The National Academies

ACRP 07-21 [Pending]

Exploring Cellular-Based Private Wireless Networks for the U.S. Aviation Industry

  Project Data
Funds: $400,000
Contract Time: 12 months
Staff Responsibility: Matthew J. Griffin


An airport is both an organization and a facility with a complex network of stakeholders and systems (airlines, federal and state agencies, ground handlers, police, fire, etc.), all focused on the safe, secure, and efficient movement of aircraft, cargo, passengers, and other assets. Airports typically have a large campus and a complex set of connectivity requirements serving a variety of operational and customer service needs. These complex systems, across thousands of acres and millions of square feet of interior and exterior space, must communicate in a robust, high-bandwidth, low-latency, secure fashion. Cellular-based private wireless networks (PWNs) have the potential to improve and expand connectivity across these complex systems and large areas.  

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has allocated the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS), which is the 3.55–3.7 GHz band, for these types of complex environments. The OnGo Alliance, a coalition of companies, has been addressing certification standards and encouraging the adoption of technology that would provide connectivity in this spectrum band, especially as the industry advances into newer standards of wireless access technology.


The objective of this research is to develop a guide that identifies and discusses opportunities and challenges for the deployment of cellular-based PWNs at U.S. airports over CBRS spectrum. This should include a 4–5 minute explainer video that clearly and succinctly describes a cellular-based PWN and discusses its application in the airport environment. The research should address risk, resiliency, security implications, and ramifications for current and future applicable regulations. In addition, the research should identify and address the stakeholders that may participate in, benefit from, and/or be affected by the implementation of this technology.  

The guide should address or include, at a minimum:

  • A clear explanation of cellular-based PWNs;
  • Sample use cases for U.S. airports and the broader aviation industry;
  • Advantages of using a cellular-based PWN at U.S. airports;
  • Network topology and architecture considerations;
  • Implementation considerations;
  • Possible barriers to adopting and implementing cellular-based PWNs;
  • Current and emerging business models for the adoption of cellular-based PWNs at U.S. airports, including ownership, monetization, procurement, financing, and contracting options; and
  • Alignment and interoperability opportunities across U.S. airports.


The research plan should present interim deliverables for ACRP and panel review and approval, at a minimum: 

  • A literature review and a review of current and planned practices.
  • An outline, script, and/or storyboards of the 4–5 minute explainer video that is a succinct explanation, suitable for a broad audience, of cellular-based PWNs.
  • An updated list of sample use cases applicable to U.S. airports and to the broader aviation industry.
  • A preliminary analysis of implementation options and current and emerging business models that will be reviewed and discussed in the guide. Relevant business models in use outside the airport industry should be reviewed and included.  
  • An interim report with a summary of the research to date, an annotated outline of the guide, and an updated research plan.  
  • The 4–5 minute explainer video, for review before delivery of the draft final deliverables.   

The research plan should also have checkpoints with the ACRP panel, including at a minimum (1) a kick-off teleconference meeting to be held within 1 month of the Notice to Proceed, (2) one face-to-face interim deliverable review meeting, and (3) web-enabled teleconferences tied to the panel review and ACRP approval of other interim deliverables deemed appropriate.

The final deliverables will include: (1) the guide, (2) a 4–5 minute explainer video, (3) a Summary of Key Findings, (4) a Further Recommended Research Memo, and (5) a technical memo titled “Implementation of Research Findings and Products”. 

STATUS: Proposals have been received in response to the RFP.  The project panel will meet to select a contractor to perform the work.

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