Ideas Lab: Breaking the Low Latency Barrier for Verticals in Next-G Wireless Networks

Funding Agency:
National Science Foundation

The U.S. National Science Foundation’s Directorate for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships (TIP) is charged with accelerating use-inspired and translational research and development (R&D) to advance U.S. competitiveness in key technology focus areas. The Breaking the Low Latency Barrier for Verticals in Next-G Wireless Networks (Breaking Low) initiative will accelerate and enable new technologies and contribute to the growth of the U.S. economy in advanced wireless communications.

TIP is seeking to identify and address critical architectural, technical and technological issues that must be resolved in fifth-generation (5G) and next generation (Next-G) wireless networks to provide the necessary low-latency performance that is required for the success of key emerging vertical industries. Most current public cellular deployments are unable to support end-to-end (E2E) latencies that are consistently below 10 milliseconds (ms) and Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) latencies below 10 ms are possible only under certain favorable conditions (low network load, high bandwidth) even with Wi Fi 6 (IEEE 802.11ax). The Next-G mobile network use cases are expected to demand even more stringent latency and reliability requirements as network designers seek to raise the bar with better performance. A closer examination of the current state of the art reveals that there are critical bottlenecks at various points in the end-to-end network path from the application to the cloud resulting from the existing design, architectural, protocol, processing, optimization and implementation choices across both control and user planes, as well as the lack of low-latency vertical applications-driven technology development.

This solicitation describes an Ideas Lab focused on low-latency wireless networks and vertical applications that rely on them to:

a) identify cost-effective novel approaches that have the potential to break the hurdles that exist in today’s networks, including 5G/Next-G cellular, WLAN, access and cloud components, to meet the end-to-end low-latency and high-reliability targets required to enable specific emerging vertical use cases;

b) formulate and execute a coherent research and development (R&D) plan that will lead to the technological advances necessary to engineer Next-G advanced wireless networks that meet the desired low-latency and high-reliability demands of identified vertical applications; and

c) prototype and demonstrate the developed technology solutions in at-scale testbeds for specific vertical use cases under a wide range of relevant network conditions.

The Ideas Lab Workshop is an interactive gathering of experts and stakeholders interested in collaboratively developing potential solution approaches to a specific problem or a grand challenge. It is expected to be a three-day-long intensive and focused meeting. The participants are drawn from diverse backgrounds and a broad range of expertise areas relevant to the posed problem of interest. The goal is to facilitate a brainstorming effort among a team of experts who may not otherwise come together to solve the specific posed problem though all their experiences, expertise and the needs are very much relevant to the problem. Hence, ideally, the participants are expected not to have had significant prior research or technology development interactions among them.

This Ideas Lab workshop, in particular, aims to bring together, and facilitate a dialogue among a group of innovators with diverse perspectives, experiences and expertise to stimulate creative thinking and collaborative spirit to develop and validate innovative low latency communications technologies that will help meet, and possibly exceed, Next-G mobile wireless network specifications to spur a great number of emerging applications within multiple vertical industries that will transform the way we live and interact with each other. It is expected that the participation of key stakeholders and experts from low-latency vertical application use cases in the Ideas Lab workshop, in addition to the networking/computing researchers and technical experts, may contribute to achieving the goals of this Ideas Lab program.

The solicitation expects robust partnerships between both academia and industry in the wireless telecom, vertical application and cloud computing sectors to co-design solutions to meet the requirements of specific low-latency verticals including rapid prototyping, testing, validation and at-scale pilot demonstrations. It is the belief of NSF that adoption of the resultant solutions will be hastened through such partnerships and thus NSF encourages applications from both academia and industry (both wireless as well as application verticals). 


Preliminary Proposal Due Date(s) (required): April 18, 2024

Full Proposal Deadline(s):  September 30, 2024

Agency Website

Eligibility Requirements

Proposals may only be submitted by the following:

  • Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) - Two- and four-year IHEs (including community colleges) accredited in, and having a campus located in the US, acting on behalf of their faculty members. Special Instructions for International Branch Campuses of US IHEs: If the proposal includes funding to be provided to an international branch campus of a US institution of higher education (including through use of subawards and consultant arrangements), the proposer must explain the benefit(s) to the project of performance at the international branch campus, and justify why the project activities cannot be performed at the US campus.
  • Non-profit, non-academic organizations: Independent museums, observatories, research laboratories, professional societies and similar organizations located in the U.S. that are directly associated with educational or research activities.
  • For-profit organizations: U.S.-based commercial organizations, including small businesses, with strong capabilities in scientific or engineering research or education and a passion for innovation.
  • State and Local Governments: State educational offices or organizations and local school districts.
  • Tribal Nations: An American Indian or Alaska Native tribe, band, nation, pueblo, village, or community that the Secretary of the Interior acknowledges as a federally recognized tribe pursuant to the Federally Recognized Indian Tribe List Act of 1994, 25 U.S.C. §§ 5130-5131.
  • Other Federal Agencies and Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDCs): Contact the appropriate program before preparing a proposal for submission.

An individual may serve as PI or co-PI on only one Ideas Lab proposal in this competition but may serve as other Senior/Key Personnel or Other Personnel on any number of Ideas Lab proposals in this competition.

Amount Description

Anticipated Type of Award: Cooperative Agreement

Estimated Number of Awards: 4

Up to 4 awards are anticipated depending upon availability of funds and the type, scale, quality, transformative-potential, and diversity of project ideas developed at the Ideas Lab. Awards will be funded up to $3,700,000 per year for up to 2 years commensurate with the complexity of the proposed research and development plan and the final maturity level and translational potential of the resulting technology.

Anticipated Funding Amount: $12,000,000

The total funding available for this Ideas Lab is $12,000,000 over 2 years for up to 4 selected awards. Estimated program budget, number of awards and average award size/duration are subject to the availability of funds.

Funding Type





Engineering and Physical Sciences

External Deadline

April 18, 2024