NTIA Spectrum Plan Could Force Second ENG Exodus

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The National Telecommunications & Information Administration has said its just-released report finding that 95 MHz more federal spectrum could be freed up for wireless broadband faces some challenges.

One of those is that it will have to move some federal agencies to other spectrum, and one proposal by DOD would mean broadcast and cable electronic news gatherers using the Broadcast Auxiliary Service band would be forced to make a second exodus over the next five to10 years.

ENG spectrum was reclaimed and users repacked/moved from the 2 GHZ band to a new home between 2025 and 2110 as part of the DTV transition and to make room for wireless broadband. Now, what the National Association of Broadcasters has called a second, even more complicated, transition of spectrum reclamation and re-auction for wireless broadband by the FCC and NTIA might mean a second move of those ENG users.

In order to free up spectrum in the 1755-1850 MHZ band, DOD says it will need to move to the 2025-2110 band, where electronic newsgathering equipment -- all those trucks and dishes sending live news back to stations and networks -- currently operate, as well as for studio/transmitter links.

According to page 45 of the NTIA report, where it lists the following as one of the "significant conditions and challenges of freeing up spectrum in the 1755-1850 band over the next decade: "DOD states it requires access to the 2025-2110 MHz band on a primary basis to ensure comparable capability for many of their systems. This will require reallocation of the band to allow various federal operations and the development of solutions for the accommodation of incumbent broadcast auxiliary service (BAS) and other systems in the band.

"ENG spectrum apparently being targeted is used every day by broadcasters for live remotes, sports and news gathering during crisis situations," said NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton. "Those communications often mean the difference between life and death during hurricanes, tornadoes and other disasters. NAB will work with policymakers as we review the plan, mindful that no wireless or wireline technology can replicate the lifeline role played by the local broadcaster."

A spokeswoman for NTIA said that there will be a mix of sharing and relocation for federal users. She said NTIA had not made a recommendation about where it was going to move federal users, and that it would be proposing new homes in a variety of bands.

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