Here’s the executive summary of a plan by the NTIA to free up 500 MHz of spectrum for wireless broadband. The FCC is currently working with a plan to free up 120 MHz of spectrum in the TV broadcast spectrum:
To promote economic growth and unleash the potential of wireless broadband, President Obama unveiled an initiative to reform spectrum policy and improve America’s wireless infrastructure. In June 2010, the President signed a Memorandum calling for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), in collaboration with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), to make 500 megahertz of spectrum available for fixed and mobile wireless broadband in the next ten years. This will improve America’s economic competiveness, create jobs and help maintain America’s leadership role in technological innovation. This report outlines the plans and milestones to achieve the President’s 500 megahertz goal. The release of this roadmap together with NTIA’s Fast Track Evaluation marks the successful completion of a critical step in the process of freeing up 500 megahertz for use by wireless broadband.
Included in this report are innovative mechanisms to ensure the successful implementation of the President’s spectrum plan. The report:
- Identifies over 2200 megahertz of Federal and non-Federal spectrum that NTIA and the FCC consider prospects for repurposing for broadband use.
- Sets an aggressive timetable to make available 500 megahertz of spectrum through government coordination.
- Calls for new incentives, including funding agencies for all planning expenses necessary to develop alternatives for legacy assignments of spectrum and provisioning a portion of the proceeds from spectrum auctions to purchase new equipment.
Further, as detailed in the companion Fast Track Evaluation, NTIA has already made substantial progress in identifying spectrum that can be freed up for new uses by:
- Making available 15 megahertz of spectrum (specifically 1695-1710 MHz) while protecting, by the use of exclusion zones, NOAA's mission critical functions of weather forecasting and severe storm warnings as well as other uses by a number of Federal agencies.
- Freeing 100 megahertz of spectrum between 3550-3650 MHz while protecting, by the use of exclusion zones, U.S. Navy coastal operations and other Department of Defense test and training areas.
- Identifying two 20 megahertz bands of spectrum (40 megahertz within 4200 and 4400 MHz) that might be freed up depending upon international reallocation and further study to determine whether radio altimeters actually operate in the 40 megahertz being considered.
Although there was not sufficient time to complete the analysis of the band within the timeframe of the Fast Track Evaluation, the 1755-1780 MHz band will continue to be a priority for analysis under this Plan and Timetable because it is harmonized internationally for mobile operations, wireless equipment already exists and the band provides signal characteristics advantageous to mobile operations.
Link: NTIA U.S. Dept. of Commerce. (pdf)
Harold Feld from the group, Public Knowledge, provides some interesting analysis, including this:
While none of the recommendations should come as a surprise to anyone who follows spectrum policy, it rather dashes the hope of anyone who thinks that we can rely on a single method — such as auctions — to get there. ¶ Why? Well, turns out the federal government is not sitting on a boatload of unused spectrum. At best, there are federal users that — with investment of money and significant planning — could migrate over time to more efficient technologies and/or uses. What federal spectrum that is available in the short term will require geographic “exclusion zones” to protect existing federal operations and, by and large, is not in particularly “good” spectrum for delivering mobile broadband in ways that existing wireless carriers could easily (relatively speaking) integrate into their operations. So even if we have an auction, it won’t raise squindoodles of money.
Link: Public Knowledge.
Spectrum decisions are normally long-term ones, but Jerry Brito makes a good point about how priorities can change over time:
The incentive auctions and secondary market rules the FCC will consider steps in the right direction. But once the spectrum is released from the grasp of old and inefficient technology, we should make sure we don’t make the same mistake again. Television and radio were the most important technologies in the world at one point, which is why they were given so much spectrum by government. Today it’s mobile broadband, and that’s where we want the spectrum to go. But let’s be careful we don’t earmark the spectrum in any way so that fifty years from now we find that we have a spectrum crunch for teleportation because it’s in the hands of broadband.
Link: Technology Liberation Front.
Thanks to Ron Economos for the tip on the OpenDTV list. --Dennis