UT-Austin wireless research group nabs NSF grant


AUSTIN-The Wireless Networking and Communications Group (WNCG), a research arm of the Cockrell School of Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, was named a National Science Foundation (NSF) Industry/University Collaborative Research Center (I/UCRC) this week and received a $400,000 grant to fund several research opportunities throughout the next five years. Funding is renewable for an additional 15 years and is designed to foster collaboration between private companies and other universities.

Industrial sponsors for the WNCG include AT&T Inc., Cisco Systems Inc., the U.S. Department of Defense and National Instruments.

“WNCG is one of the world’s leading wireless research centers, involving more than 16 faculty and 120 graduate students in electrical engineering, aerospace engineering and computer science,” said Gregory L. Fenves, dean of the Cockrell School of Engineering. “The crucial support that NSF has provided today will allow WNCG to accelerate its tremendous research on the greatest wireless challenges that society will need to solve in the next several decades.”

Ted Rappaport, the William and Bettye Nowlin chair in engineering at the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at UT-Austin, is founding director of the WNCG, which he created in 2002. Rappaport’s portfolio includes research in radio wave propagation, wireless communication system design, wireless geolocation, and 60 GHz millimeter wave communications. The WNCG at UT-Austin will join existing center sites at Virginia Tech, the University of Virginia, Auburn University and the Polytechnic Institute of New York University to form the Wireless Internet Center for Advanced Technologies (WICAT).

“The award from NSF allows WNCG to continue growing its current operations by bolstering its industrial affiliate sponsorships, and creates a powerhouse of university researchers across five major universities that can solve major problems of national importance and of relevance to industry,” said Rappaport.

International wireless standards groups used Rappaport’s studies to create broad acceptance of site-specific radio frequency (RF) channel models for broadband wireless network design and deployment. He has published more than 200 papers in his field, written, co-authored or co-edited 18 books, and served on boards such as the Technology Advisory Council of the Federal Communications Commission.

Starting this fall, WNCG’s annual wireless industry/research forum, known as the Texas Wireless Summit, will be expanded to include industry sponsors and researchers from the other four universities in WICAT.

The NSF I/UCRC center award is only the second at The University of Texas at Austin. In August of last year, the university and Texas A&M University collaborated to win a center in hybrid electric vehicles.

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Marc Speir