Mobile Spectrum to a Smartphone

The NTIA said today that it will coordinate a multi-agency effort to study 2700 MHz of spectrum in five bands with the goal of making more spectrum available for possible commercial and governmental use. The agencies also will study several other bands for possible longer-term use.

“Spectrum is one of our most vital and scarce resources,” NTIA Administrator Alan Davidson told reporters in a pre-briefing about what the agency is calling a “National Spectrum Strategy.”

That strategy, Davidson said, “will help meet our nation’s spectrum needs, [encourage] innovation, and build economic and national security for years to come.”

As part of that strategy, President Biden is issuing a presidential memorandum that directs NTIA to spearhead the spectrum strategy initiative and directs other agencies, including the FCC, to ensure that spectrum policy is coordinated and consistent.

The FCC traditionally has been heavily involved in spectrum study and is expected to play a vital role in implementing that strategy. NTIA is part of the executive branch of the federal government and, therefore, is under the most direct control by the president.

The Five Spectrum Bands

NTIA anticipates that new users will need to share spectrum with incumbent users and has set a goal for the U.S. government to “advance research, create investment incentives, and set forth measurable goals to advance spectrum technology” within 12-18 months.

Plans include establishing a national testbed for dynamic spectrum sharing within 12-18 months.

The bands that NTIA plans to study initially and that it is eyeing for the soonest shared use include:

  • Lower 3 GHz (3.1-3.45 GHz) Currently in the hands of the Department of Defense. Includes 350 MHz of spectrum
  • 5030-5091 MHz Would require coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration. Includes 61 MHz of spectrum
  • 7125-8400 MHz Would require coordination with fixed, fixed satellite, mobile, mobile satellite, space research, earth exploration satellite and meteorological satellite services. Includes 1,275 MHz of spectrum
  • 18.1-18.6 GHz Will be studied for expanded federal and non-federal satellite operations. Currently used for fixed satellite service downlink and non-federal fixed service in the 18.1-18.3 GHz portion of the band. Includes 500 MHz of spectrum
  • 37-37.6 GHz Has already been studied by NTIA, DoD and the FCC. Would be further studied for a co-equal, shared-use framework that would allow federal and non-federal users to use the band. Includes 600 MHz of spectrum  

Four Pillars

The near-term spectrum pipeline plans outlined above are one of four pillars that Davidson outlined for the National Spectrum Strategy. The other three are:

  • Collaborative long-term planning involving five additional spectrum bands
  • Spectrum Innovation, access and management through technology development (an effort that includes the spectrum sharing testbed referenced earlier in this post)
  • Expanded spectrum expertise and elevated national awareness. This would involve growing the ranks of technologists versed in spectrum sharing and other spectrum issues

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