The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), today announced its finding that 95 megahertz (MHz) of prime spectrum could be repurposed for wireless broadband. Working with federal agencies, the NTIA evaluated the potential of the 1755–1850 MHz band to accommodate commercial wireless broadband service.
In the report issued today (pdf), the NTIA proposed spectrum sharing between federal and non-federal users. Spectrum identified by NTIA sits directly next the AWS band, which could make it especially attractive to carriers. The 1755-1850 MHz band is the last contiguous block of federal airwaves below 3 gigahertz.
AT&T Mobility released a statement praising the report; AT&T has been continuously clamoring for more spectrum, especially after its failed $39 billion bid to acquire T-Mobile USA.
Tom Tauke, Verizon executive vice president for public affairs, said: “While the report appropriately indicates that there will be hurdles and limitations in repurposing the 1755-1850 megahertz band for commercial use, its focus on achieving that objective is very encouraging. The key to continued innovation and growth in the wireless industry is the government’s commitment to ensuring that sufficient spectrum is available to meet the expanding needs of consumers.”
CTIA President and CEO Steve Largent said the immediate focus should be on the 1755MHz-1780MHz band. “We will be significantly concerned, if NTIA’s efforts to clear the 1755MHz-1780MHz portion of the band remain in limbo until relocation of all of the operations in the entire 1755MHz-1850MHz band can be completed.”
The 1755 MHz to 1780 MHz could be paired with unused AWS spectrum in the 2150 MHz band. But spectrum from 2155 to 2180 might also be used to provide unpaired spectrum for dedicated municipal wireless networks. One company, M2Z proposed to use that unused band to provide free nationwide broadband. Its proposal was nixed by the FCC due to fairness issues. The CTIA called M2Z’s plan a “self-serving attempt to gain access to valuable spectrum outside of the auction process (pdf).”
Internationally, the 1755-1850 MHz band falls in the 1710-1930 MHz band allocated on a primary basis mostly to cellular providers in all three International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Regions. In the United States, the 1755-1850 MHz band is allocated on an exclusive basis to the federal government. Phones that work overseas can’t use the 1755-1850 MHz band in the United States.
The U.S. AWS bands, auctioned in the summer of 2006, uses 1710-1755 MHz and 2110-2155 MHz and consist of six frequency blocks, either 2×10 MHz or 2×5 MHz channels. Currently T-Mobile, Cricket Wireless, MetroPCS and (perhaps) Verizon will use those frequencies.
The NTIA’s analysis shows it is possible to repurpose all 95 MHz of spectrum for commercial wireless broadband. But several challenges need to be overcome before a formal recommendation to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is made. Over 20 federal agencies currently hold more than 3,100 individual frequency assignments in this band, including law enforcement surveillance, military tactical communications, air combat training, and precision-guided munitions. Moving those transmitters would cost billions.
The new report is a follow-up to an NTIA report released in November 2010 that identified an additional, separate 115 MHz of spectrum now currently in the hands of the federal government that could be used for wireless broadband. Of the 115 MHz the Commerce Department agency identified, 100 MHz would be shared with Department of Defense radar systems and 15 MHz is now being used by weather satellites.
In its national broadband plan, the FCC is proposing free up some 300 MHz spectrum for auctioning as part of an effort to eventually free up 500 Mhz of spectrum for commercial wireless broadband.
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.