Tackling the Congested Spectrum Environment

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) officially opened its Spectrum Collaboration Challenge (SC2) Tuesday, seeking ways to enable the exploding number of military and civilian wireless users to have full access to the increasingly crowded electromagnetic spectrum. The competition opening starts a series of three one-year phases beginning next year and leading to a championship event in 2019, in which surviving participants will compete for a $2 million grand prize, according to DARPA’s announcement. Second- and third-place finalists will receive $1 million and $750,000. The prizes will be awarded for proposals for software-defined radios that can collaborate with the greatest number of existing radios to optimize spectrum usage, the announcement said. The goal is “smart systems that collaboratively and autonomously adapt in real time to today’s dynamic and congested spectrum environment,” program manager Paul Tilghman said, according to the release. The kickoff announcement offers two tracks for competitors. The proposal track allows for contenders to engage in a direct contract with DARPA. The open track will accept proposals from virtually anyone—from established contractors and academia to “hackers in a garage,” the announcement said. DARPA is seeking a spectrum-sharing model for RF communications to replace the threatened practice of assigning users specific frequencies.