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DOD Concerns

Top Federal Officials Say National Spectrum Strategy in the Works

Top government speakers promised on Monday the U.S. government is moving forward on a long-awaited national spectrum strategy. But a top DOD official at NTIA’s Spectrum Policy Symposium warned federal users also have strong continuing needs, and clearing 3.1-3.45 GHz, a top candidate band for 5G, would be prohibitively expensive.

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Given the rate of innovation … having a national spectrum strategy and having the most efficient use of spectrum is more vital than it ever has been,” said Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo: “Get in the weeds of this. Get it right.” Everything Commerce does is “aimed at enhancing America’s ability to compete in the world,” she said. “The work of NTIA fits in perfectly with that,” she said: “Unlike chips where we can just make more, you can’t do that with spectrum -- it’s a finite, precious resource.”

We need to free up more spectrum to unleash innovation,” Raimondo said. Spectrum is critical to competition with China, she said: “The real answer is running faster in America. Investing in our capacity matters more, and spectrum is vital to that.”

DOD has already freed significant amounts of spectrum for industry, said John Sherman, DOD chief information officer, who noted the current focus on 3.1-3.45 GHz. “Our equities” in that band “are critical for national security,” he said. Many land-, air- and sea-based radars are in the band, he said. “Sharing in this spectrum space must be our watchword,” he said. “For us to have to vacate this part of the spectrum would be absolutely untenable. … It would take us two decades and hundreds of billions of dollars to move out of the space.”

China is a top challenge for the U.S., Sherman said. “They’re challenging us in many spaces, not just with defense and military, but in economics, technology, spectrum … and we all better be able to rise to the challenge,” he said.

The U.S. is “the leader in deployment and adoption of advanced spectrum technologies in the private sector and by federal agencies -- we need to maintain that leadership,” said NTIA Administrator Alan Davidson. “We also need to support the missions of federal users,” he said. Davidson said one of his first focuses as administrator was improving coordination.

It’s widely understood now, within the federal government, that we need a national spectrum strategy that will meet the moment, serve the needs of both the private sector and the federal government,” Davidson said. The government needs advice from all stakeholders, with efforts to play out in coming months, he said. “The spectrum strategy is going to be a very big part of our agenda going forward,” he said.

Smarter Sharing

Work continues on incumbent informing capability, a new and sophisticated sharing technology that uses AI and machine learning (see 2110220024), Davidson said. “The key concept is that we replace the environmental sensors that detect incumbent use with software-based scheduling by incumbents for time and location,” he said. “We think there’s a lot of promise … in making sharing more reliable,” he said.

“Repurposing spectrum is not for the faint of heart,” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “The tools we have to do it are restrained by law, limited by physics, and the relocation of existing users can be challenging,” she said: “Yet we forge on. … When the going gets tough we get creative.”

Rosenworcel stressed the importance of reauthorizing the FCC’s auction authority, set to expire at the end of this month. “This is important,” she said. Rosenworcel also said she will ask for a vote in October on repurposing spectrum in 12.7-13.25 GHz range for next-generation wireless. The band is immediately adjacent to 12.2-12.7 GHz, which has been the focus of recent attention (see 2209020052). The FCC imposed a 180-day freeze Monday on new or modified license authorizations in that part of the band.

We need a national spectrum strategy because we need to plan for the United States to continue to lead the world in wireless,” said Umair Javed, a Rosenworcel aide. “We have to rethink what the future looks like,” he said.

Many of the Biden administration’s policy priorities “require us to get our spectrum resources lined up and in the places that we want them,” said Austin Bonner, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy assistant director-spectrum and telecom policy. “Scarcity is happening because so many federal agencies, so many people in the industry and academia and state, local, tribal and territorial governments … have developed wireless technologies that make our lives better,” she said: “We have a good problem that we have so many great things we need to balance.”

Federal agencies like the FAA need a national strategy, said James Linney, FAA director-operations support. “We think of the national aerospace system in 20- to 30-year windows,” he said: “We have a road map that we’re trying to follow. Without the spectrum strategy we’re really laying out the roadmap assuming nothing is changing around it, and the world is changing.”

As a science agency, I’m looking forward to us getting the resources … to be able to participate in the research to find ways to be more efficient in sensing,” said Zach Goldstein, NOAA chief information officer. “We have to be realistic about what we can do now,” he said. Like other agencies, NOAA needs more bandwidth, he said: “We’re buying observations from the commercial sector, so the commercial space sector is going to need more bandwidth for their own uses but also for our passive-remote sensing uses.”

We commend” Rosenworcel “for identifying commercial spectrum that could be reallocated for future wireless use,” CTIA President Meredith Baker said in an email: “It is important to evaluate spectrum in the 7-16 GHz range as we also work to address commercial access to key bands in the 3-7 GHz range. Two-thirds of key mid-band spectrum is controlled by the government, which is why Congressional action on a future pipeline is so key to ensure a truly balanced spectrum framework.”