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Shoeleather Journalism in the Digital Age

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in the Digital Age

U.S. unveils roadmap to study, shift government spectrum for wireless use

Photo of government spectrum
U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on lowering costs for American families during a visit to Goffstown, New Hampshire, U.S., March 11, 2024. (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)
By David Shepardson | REUTERS

The Biden administration on Tuesday released a detailed timeline for studying significant government-owned spectrum with the aim of helping to expand wireless and other technology uses.

The Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which in November announced steps to repurpose spectrum currently set aside for parts of the federal government, said it was setting detailed timelines for studying several spectrum bands including “the potential for repacking, compression and relocation of airborne radars and other federal systems in the Lower 3 GHz to allow for commercial use.”

The Lower 3 GHz study is expected to be completed by October 2026 as will a study on the 7/8 GHz spectrum band.

“We must provide the spectrum access needed for federal agency missions while addressing the private sector’s need for greater spectrum access, which is required to maintain and improve our global competitiveness and sustain economic growth,” the implementation plan first reported by Reuters says.

Congress in March 2023 let the Federal Communications Commission’s authority to auction spectrum lapse for the first time in three decades amid debate about what spectrum used by the Defense Department could be repurposed or shared.

“Spectrum is a scarce national resource,” said NTIA Administrator Alan Davidson in an interview, saying the goal is to ensure enough spectrum for public and private sector needs. “What we needed is a step-by-step plan for how we are going to implement that mission.”

Demand for spectrum use is soaring, driven in part by advancements in drones, self-driving vehicles, moon missions and precision agriculture. Mobile U.S. wireless data traffic rose 38% in 2022, the largest-ever increase in mobile data traffic.

On Monday, two senators proposed legislation to require NTIA to identify at least 2,500 megahertz of mid-band spectrum that could be reallocated from federal government use to non-governmental or shared use over the next 5 years.

Last month, three other senators urged the Biden administration not to strip the Defense Department of spectrum used for military radar systems in favor of commercial wireless.

Editor’s Note: Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Alex Richardson and Chizu Nomiyama

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