport, routing, resource management and medium access control.   
   • Digital communications, which looks at the essential technologies enabling communications networks, including signal processing, modulation, error control coding and channel modeling. Across both of these competence areas, we bring our capabilities in performance measurements, model development, experimental testbeds and network prototyping to bear.


Accurately characterizing the environments in which future network hardware and protocols will operate is a vital precursor to wireless network modeling and protocol development. Such modeling ultimately helps industry identify potential cost-savings and sets realistic expectations for network coverage, capacity, scalability and performance.

Our channel modeling work employs existing and custom models applying mathematical analysis and computer simulation to factors affecting radio-frequency propagation such as terrain, clutter, building morphologies, antenna height and center frequencies. We work with CTL’s RF Technology Division in developing and enhancing channel sounders capable of completely characterizing channels operating at the high frequencies expected to be used in NextG systems. Our channel modeling experts then use these measurements as inputs for their models.


While much of our work involves mathematical modeling and computer simulation, our experimental testbeds help us validate our models, develop benchmarks and take physical measurements of wireless systems and their key components. We start with commercial broadband devices (e.g., 5G NR base station and user equipment), protocol analyzers and emulators, which provide a highly controlled, non-radiating environment to characterize how high-speed wireless devices transmitting over multiple channels in different environments might interact. But when our requirements push past the boundaries of what’s commercially available, we develop our own solutions, such as our real-time spectrum monitoring system using software-defined radios.






As part of our program planning activities, we continue our industry and stakeholders outreach in order to identify additional measurements and metrology R&D gaps in support of the development of wireless communication systems and standards. 

NIST’s Communications Technology Laboratory has partnered with the National Science Foundation (NSF)  to identify technical gaps critical to the sustained innovation of post-5G wireless systems. This project completed with the publication of NIST SP 1293.

Please visit the NextG Gap Analysis page for additional details.



Real-Time mmWave Channel Sounding Through Switched Beamforming With 3-D Dual-Polarized Phased-Array Antennas

Performance Impact of Coexistence Groups in a GAA-GAA Coexistence Scheme in the CBRS Band

Study of 5G New Radio (NR) Support for Direct Mode Communications

Radio Channel Sounders for Modeling Mobile Communications at 28 GHz, 60 GHz and 83 GHz

Projects and Programs

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News and Updates