PUBLISHED:February 16, 2024

Benjamin in leadership role on $5 million SMART Hub research center


SMART Hub brings together experts seeking to optimize use of increasingly congested wireless frequencies for critical military and national defense needs.

Professor Stuart Benjamin Professor Stuart Benjamin

Professor Stuart Benjamin is serving in a leadership role for a new research center that will develop technologies and policies to optimize the increasingly utilized wireless spectrum for national defense needs.

The Hub for Spectrum Management with Adaptive and Reconfigurable Technology (SMART Hub) is a Department of Defense Spectrum Innovation Center and is funded by a $5 million appropriation from Congress. SMART Hub launched Jan. 17 and is based at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.

Benjamin, the William Van Alstyne Distinguished Professor of Law and co-director of the Center for Innovation Policy, is economics team lead on the project’s 29-member research team that represents 17 universities. He is the only lawyer or law professor on the team, which also includes an economist and engineering experts in communication systems, radar, circuits, and spectrum security.

“The ever-increasing number of wireless devices means greater demand for spectrum, or wireless frequencies, as all wireless devices use spectrum,” Benjamin said.

“This puts a premium on finding spectrum more efficiently, such as allowing wireless devices to use spectrum in adaptive and reconfigurable ways. That inspired the name of our group.”

Benjamin’s academic expertise in spectrum policy and two terms as an advisor to the Federal Communications Commission made him a sought-after member of research teams forming in response to a National Science Foundation initiative to address spectrum policy. A former FCC colleague, Doug Sicker, now an engineering professor and chief technology officer at the University of Colorado Denver, invited him to join the group that became SMART Hub.

“My main role will be to work with the engineers to develop and analyze possible approaches to interference and sharing and to analyze the economic considerations and legal constraints of possible protocols,” Benjamin said.

Based in Baylor’s School of Engineering and Computer Science and directed by Baylor engineering professor Charles Baylis, SMART Hub will focus on the needs of the Department of Defense, which uses a broad range of wireless frequencies. In recent years, Benjamin said, some of the spectrum that had been devoted to the DOD has been opened up for commercial use, raising the challenge of optimizing frequencies available to the DOD for critical military and defense applications such as wireless communication, radar systems, and passive sensing.

“The increasing number of wireless devices used for national defense — for example, satellites, radar, and drones — means that the DOD has a strong interest in using the spectrum to which it has access as efficiently as possible,” he said.

“One way of doing this is to develop protocols to address interference and allow sharing by developing adaptive and reconfigurable spectrum situational awareness in an environment using multiple nodes. That is what SMART Hub will be doing for the federal government.”

At Duke Law Benjamin teaches courses on administrative law, the First Amendment, and internet and telecommunications regulation. He is a co-author of Internet and Telecommunications Regulation (2nd ed. 2023, 1st ed. 2019) and Telecommunications Law and Policy (multiple editions) and has published numerous articles. He has been called to testify before the U.S. Congress as a legal expert on a range of topics.

Benjamin anticipates SMART Hub will be a long-term project given the increasing need for bandwidth by an ever-growing array of devices by a wider population.

“There is a lot of bipartisan support for addressing spectrum issues generally, and in the national defense context in particular,” he said. “SMART Hub will likely be involved in these issues for years to come.”