NTIA Urges FCC to Weigh Spectrum Relocation Effort as Part of New Wi-Fi Push

Keep up with the latest developments and legal issues in the telecommunications and emerging technology sectors, with exclusive access to a comprehensive collection of telecommunications law news,...

By Paul Barbagallo  

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration is urging the Federal Communications Commission to heed ongoing efforts by the agency to relocate federal users to new spectrum bands before embarking on a new Wi-Fi initiative.

The FCC is set to propose rules Feb. 20 that would allow unlicensed devices to operate in 5 gigahertz-band spectrum on a shared basis, providing any interference issues can be resolved. It would be the first step toward freeing up as much as 195 megahertz of spectrum for unlicensed Wi-Fi use across the country.

But the NTIA, in a letter sent to the FCC Feb. 19, said some federal agencies could ultimately be moved to the 5 GHz spectrum band.

The 5150-5250 MHz band in particular may become a “destination” for federal agencies relocated from the 1755-1850 MHz band, the NTIA said.

The 1755-1850 MHz spectrum band, which is the most coveted by the wireless industry, is immediately adjacent to a 25 MHz block of spectrum already allocated for mobile broadband uses and ready for a commercial auction by the FCC--what is known as AWS-3, or Advanced Wireless Services-3. Most of the 3,300 federal assignments within 1755-1850 are licensed for point-to-point fixed microwave use by the departments of Energy and Homeland Security, the Federal Aviation Administration, and NASA. The Defense Department also makes use of the spectrum for military satellites, precision-guided munitions training, and unmanned aerial vehicles.

If they decide to move off the 1755-1850 MHz band, the DOD and NASA said the 5150-5250 MHz would be a “comparable” band to relocate their aeronautical mobile telemetry systems.

“The bands available to federal agencies to accommodate [these] systems, if they must be relocated, are limited,” Larry Strickling, NTIA administrator, wrote in the letter.

Strickling said ongoing studies in the Commerce Spectrum Management Advisory Committee working groups will lead to a recommendation this summer on whether non-federal sharing with aeronautical mobile telemetry systems is even possible.

However, in the nearer term, Strickling said the FCC should “refrain” from proposing any changes to the so-called “Unlicensed-National Information Infrastructure” rules in the 5150-5250 MHz band until both agencies can finalize how they will address the “accommodation of the aeronautical mobile telemetry operations currently using the 1755-1850 MHz band.”

Under the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 (Pub. L. No. 112-96), the FCC has until Feb. 22 to launch a proceeding to consider making the 5 GHz-band spectrum available for commercial unlicensed use.

For the letter, visit http://op.bna.com/der.nsf/id/sbay-953svl/$File/pb0219.pdf.

Request Tech & Telecom on Bloomberg Law