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The federal government hopes to clear 115 MHz of spectrum for commercial use in the next five years, but only 15 MHz of those airwaves are below 3 GHz, according to a National Telecommunications and Information Agency report released last month (pdf).

Three months ago President Barack Obama’s administration asked for a review of government spectrum use as part of a process to free 500 MHz of spectrum for the growing commercial wireless industry.

According to the NTIA’s Fast Track Evaluation, the following frequencies may be freed up:

  • 1695-1710 MHz. The 15 megahertz of spectrum would maintain NOAA’s mission critical functions of weather forecasting and severe storm warnings as well as other uses by a number of Federal agencies.
  • 3550-3650 MHz. It would preserve U.S. Navy coastal operations and other DOD test and training areas.
  • 4200 and 4400 MHz. Two 20 megahertz bands of spectrum might be freed up depending upon international reallocation.

Wireless carriers value spectrum below 3 GHz most, said Scott Bergmann, assistant vice president of regulatory affairs for CTIA, the trade association for commercial wireless carriers. In particular, commercial carriers are interested in the 1755–1780 MHz spectrum that is adjacent to AWS spectrum and aligns with spectrum used in other countries, he said.

“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,” the NTIA report states.

Cellcos want the 1755–1780 band to be paired with 2155–2180 MHz for an extended AWS band. Critics want the 2155–2180 chunk available for municipal wireless.

Ad supported city-wide WiFi never penciled out, but AWS-3 might deliver municipal broadband wireless more cost/effectively, with range similar to WiMAX at lower frequencies. Mobile advertising is expected to explode in the next few years. Cheap or free broadband is exactly what newspapers and magazines NEED to survive.

Who says cellular carriers should have a divine right to the 2155–2180 spectrum?

In its national broadband plan, the FCC is proposing to auction the AWS-3 spectrum auction as part of an effort to free up 500 Mhz of spectrum for commercial wireless broadband. If the FCC was serious about providing broadband for every American, they could auction the spectrum off with a provision for free service.

Related DailyWireless stories include; Free Spectrum for Cities: Fergetaboutit, Verizon: Spectrum Scarcity is Good, The National Broadband Plan, Battle of the Bands, Cellcos: One Thing – Bandwidth, AT&T Can’t Give Away Their Muni WiFi Net, FCC: Free Broadband at 2155-2180 MHz, Free Internet Access Proposed by FCC, FCC: 2150 MHz, No Problem, CellCos to Martin: Sit Down and Shut Up, FCC: Free Broadband at 2155-2180 MHz, MXtv Makes Its Move, Free 2155-2175 MHz!, The Free Triple Play, How to Fix Muni Wi-Fi, D-Block: It’s Done, Congress Pays, and AWS: It’s Done.

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