Washington plans overhaul of wireless spectrum allocation

One person's garbage band is another person's treasure, right Citizen’s Broadband Radio Service?

The US government has drafted a blueprint to change the way wireless spectrum is managed in a bid to maximize available resources. This includes identifying wireless frequencies that may be repurposed for new uses.

President Biden yesterday signed off a memorandum on modernizing US spectrum policy and establishing a National Spectrum Strategy, with the goal of improving management of wireless frequency bands to ensure the public and private sectors have access to the spectrum to deliver services.

Spectrum is a limited resource...

In a statement, the White House said the move is to ensure “the US uses spectrum policy as a critical lever to retain global leadership in wireless technology,” by helping to create an ecosystem of equipment, products, and applications and a “virtuous cycle of innovation.”

The Strategy was developed by the National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA), an agency within the Department of Commerce, working with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

“Spectrum is a limited resource,” said Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo.

According to the White House, the strategy itself is based on four pillars of “essential actions” to be taken.

The first is a study of 2,786 megahertz of spectrum for potential repurposing, which is to be completed within two years. This will consider five band: 3.1-3.45 GHz, 5.03-5.091 GHz, 7.125-8.4 GHz, 18.1-18.6 GHz, and 37.0-37.6 GHz. These might support a range of uses, including wireless broadband, drones, and satellite operations.

The second pillar covers collaborative long-term planning regarding spectrum allocation. It calls for broad-based industry input and transparent processes. The aim is to incorporate feedback of industry stakeholders, federal agencies, and advisory groups in spectrum allocation decisions, the White House said.

The third is to encourage new technologies and techniques such as spectrum sharing in order to make the most efficient use of the available wireless frequencies, including a National Spectrum Research and Development (R&D) Plan to be developed by the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

Finally, the fourth pillar is to develop workforce skills to meet future operational, technical and policy roles in the spectrum ecosystem, as well as educate policymakers and the public about the importance of wireless spectrum.

Freeing up spectrum is one thing, but deciding what to do with it could prove trickier, as vested interests will seek to have spectrum allocated for whatever their particular priority is, whether that is licensing it to private corporations or making it available for unlicensed use.

“Freeing up unused spectrum will help meet the demand for more connectivity, but a good portion of that spectrum should be made unlicensed for private enterprises to use,” Tony Eigen, veep of marketing at cellular technology biz Baicells told us, claiming that Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) in the US has already shown the value of having bandwidth for private networks to connect communities, schools and businesses. CBRS refers to shared wireless spectrum in the 3.5GHz band in the US that can be used for private LTE and 5G networks.

Washington’s announcement also comes just ahead of the ITU World Radiocommunication Conference 2023 (WRC-23) in Dubai, where national regulators and industry bodies will meet to discuss any changes to international regulations covering radio frequency spectrum. ®

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