NTIA asks federal agencies to focus the first round of review on their use of 3100-3550 GHz and 7125-8400 GHz
In the latest step toward developing a national spectrum policy, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration has put in motion the process for data collection on federal agencies’ spectrum use, and selected the first two bands for review: 3100-3550 MHz and 7125-8400 MHz.
President Donald Trump signed a memorandum and order in October 2018 that called for the development of a comprehensive, long-term national spectrum policy. One of the requirements in that executive order is that federal agencies review their current frequency assignments and quantify their spectrum usage, in line with guidance from the Secretary of Commerce. The document released last week outlines the guidance for those reviews.
The president’s memorandum called for federal agencies to “thoughtfully consider whether and how their spectrum-dependent mission needs might be met more efficiently and effectively, including through new technology and ingenuity” and said that the government “shall continue to look for additional opportunities to share spectrum among federal and non-federal entities” as well as “continue to encourage investment and adoption by federal agencies of commercial, dual-use, or other advanced technologies that meet mission requirements, including 5G technologies.”
Agencies will be reporting data on their use of the two initial bands to NTIA over the next six to nine months. Additional bands are expected to be recommended for review in December and January, by a steering group and the Interdepartment Radio Advisory Committee.
“Considering the large amount of effort and lengthy period of time that would be required to review all federal frequency assignments, this guidance prioritizes an initial set of bands,” the NTIA guidance document says, adding that those two bands were chosen because they “could be reviewed in a relatively short period of time, while offering more fulsome and granular data on usage.”
According to the guidance document, there are around 445 agency spectrum assignments in the 450 megahertz of spectrum at 3100-3500 MHz and the affected agencies include the Department of Energy, Department of Homeland Security, the Air Force, the Army, the Navy, the Marine Corps and the Department of Commerce.
In the 1,275 megahertz of spectrum at 7125-8400 MHz, there are more than 8,700 spectrum assignments that affect DoE, DHS, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Department of Agriculture, the Air Force, Army, Department of Commerce, the Coast Guard, NASA, Department of the Interior, Department of Justice, Marine Corps, Navy, National Science Foundation, Department of State, Smithsonian Institute, the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The agencies must report data on their spectrum utilization that includes their primary and secondary uses of the bands; the center frequency at which their systems operate; transmit power; necessary transmit bandwidth; antenna gain and tilt; antenna heights; areas and time of operation; and many additional details.
NTIA will then use this information as a current, clear picture of how the bands are used and to estimate the extent to which each system uses its assigned spectrum. The process potentially opens the door to sharing of bands — as has happened in the Citizens Broadband Radio Service band at 3.5 GHz, which was designed as a three-tiered sharing system including Naval radar system incumbents — or reallocation of bands. The selection of 3.1-3.5 GHz as a spectrum band for review is notable in that it could eventually mean more mid-band spectrum availability for 5G services, which has been a focus of the Federal Communications Commission as the global 5G ecosystem aligns around mid-band use.