WHISPERS Grand Challenge

The WHISPERS team is dedicated to meeting national priorities for radio spectrum access, sharing and innovation.


The worldwide growth of wireless systems—spanning applications from communications and navigation to radar and  sensing—have dramatically expanded the need for access to radio spectrum, resulting in congestion in the microwave and lower RF bands, while pressuring regulators to allocate new spectrum beyond 100 GHz for greater commercial access. The potential of this vast and untapped frequency region, in conjunction with an increasing technology presence across the entire spectrum, represents an unprecedented opportunity and creates unique challenges.

Astronomers, atmospheric chemists, and other scientists have enjoyed unfettered access to the millimeter-wave electromagnetic spectrum for decades; these frequencies have largely been devoid of commercial use and the technology needed for access has been expensive and scarce. The development of new device technologies and a robust test/measurement infrastructure has reduced the obstacles limiting spectral access.

The bands currently reserved for scientific sensing and observation are a natural target for innovative ideas to utilize spectrum, including cognitive radio and dynamic spectrum access, spectrum markets, database-driven access and policy reform proposals. Implementation remains difficult due to the inherent challenge of ensuring minimal impact on legacy scientific users who regularly operate at sensitivities and bandwidths that approach fundamental physical limits.

Additionally, the design of high-performance receivers for radio astronomy and remote sensing typically lacks metrics for spectrum sharing and interference specifications. Test/measurement and electronics technology infrastructure for the high-frequency bands is limited compared to available at RF bands. Engineers are likewise limited in their ability to implement sophisticated system architectures for advanced spectrum-sharing approaches and protocols.