NTIA Spectrum Move Draws a Crowd of Responses


The National Telecommunications & Information Administration's report that it has found 95 MHz of spectrum to free up for wireless broadband drew plenty of response from industry and Washington policymakers.

"Given the exponential increase in consumer demand for spectrum, it's time to focus on the 1755-1780 MHz band. This is a real and unique opportunity to free up 25 MHz of high-value spectrum in the near future," said FCC chairman Julius Genachowski. He focused on the 25 MHZ in the lower portion of that 95 MHz because the could potentially be freed up quickly, especially if it were not tied to the rest of the spectrum, and would naturally pair with 25 MHZ of advanced wireless spectrum the FCC has in inventory in an adjacent band.

According to the NTIA report, DOD has said the lower 25 MHZ could be fairly quickly cleared, while it could take 10 years and many billions to clear the whole 95 MHZ, with NTIA notingTuesday it was not sure spectrum auctions would pay for all those moving costs.

"NTIA's report demonstrates both the importance of making government spectrum available for commercial mobile broadband, and the challenges to doing so," said Genachowski, who made no mention of the 95 MHZ NTIA was advertising as having found. "This is particularly true when considering the full 1755-1850 MHz band, where repurposing the entire band would be very expensive, affect important federal uses and commercial broadcast services, and could take a decade or more. Because federal law requires that revenue from auctioning federal spectrum exceed the relocation costs, these are serious issues and potential obstacles," he said.

"The FCC looks forward to working closely with NTIA and all federal partners to maximize the value of our nation's spectrum resources and to make meaningful progress toward the President's goal of freeing up 500 MHz for mobile broadband," the chairman said.

CTIA: The Wireless Association agreed with Genachowski about focusing on the lower 25 MHz.

"We will be significantly concerned if NTIA's efforts to clear the 1755-1780 portion of the band remain in limbo until relocation of all of the operations in the entire 1755-1850 MHz band can be completed," said CTIA president Steve Largent. Moving forward with 1755-1780 MHz, which has a natural AWS 3 pairing identified in the recent spectrum legislation, should be of paramount importance for NTIA and the administration. We look forward to working with NTIA and incumbent government agencies to meet the President's stated spectrum goals."

An NTIA spokeswoman said the agency is looking at a comprehensive approach and it made sense to look at the whole 95, but that does not mean it cant' look at the lower 25 MHZ "as soon as possible. We can look at the lower 25 on a priority basis," she said.

"The NTIA's report indicates that the federal government is aggressively addressing the need to make more spectrum available for wireless mobile services," said Verizon executive vice president Tom Tauke. "This is good news for consumers.

"While the report appropriately indicates that there will be hurdles and limitations in repurposing the 1755-1850 MHz band for commercial use, its focus on achieving that objective is very encouraging," said Tauke. "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. Verizon looks forward to working with the NTIA and the other federal agencies to make the maximum amount of spectrum available for mobile use as soon as possible."

One way Verizon is hoping the FCC commits to sufficient spectrum is allowing it to buy beachfront wireless spectrum from cable operators.

AT&T had nice things to say about the NTIA move as well.

"Today, the NTIA released its report on clearing the path to reallocate 95 MHz of federal spectrum for commercial use," said AT&T vice president Joan Marsh. "This is an important step by the Administration. AT&T commends NTIA and assistant aecretary Larry Strickling for moving aggressively and creatively toward the reallocation of a significant amount of spectrum vitally needed by the wireless industry. We look forward to reviewing NTIA's report in detail, and to working cooperatively with both NTIA and the impacted government agencies to address reallocation challenges in a manner that will ensure that the identified spectrum bands are made available expeditiously, while protecting vital government services that cannot be easily relocated."

Public-interest groups focused on the fact that NTIA had proposed spectrum sharing, something they have been pushing.

"This is a watershed moment because the government recognizes that new approaches are needed to spectrum policy," said Public Knowledge legal director Harold Feld. "We can no longer rely on squeezing more spectrum from Federal users to meet our ever-expanding needs for wireless services.

"The report's recommendation to rely on policies such as spectrum sharing and enhanced efficiency for Federal spectrum users and the accompanying technical innovations marks the first step toward a sustainable wireless future. We hope this approach will be used in the future as more Federal spectrum is identified as a resource to be shared with the public."

Free Press Policy Director Matt Wood agreed.

"We welcome NTIA's fresh, new approach and its commitment to making shared use of this spectrum a reality," he said. "There is a growing consensus that clearing this spectrum entirely and then auctioning it off to incumbent wireless carriers would be a complex and expensive task, and we are glad to see lawmakers, wireless industry players, technology companies and consumer advocates all coming together to make quicker, smarter and better use of this band by sharing it."