Imagine your life without the Internet. What connections to people would you lose? To the things you love? To vital information about your community? 34 million people in the U.S. — 10% of the country’s population — lack access to quality Internet connectivity, a number that jumps to 39% in rural communities and 41% on Tribal lands. When disasters strike, these staggering statistics are compounded: millions more can lose vital connectivity right when it’s needed most.

We are seeking solutions to connect the unconnected. The Wireless Innovation for a Networked Society (WINS) Challenges, run by Mozilla and sponsored by the National Science Foundation, seek practical, new wireless solutions that will help connect people to the Internet in challenging circumstances: after a disaster or in areas without sufficient connectivity. We’re seeking wireless technology innovations that will make the Internet more accessible, resilient, and healthier.

A total of $2 million in prize money is available for U.S.-based entrants to one of two separate challenges:

Off-The-Grid Internet Challenge: Wireless solutions for communication that can be rapidly deployed in post-disaster situations where Internet access is unavailable or compromised.

Smart-Community Networks Challenge: Wireless solutions for communication that can be built on top of existing infrastructure to enhance Internet connectivity in communities that need greater access.

The NSF-WINS Challenges will not only identify a broad set of wireless technology solutions to increase access to the Internet, but will also broaden the dialogue around access in the United States, grow the community of problem solvers and innovators working on these issues and strengthen the network of people working toward a healthier Internet.



Each Challenge consists of two stages: a Design Concept Stage (Stage 1) and a Working Prototype Stage (Stage 2). Entrants who successfully meet the Design Concept Stage (Stage 1) judging criteria will be invited to compete in the Working Prototype Stage (Stage 2).

Before submitting an application, all entrants must submit an Intent to Apply form. Intent to Apply submissions will be accepted through October, 15 2017.

Stage 1 Design Concept submissions will be accepted through November 15, 2017. Prizes and entrants eligible to compete in Stage 2 will be announced in January 2018.

Stage 2 Working Prototype submissions will be accepted through June 22, 2018. Prizes will be announced in or around August 2018. Finalists during the Working Prototype Stage may be required to provide live demos for judges and/or a public audience at a Challenges Showcase in Summer 2018.

Design Concept Stage (Stage 1)

Submissions to the Design Concept Stage should be ideas that have been rigorously researched and outline how the proposed solution would be constructed.

Exceptional Design Concepts will be recognized with awards ranging from $10,000 to $60,000.

Design Concept Stage Prizes:
$60,000 – First Place
$40,000 - Second Place
$30,000 - Third Place
$10,000 - 7 Honorable Mention Awards

Documentation might include:
+ Mockups and wireframes
+ Hardware and network diagrams
+ Written documentation

Working Prototype Stage (Stage 2)

Submissions to the Working Prototype Stage should provide proof of the working prototype’s capabilities.

Exceptional Working Prototypes will be recognized with awards ranging from $50,000 to $400,000.

Working Prototype Prizes:
$400,000 – First Place
$250,000 – Second Place
$100,000 – Third Place
$50,000 - Fourth Place

Documentation might include:
+ Network test data
+ Video demos
+ Photographic documentation
+ Software code
+ Hardware schematics

The NSF WINS Challenges are open to all U.S.-based entrants, including non-profit and for-profit organizations and individuals aged 18 and over. For full details on entrant eligibility, please see the rules and regulations.

Judging Criteria

Design concepts and prototypes will be judged by a panel of experts from academic, nonprofit and for-profit organizations working in the fields of research, technology and community engagement.

All submissions to both challenges will be judged based on the following criteria:

Technical Feasibility: How feasible are the ideas presented? What are the technical capabilities of the idea or prototype?

Differentiation: How does the proposed solution differ from or improve upon existing solutions? What is innovative or novel about the proposed concept or technology?

Affordability: How affordably could the idea/prototype be implemented in a real community?

Social Impact: How well tailored is the idea or prototype to the needs of the community and users for which it is designed? How will the design of the idea/prototype help engage community members in order to maximize utilization?

Scalability: How will the idea or prototype be adaptable to broader communities or areas? How scalable is the project? How will the idea or prototype provide tools and documentation to anyone who might wish to build upon it or launch a similar effort?

Additional Criteria for Off-the-Grid Internet Challenge:

Portability: How portable is the solution?
Power: Can the solution be powered, for hours or days, by a portable power source?
Access: How many users can the solution support and at what distances?
Applications: What apps does the solution provide access to? Are the apps designed in a way that maximizes usability for the intended users?

Additional Criteria for Smart Community Networks Challenge:

Density: How many simultaneous users can the solution support within one square city block?
Range: Over what distance can the solution provide network coverage?
Bandwidth: What download and upload speeds can the solution support for all concurrent users? Are these access speeds robust enough to support two-way video conversations for users?
Network Footprint: How well does the network utilize a minimal physical footprint and make efficient use of existing infrastructure?
Security and Privacy: Does the network provide secure access for users and respect user privacy?
Access: Does the network provide access to the whole Internet?

How to Submit

The NSF WINS application cycle is now open; please see the Application Guide for detailed information on how to apply.

NSF WINS Challenges entrants must submit documentation outlining their concepts, prototypes, associated designs, states of operation and technical capabilities.

Mozilla will publicly post the titles, teams, and descriptions of winning submissions, and winners of the Working Prototype Stage (Stage 2) will be expected to share their submissions - including general explanations of how their submissions work and advance the field - at a closing Challenges showcase in Summer 2018. All entrants are strongly encouraged to host their documentation publicly and to openly license their solutions (via GitHub or equivalent) to enable others to learn and benefit from the project.

Please see the getting started guide for links to resources that may be useful.


For answers to questions not listed here, please visit our Discourse forum or email

Download the application guide and begin your application now.
Intent to Apply Form