Commerce Committee Requests Data From NTIA on Federal-Controlled Spectrum

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By Paul Barbagallo  

A House Energy and Commerce Committee working group sent a letter to the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration July 10 requesting more information about the spectrum currently assigned to the federal government.

“The U.S. government is the single largest spectrum user in the country,” the working group wrote. “Finding more efficient ways for the government to use this valuable public asset without compromising critical objectives would not only produce dividends for government agencies, but also inject additional resources into the private sector to spur our economy.”

Seeking Available Spectrum.

Under a presidential executive order issued in June 2010, the NTIA and FCC must make available for auction some 500 MHz of spectrum for mobile broadband applications by 2020.

The NTIA, which manages the government's use of spectrum, has identified 115 MHz in the 3550-3650 MHz and the 1695-1710 MHz bands.

For the FCC's part, an additional 120 MHz of spectrum being sought from television broadcasters through “voluntary incentive auctions” would increase the amount available for mobile devices capable of browsing the internet at high speeds by about 22 percent, to 667 megahertz. The NTIA, however, still must free an additional 380 MHz by 2020.

In a March 2012 report, the NTIA concluded that it is possible to reallocate the entire 1755-1850 MHz band for either exclusive or shared use by commercial companies, but the amount that could be made available exclusively is still unclear.

Many federal agencies use their spectrum sporadically which, according to some, creates an opportunity for mobile network operator use during idle periods.

Spectrum Reallocation.

Reallocating the 1755-1850 MHz band for commercial use will be a complex task not for the NTIA and agencies throughout the federal government. Most of the 3,300 federal assignments within the band are licensed for point-to-point fixed microwave use by the departments of Energy and Homeland Security, and the Federal Aviation Administration. The Department of Defense also makes use of the spectrum for military satellites, precision-guided munitions training, and unmanned aerial vehicles.

The committee working group, in its letter, requested the exact number of spectrum authorizations each federal user held in 2011, and the amount of spectrum assigned to each federal user.

The working group's letter is online at

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