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U.S. Identifies New Spectrum Band, Allocations for Global Telecom Meeting

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

By Daniel Pruzin  

GENEVA—The United States will seek to prevent any attempt to exclude discussions on the allocation of possible new spectrum bands for broadband mobile services at a global marathon meeting of telecommunications regulators which kicked off in Geneva Jan. 23.

Briefing reporters on U.S. priorities for the meeting Jan. 23, Decker Anstrom, head of the U.S. delegation to the 2012 World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-12), said addressing the spectrum crunch for the next generation of mobile broadband services will be a high priority for the United States at the four-week quadrennial meeting hosted by the United Nations’ International Telecommunications Union.

While no decisions on spectrum allocation are expected to be made at WRC-12, the current meeting will set the stage for technical work on the issue over the next three and a half years, culminating in decisions on allocation being made at the next WRC in late 2015.

“Our priority objective for WRC-12 is to set the framework for the important debate which will take place between now and WRC 2015 about how to allocate more spectrum for mobile broadband services,”Anstrom said. “This is a pressing need in the United States, and we find it’s a pressing demand by many other administrations across the globe.”

“Our fundamental objective here is to ensure that the studies that will move forward over the next four years look at all possible options, and that no bands are excluded from the studies that will take place over the next four years,” he added.

Lawrence Strickling, assistant secretary for communications and information at the Department of Commerce, said the exponential demand for spectrum underlined the need for creative responses.

“We’re reaching the point where the idea of actually clearing bands of existing users and then making them available for the exclusive use of the commercial industry is becoming less and less of an option,”Strickling said. “And we’re heading for an environment where wireless broadband is going to need to coexist in the same bands with other operations.”

“This type of environment will raise technical issues which are going to require careful study to develop innovative spectrum sharing arrangements,” he added.

Several Proposals Already Made.

Anstrom noted that several proposals have already been made aimed at removing certain spectrum bands from future discussion.

“There’s one specific proposal that comes from the Russian Federation in which they would like bands only looked at below 3 gigahertz in terms of their review—that’s their preliminary recommendation on this,” he said. “There are other suggestions that certain frequencies used for C-band satellite should not be looked at during this process. There will be a discussion about whether some of those limitations should ultimately be part of the final study resolution or not.”

The C-band is primarily used for open satellite communications.

“The United States believes that with the coming spectrum crunch, given the growth of mobile broadband, that we need to look at other bands, either for outright allocation for mobile or for sharing with mobile services,” Anstrom continued. “And our view would be that every band that technologically might be possible for meeting that need should be looked at and studied.”

Julius Genachowski, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, noted the increasing squeeze new smartphones and other communications tools were putting on spectrum demand.

In 2011 an estimated 500 million smart phone devices were sold, with around 1 billion smart phone subscribers globally, Genachowski said. By 2015, that number “will be at least double,” with some industry estimates putting the number of smart phone subscribers at 5 billion.

“An averagely used smart phone places a demand on spectrum that’s 24 times more than the feature phones that preceded it,” Genachowski said. “Tablets place a demand on spectrum that’s about 120 times more.”

“So the efforts to improve the efficient use of spectrum and to free up more spectrum for mobile broadband and look at a new generation of innovative policies such as spectrum sharing are incredibly important,”Genachowski continued. “In both the United States and in the rest of the world, we risk losing out on enormous economic and social opportunities.”

Other Issues on U.S. Agenda.

Other issues identified by the U.S. delegation as priorities for the United States at WRC-12 include:

  • establishment of a framework for the evolution of unmanned aircraft systems. The civilian applications of this “represent significant new and exciting opportunities,”Anstrom said, ranging from work in Japan on studying and analyzing nuclear disaster sites to flying into severe weather situations to determine the course of a storm;
  • the transition from analog to digital technology for maritime communications;
  • new opportunities for new earth-space exploration which will set the stage for the next generation of post-shuttle space research for both manned and robotic flight;
  • an extensive WRC-12 agenda related to management and regulation of satellite arc.

On the last item, Anstrom identified three priorities for the United States:

  • making the international registration processes for satellites more effective and transparent;
  • preserving member state’s rights with respect to the operation of their frequency assignments; and
  • improving the quality and transparency of the master satellite registry.

Genachowski said the United States would also be promoting a new initiative dubbed “incentive auctions.” This would be a new mechanism to reallocate spectrum from older uses to newer uses based on the auctioning and licensing of mobile spectrum.

“It’s a new policy innovation we hope and expect will become part of toolkit for addressing spectrum challenge,” he declared. “We’re glad see other countries in Europe, Asia-Pacific and elsewhere have made similar proposals.”

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