Institute for Telecommunication Sciences / About ITS / ITS: The Nation’s Spectrum and Communications Lab

ITS: The Nation’s Spectrum and Communications Lab

Realizing the full potential of telecommunications to drive a new era of innovation, development, and productivity. 

Our mission is to ADVANCE innovation in communications technologies, INFORM spectrum and communications policy for the benefit of all stakeholders, and INVESTIGATE our Nation’s most pressing telecommunications challenges through research that employees are proud to deliver. 

What We Do

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 manages the telecommunications technology research programs of NTIA and the Department of Commerce owned Table Mountain Radio Quiet Zone, working closely with other NTIA Line Offices to support Administration and Agency needs. ITS also addresses other federal agencies’ telecommunications and spectrum research needs via Interagency Agreements (IAAs) and engages directly with industry and academia via Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs).

ITS basic research in radio science provides the technical foundation for NTIA’s policy development and spectrum management activities and 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, including software on GitHub, 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 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. Through CRADAs authorized by the Federal Technology Transfer Act of 1986, ITS also performs collaborative research with industry and academia. 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 Radio Section of the National Bureau of Standards was founded before World War I. Under the direction of Dr. J. H. Dellinger, the Radio Section contributed significantly to the understanding of radio propagation, and by 1939 it was releasing ionospheric radiowave propagation predictions one to three months in advance. During World War II, the Radio Section was re-organized into the Interservice Radio Propagation Laboratory (IRPL) to provide radio communication research for the armed services. IRPL served the war effort very successfully, and almost immediately it was recognized that there would be a peacetime need for continued, centralized radio propagation and standards research to support both military and civilian telecommunications.

In 1946, the Central Radio Propagation Laboratory (CRPL) replaced the IRPL. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, CRPL made many important contributions, especially in developing ionospheric and tropospheric forward-scatter systems, which greatly expanded the range of frequencies available for communication beyond the horizon. By 1954, CRPL had outgrown its Washington DC facilities and was moved to the new DOC Boulder Laboratories building. The availability of the radio experimental field site at Table Mountain influenced the choice of Boulder CO for the new laboratory; the DOC leased the Table Mountain site in 1954 and purchased it in 1961.

A major reorganization of the DOC in 1965 led to CRPL being renamed the Institute for Telecommunication Sciences and Aeronomy (ITSA) and placed, with three other labs, under the newly formed Environmental Science Services Administration (ESSA). In 1970, the policy-focused Office of Telecommunications Policy (OTP) was formed in the Executive Office of the President and the Office of Telecommunications (OT) created in the DOC to support OTP, with the Institute for Telecommunication Sciences (ITS) separated from aeronomy and put under OT. OT and OTP were reorganized into the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), a DOC agency with ITS as its research laboratory, in 1977. Since that time, ITS has performed telecommunications research and provided technical engineering support to NTIA and to other Federal agencies, and after 1986 to private industry and academia, on a cost reimbursable basis.

ITS’s statutory authority to conduct research is codified in the NTIA Organization Act, Pub. L. No. 102-538, 106 Stat. 3533 (1992) (codified at 47 U.S.C. 901 et seq.).