TR Daily Experts Cite Benefits of National Spectrum Strategy
Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Experts Cite Benefits of National Spectrum Strategy

Representatives of several federal government agencies said today that they are looking forward to the release of the Trump administration’s national spectrum strategy, adding that it will help facilitate progress in how bands are managed and utilized. Government and industry spectrum experts said that while progress has been made in managing frequencies, much more can be accomplished, including through closer collaboration and the deployment of automated and other technologies.

The views were expressed this morning at a spectrum policy symposium organized by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

While the national spectrum strategy called for in a 2018 memorandum signed by President Trump (TR Daily, Oct. 25, 2018) had to be completed in July, it is not expected to be released until “later this fall,” Deputy Commerce Secretary Karen Dunn Kelley told today’s gathering.

The strategy is in the “final stages of review,” an administration official told TR Daily recently.

In her remarks opening today’s event, Ms. Kelley stressed the importance of a national spectrum strategy and what officials hope it will accomplish.

“The strategy will clarify our long-term approach that incorporates planning, innovation, and collaboration with many of the agencies in attendance today. And it will detail a path for realizing the President’s vision of a long-term spectrum infrastructure that sustains American technological dominance,” Ms. Kelley said in the text of her remarks.

She stressed the importance of (1) ensuring that there is enough spectrum to meet the demand for 5G deployment; (2) accelerating efforts so the U.S. leads the world in space commerce, including by simplifying the “regulatory and spectrum environment” and ensuring that the satellite industry has adequate frequencies; and (3) protecting spectrum that federal agencies need, including for military and scientific uses.

Ms. Kelley emphasized the need to “take a comprehensive, whole-of-government view on how to use spectrum and how to best unleash the power of spectrum-based technologies for the private sector.” Such an approach should include the need for “balance” and a long-term, comprehensive stance, she said, adding that collaboration among the federal government and the private sector is also key.

Charles Cooper, associate administrator of NTIA’s Office of Spectrum Management, cited steps that NTIA has taken as a result of last year’s presidential spectrum memo, including releasing the first annual report last week on the federal government’s spectrum repurposing efforts (TR Daily, Sept. 3).

“The report shows that the federal government has made significant efforts to respond to industry’s call for greater spectrum access. It documents repurposing activities in 37 different spectrum bands, from those as low as 512 MHz and up to 246 GHz,” he said in the text of his remarks. “Through a concerted effort, across government, more than 5,800 megahertz of spectrum has been made available to be used for licensed terrestrial wireless services, including 5G. … A further 7,250 megahertz of potential licensed spectrum is under study or active consideration for repurposing. There is a similar story for unlicensed spectrum. More than 14,000 megahertz of spectrum has been made available for unlicensed usage, across low, mid and high-band ranges, with an additional 1,200 megahertz being considered. Our report shows that we’ve made some significant accomplishments, and that we’re well prepared to continue our efforts.”

“Earlier this year, in response to a directive in the presidential memo, the federal agencies sent reports on their future spectrum requirements. We are in the process of preparing a summary of those reports,” Mr. Cooper added. “For current usage, we sent out a package of guidance documents instructing the federal agencies to begin reviewing their current spectrum usage. We asked the agencies to provide more detail than ever before, beginning with the 3100-3550 MHz and 7125-8400 MHz bands. Additional bands will be added on a rolling basis as our capacity for these reviews increases and accelerates.”

“Looking forward, we will continue to put the President’s spectrum policy approach into action. We are gearing up to implement the National Spectrum Strategy once it is released,” Mr. Cooper said. “We already have begun generating discussions with the leaders of the newly reconstituted Commerce Spectrum Management Advisory Committee (CSMAC) regarding implementation matters. Other aspects of the Strategy, and the broader implementation of the PM, will be taken up by the Policy and Plans Steering Group (PPSG) and the Interdepartment Radio Advisory Committee (IRAC), which are our primary venues for consultation and governance in the interagency spectrum community.”

The next meeting of the CSMAC is scheduled for Oct. 1, Derek Khlopin, a senior adviser at NTIA, said at today’s event.

Mr. Cooper said that NTIA also plans to release requests for comments (RFC) on (1) federal spectrum incentives, and (2) whether agencies can lease spectrum to entities for non-federal purposes.

