By Christina Clark
Paul Ransom’s interest in electrical engineering was piqued when he began working to upgrade his Walkman in elementary school. He was unsatisfied with the performance and began tinkering with it and other electronics to see how they functioned.
“I wanted to boost the volume, because back in my days we liked to listen to our music loud,” Ransom said.
As a teenager, he participated in a summer youth program that introduced word processing software and programming fundamentals of the early Microsoft Disk Operating System (MS DOS). The program allowed him to become more comfortable using computers and technology. These early exposures to technology would help steer Ransom toward a career that took him from a research engineer at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock Division to the Chief Technologist in the Radio Frequency Interference Monitoring System (RFIMS) Project Management Office contracting with the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and to his current role with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).
Ransom’s own studies started at the University of Memphis. When an injury took him off the football field, he transferred to Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He graduated from Southern University and attended Georgia Institute of Technology, where he received his Master’s degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering, pursuing his passion to understand how things worked and find ways to improve them.
After obtaining his Master’s Degree, Ransom launched his professional career as a Navy civilian electrical engineer at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Bethesda, Maryland. He spent 13 years as a radio frequency engineer and project manager and later he received his Ph.D. from the Catholic University of America.
From amateur electronics tinkerer to expert
Today, Ransom is a Senior Technical Expert in the Strategic Planning Division within the Office of Spectrum Management (OSM) at the NTIA. In this position, Ransom has many roles. Recently, Paul was appointed to the Spectrum Relocation Fund Technical Panel fulfilling the role of chairman. The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 directed NTIA to establish a Technical Panel with three members – with the Assistant Secretary of Commerce, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget and the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission each appointing one member. The Tech Panel among other duties is responsible for review of federal agency transition plans for spectrum relocation or sharing and review of spectrum pipeline plans for research and development, engineering studies, economic activities and other activities intended to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of spectrum use. Other responsibilities include providing direct support to the development of the National Spectrum Strategy (NSS).
“The NSS aims to identify the priority actions the Nation should undertake to increase access to spectrum; ensuring continued U.S. leadership in emerging technologies, advance connectivity and competition, create jobs and lead to improvements to overall quality of life for all Americans,” Ransom said.
In addition to his work on the National Spectrum Strategy, Ransom serves as NTIA’s representative supporting the Memorandum of Agreement between the National Science Foundation (NSF), NTIA, and Federal Communications Commission (FCC). This agreement facilitates collaboration with the NSF to provide support for the NSF Spectrum Innovation Initiative (NSF SII), which includes SpectrumX, an NSF Innovation Center, with which Ransom interacts.
Ransom shared that working with SpectrumX has been an enriching experience for him.
“Through this engagement, I have gained valuable insights and have become more aware of some of the major research topics that academics are pursuing,” Ransom said. “Additionally, working with the education and workforce development component of SpectrumX has highlighted some of the workforce challenges and opportunities we face in the spectrum community and equally important, identified potential solutions to those challenges. In this role, I have been afforded the opportunity to establish important relationships with academics and members of the spectrum community outside the government.”
Ransom is also part of a project team that is responsible for the initial development of NTIA’s Incumbent Informing Capability (IIC). According to Ransom, the IIC is an approach to time-based spectrum sharing where the incumbent user securely shares their planned emission or spectrum usage information with a secondary user, so that the two can efficiently share the spectrum. In this role, he works with colleagues at the NTIA to refine the concept and share it with federal and industry stakeholders, spectrum experts, and Congress.
“In the long-term, we believe the IIC could significantly improve access to spectrum and the efficiency of spectrum use by establishing IIC as a common platform for enabling spectrum sharing and in the nearer term enabling more efficient access to mid-band spectrum, which is the most sought-after spectrum today,” Ransom said.
Paul Ransom, Senior Technical Expert, NTIA, working on the National Spectrum Strategy drafting timeline. Photo provided/Paul Ransom.
Ransom’s advice to students
Ransom’s work with national spectrum initiatives at the NTIA has been quite a journey from his days taking apart his Walkman and studying how they work. As he reflected on his own career, he had some advice for students considering studying electrical engineering and spectrum sciences.
“I would advise students, particularly undergraduate students, to seek out internship or co-op opportunities in your field or even outside of your field, or alternatively work-study programs with faculty on your campus,” Ransom said. “Getting an opportunity to do hands-on work or work in a professional setting is very important.”
Real-world experience can be invaluable to students and recent graduates, as it allows them to apply the theories they’ve learned in the classroom to practical situations. Furthermore, it exposes them to new ideas and problems they may not have encountered otherwise, helping to broaden their knowledge and perspective.
“As wireless technologies continue to expand and evolve, so do the opportunities they present. To ensure that we can fully capitalize on these opportunities, it is essential that we have a skilled and diverse workforce that is capable of supporting and advancing these technologies. With that in mind, I encourage students to explore careers in spectrum,” Ransom said.
Continuing to seek opportunities to increase knowledge in his areas of interest, Ransom has crafted a career path that can be traced from his first curiosities to working to create national policies on spectrum. He encourages students considering studying spectrum science to explore the field’s opportunities.
“Some say wireless technologies will power the fourth industrial revolution, and the radio spectrum is the backbone for wireless technologies,” Ransom said.
SpectrumX is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) as part of its Spectrum Innovation Initiative, under grant number AST 21-32700. SpectrumX is the world’s largest academic hub where all radio spectrum stakeholders can innovate, collaborate, and contribute to maximizing social welfare of this precious resource.
To learn more about SpectrumX, please visit spectrumx.org.
Christina Clark, Research Communications Specialist
SpectrumX / Notre Dame Research / University of Notre Dame
email@example.com / 574.631.2665