President Obama late last week took several steps aimed at helping to free up more spectrum for mobile broadband usage. In a memorandum released publicly, he directed federal agencies to increase their collaboration and data sharing with the private sector, to increase public-private research and development activities, and to take steps to use spectrum more efficiently by, for example, emphasizing spectrum efficiency in government system procurements. These initiatives build on the ConnectED initiative that the president issued earlier this month aimed at bringing 100 Mbps connectivity to most of the nation’s K-12 schools, the White House said in a press release.
According to a report issued late last week by the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Economic Council, the government sees four possible forms of spectrum sharing with commercial users, including:
- Temporal sharing, where one user is authorized to use a band of spectrum in some fixed geographic areas at certain times and another user has access to the same band at other times
- Geographic sharing, where the government designates particular protection zones restricting commercial access to a particular spectrum band in certain areas, such as in the proximity of a military base or federal satellite receiver
- Geolocation/ database-enabled sharing, which enables wireless broadband devices to use vacant spectrum known as “white spaces” in bands that are allocated to other uses when using devices capable of determining where spectrum is vacant.
- Dynamic sensing, which the report describes as technology that “allows networks and devices to react in real time, detecting and moving among a wide range of available spectrum bands in accordance with agreed-upon protocols and priorities”
Broadband status report
The report describing the four spectrum sharing methods is titled “Four Years of Broadband Growth.” The report also highlights accomplishments made during the Obama administration toward furthering broadband deployment but in addition notes where additional progress remains to be made.
On the positive side the report notes, for example, that since 2009 the percentage of American homes reached by high-speed broadband has more than quadrupled – from less than 20% to more than 90% — and average broadband speeds have doubled. The report also highlights accomplishments of the broadband stimulus program.
On the negative side, the report notes that broadband deployment continues to be hampered by the inability of some people to pay for it, by a perceived lack of relevance on the part of some people and by a lack of availability in some rural areas.
The map notes, for example, that in several states, less than 20% of the rural population has access to 25 Mbps speeds and in many others, less than 40% of the rural population has such access.
“Even considering the higher costs often associated with providing broadband in rural areas, limits in availability should not hold back rural populations seeking higher-speed, high quality Internet access,” the report states.
The report stops short of recommending comprehensive solutions to economic, rural or relevancy broadband gaps. Instead it notes that “there are a variety of opportunities to drive the broadband agenda forward, including important priorities like promoting competition, continuing to fuel investment and innovation, and protecting consumers.”
The only such opportunities specifically advocated in the report, however, are ConnectED and the new spectrum sharing directive.