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Institute for Telecommunications Science

The Institute for Telecommunication Sciences (ITS) is the research and engineering laboratory of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC). ITS performs basic research in radio science that provides the  technical foundation for NTIA's policy development and spectrum management activities.

ITS research enhances scientific knowledge and understanding in cutting-edge areas of telecommunications technology. The Institute's research capacity and expertise is used to analyze new and emerging technologies, and to contribute to standards creation. Research results are broadly disseminated through peer-reviewed publications as well as through technical contributions and recommendations to standards bodies. ITS staff represent U.S. interests in many national and international telecommunication conferences and standards organizations. Through leadership roles in various working groups, ITS helps to influence development of international standards and policies to support the full and fair competitiveness of the U.S. communications and information technology sectors. ITS research helps to drive innovation and contributes to the development of communications and broadband policies that enable a robust telecommunication infrastructure, ensure system integrity, support e-commerce, and protect an open global Internet. ITS also serves as a principal Federal resource for solving the telecommunications concerns of other Federal agencies, state and local Governments, private corporations and associations, and international organizations. These problems fall into the areas of communications technology use (including RF, PSTN and IP/IT).

Cooperative research agreements based onthe Federal Technology Transfer Act of 1986 are the principal means of aiding the private sector. This Act provides the legal basis for and encourages shared use of Government facilities and resources with the private sector in advanced telecommunications technologies. These partnerships aid in the commercialization of new products and services.

ITS History

The Institute began in the 1940s as the Interservice Radio Propagation Laboratory, which later became the Central Radio Propagation Laboratory (CRPL) of the National Bureau of Standards in the U.S. Department of Commerce. A new facility was built for CRPL in Boulder, Colorado after the people of Boulder offered free land along its western boundary. It was dedicated by President Eisenhower in September 1954. In 1965, the radio propogation lab was renamed the Institute for Telecommunication Sciences and Aeronomy (ITSA). In 1967, ITSA split into four labs: the Aeronomy Laboratory, the Space Disturbances Laboratory, the Wave Propagation Laboratory, and the Institute for Telecommunication Sciences (ITS). The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) was created in 1977. Since that time, ITS has performed telecommunications research and provided technical engineering support to NTIA and other Federal agencies


Scientists at ITS conduct research in the following six areas:

Radio Research Fundamentals and Spectrum Measurement

Radio Research Fundamentals and Spectrum Measurement ITS completed the now-classic work in signal propagation modeling (how radio waves travel over the earth’s surface). Now, it adapts the original models and incorporate them with terrain data from remote sensing. Using the latest technology, it measures emission characteristics of federal transmitter systems and identify and resolve radio frequency interference. ITS scientists also explore advanced antenna designs to improve the performance of next-generation wireless systems.

Communication Systems and Networks

In addition to studying network protocols and technologies, ITS plans, implements, and evaluates wireless, wireline, and hybrid telecommunications systems. Their scientists also address issues of network management, quality of service, architecture design, network protection, and privacy. As part of a long-term commitment to interoperable communications in the public safety sector, ITS facilitates interconnectivity and interoperability between individual services and technologies and provides procurement consulting.

Standards Development

ITS enjoys a long and distinguished record of leadership and technical contributions to international, national, and local telecommunication standards committees. These include the International Telecommunication Union, the Telecommunications Industry Association, and the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions. ITS experts are regularly called upon to interpret and analyze standards and regulations devised by numerous other organizations.

Wireless Voice/Data Systems and Emerging Technologies

ITS looks to the next generation of wireless systems and network access technologies - evaluating protocols and transport mechanism effects on network survivability and performance. Their scientists assess impacts of access, interoperability timing, and synchronization on system effectiveness in national security/emergency preparedness, military, and commercial environments. ITS also tests emerging technologies, such as Voice over Internet Protocol and ultra-wide band, to evaluate interoperability and improvements.

Audio and Video Quality Research

ITS conducts research on digital audio and video quality. This research is firmly grounded in both digital signal processing theory and the modeling of human perception. The work has resulted in a variety of software tools that provide quick, reliable estimates of audio and video quality as perceived by users. These tools become more valuable each day as digital coding and transmission, and the resulting quality issues, become more and more prevalent.

Electromagnetic Modeling & Analysis

ITS seeks to understand and improve telecommunications at the most fundamental level - the parameters that limit network performance. ITS maintains ongoing investigations in broadband wireless systems performance, advanced antenna designs, and noise as a limiting factor for advanced communication systems.