NTIA’s Redl Says Era of Easy, Painless Spectrum Reallocation is Over

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief 

“We need to plan for the future so there is enough spectrum for 5G,” said David Redl National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Administrator. Noting that Smart Cities, autonomous cars and drones are fast becoming part of our “everyday lives,” Redl, who’s also the Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Communications and Information, said: “We must balance that demand against the government’s need for spectrum” for necessities like aerospace, security and the military.

The U.S. needs to take a longer-term approach to spectrum allocation, to meet the needs of industries, for federal and non-federal spectrum access, he added during a keynote address to open NTIA’s Spectrum Policy Symposium yesterday in Washington, D.C. “We need a flexible regulatory model to encourage spectrum efficiency,” Redl said. The White House, Congress, the FCC, NTIA, Department of Defense, FAA and the telecom and satellite industries are among the stakeholders starting to discuss how to work out a spectrum-sharing framework for the future.

Historically, spectrum was allocated by taking it away from one use and giving it to another. However the “era of easy and painless reallocation is over,” Redl declared. “It’s simply too hard to evict users,” and oftentimes, too much money has been invested in a particular spectrum band to just yank it away from incumbent users. The government is looking for innovative ways to share spectrum, including new and dynamic sharing methodologies, he said.

For example, NTIA is working with the FCC to develop sharing technologies for low, mid and high range spectrum, including the 3.5 GHz Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) band. “We’re working with the FCC and the Department of Defense to complete standards and certification framework to control CBRS devices in the field,” he said. That includes potentially moving away from coastal exclusion zones that protect incumbent Navy radar users on the band to another interference-protection technique.

The telecom industry is pushing the FCC to schedule an auction for the 3.5 GHz CBRS spectrum by next summer.

Published June 13, 2018

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