“The incentives RFC will inform a report that NTIA must submit to Congress, under the MOBILE NOW Act, on incentives for sharing or reallocating federal spectrum. That report is due next March,” Mr. Cooper noted. “The spectrum leasing concept is one that NTIA has included in past budget proposals, and we continue to believe that it is worthy of exploration.”

Experts said during two panel discussions at today’s event that the national spectrum strategy will lead to useful mechanisms and activities, including more automation and research and development, that will further facilitate spectrum sharing.

“We are huge advocates of sharing spectrum,” said Col. Frederick Williams, director-spectrum policy and programs in the Department of Defense’s Office of the Chief Information Officer. “We have to figure out how to share spectrum – and we mean all of it.”

He also stressed the benefits of spectrum R&D and said DoD plans to share with NTIA “some frameworks” for sharing.

René (RJ) Balanga, senior regulatory & policy adviser at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, said automation can help resolve conflicts between different spectrum systems. He also said that NASA will have increased spectrum needs due to human and robotics space operations and said the agency wants to work with NTIA and the FCC to define spectral issues for consideration in international fora. Mr. Balanga also said that NASA plans to hold a space spectrum symposium next year.

Ian Atkins, director-spectrum strategy and policy at the Federal Aviation Administration, said the FAA’s spectrum needs will actually decrease as it transitions to newer systems. He also noted that most unmanned aircraft pilot programs use commercial spectrum for command and control and data links, which he said has “taken a huge load off” aviation spectrum.

Mr. Atkins expressed hope that the national spectrum strategy will lead to “a rationalization of process” that will make it easier for stakeholders to use spectral resources and possibly “gap funding” once new spectral solutions are identified.

However, spectrum sharing should not occur if it would lead to harmful interference to safety-of-life systems, according to agency representatives.

Karen Van Dyke, director of the Office of PNT and Spectrum Management at the Department of Transportation, said that the FCC should ensure that autonomous vehicle and vehicle-to-everything applications in the 5.9 gigahertz band are protected from interference from unlicensed devices.

She cited the need for “regulatory certainty” in the 5.9 GHz band to ensure investment in road safety applications. She also said that while DoT is “technology neutral,” “we’re not performance neutral.” She also said that GPS must be protected from interference.

Regarding complaints of the potential for 24 GHz band interference to passive weather systems in the 23 GHz band, Mr. Balanga said that “sharing opportunities” exist, but he added that “we just have to get it right” to ensure there is not interference.

Two industry panelists, Hank Hultquist, vice president-federal regulatory for AT&T, Inc., and Dean Brenner, senior vice president-spectrum strategy & technology policy for Qualcomm, Inc., expressed hope that a solution has been reached ahead of this year’s World Radiocommunication Conference to address the 24 GHz band issue.

Mr. Brenner also touted the potential benefits of cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X) technology over dedicated short-range communications (DSRC) technology in the 5.9 GHz band and noted that the FCC has to change its rules for C-V2X to operate.

Meanwhile, Chris Szymanski, director-product marketing and government affairs for the Wireless Connectivity Combo Division of Broadcom, Inc., expressed confidence that unlicensed operations in the 6 GHz band could be possible without causing harmful interference to utilities or other incumbents.

But AT&T is not “comfortable across the board” that such interference can be avoided or effectively mitigated if it occurred, Mr. Hultquist said.

David Goldman, director-satellite policy for SpaceX, stressed the importance to his company of spectrum coordination being “global.” He also said that regulators should roll out new rules in one band before expanding them to other spectrum. For example, he said, the FCC adopted rules for the 28 GHz band and then used them for the 37-51 GHz band before seeing whether they needed to be modified.

Mr. Goldman also emphasized that rules and policies should enable innovation and new entrants to use frequencies. He also suggested procedures should be modified to make it easier to launch rockets carrying satellites. SpaceX uses federal spectrum for such purposes, and Mr. Goldman said the company’s federal partners are very cooperative. But he said, “The system is a little cumbersome … and probably could be streamlined a little bit.” —Paul Kirby, [email protected]

MainStory: NTIA FederalNews FCC SpectrumAllocation WirelessDeployment

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