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U.S. Department Of Commerce Takes Major Step Towards Unleashing The Wireless Broadband Revolution

Monday, November 15, 2010
(202) 482-4883

NTIA Identifies Significant Amount of Spectrum, Down Payment on Reaching the President’s 10-Year Goal

The Commerce Department, through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), today announced it is recommending that 115 MHz of spectrum be reallocated for wireless broadband service within the next five years -- an important step towards achieving President Obama’s goal to nearly double the amount of commercial spectrum available over the next decade.

In late June, President Obama committed to make available 500 megahertz of Federal and nonfederal spectrum over the next 10 years.  The initiative will spur investment, economic growth, and job creation while supporting the growing demand by consumers and businesses for wireless broadband services.  NTIA immediately undertook a fast-track review to identify some reallocation opportunities that exist in the next five years and to make a down payment on the overall goal.  In the coming months, NTIA will continue to investigate reallocation opportunities that will maximize private sector investment, while protecting critical Federal missions.     

"We have identified the first steps for unlocking a significant amount of the spectrum needed to reach the President's 10-year goal," Secretary Gary Locke said. "In implementing this initiative, the Obama administration is seeking to catalyze innovation and private sector investment. This complex undertaking is critical to enhance America’s economic competitiveness at home and abroad and promises to improve our quality of life."

In addition, Secretary Locke and NTIA have also established a plan and timetable for identifying spectrum that can be made available for wireless broadband over the next 10 years, working in collaboration with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and other Federal government agencies.

“President Obama’s spectrum policy initiative sets forth a bold vision for spurring innovation and preserving America’s technology leadership by expanding the amount of spectrum available for wireless broadband.  Today’s announcement is a significant down payment towards realizing that goal. NTIA will continue to work with the FCC and other U.S. agencies to make the full 500 megahertz of spectrum available while protecting vital government uses,” said Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and NTIA Administrator Lawrence E. Strickling.

NTIA released two complementary reports detailing the effort to nearly double commercial wireless spectrum: a Ten-Year Plan and Timetable, as well as a Fast Track Evaluation identifying the 115 megahertz of spectrum to be made available within five years.

NTIA developed the Ten-Year Plan and Timetable in response to the June 28, 2010 Presidential Memorandum that directed the Secretary of Commerce, working through NTIA, to collaborate with the FCC to make available a total of 500 megahertz of Federal and nonfederal spectrum over the next 10 years for mobile and fixed wireless broadband use. The report, developed with input from other Federal agencies and the FCC, identifies 2,200 megahertz of spectrum for evaluation, the process for evaluating these candidate bands, and the steps necessary to make the selected spectrum available for wireless broadband services.

Of the 2,200 megahertz of candidate spectrum that the Ten-Year Plan and Timetable identify, 28 percent is allocated exclusively for Federal use at present, 35 percent is allocated exclusively for commercial use, and 37 percent is shared by Federal and commercial users. The 2,200 megahertz includes 280 megahertz of commercial spectrum that the FCC recommended in its National Broadband Plan be made available for mobile broadband use within five years.

In the Fast Track Evaluation report, NTIA examined four spectrum bands for potential reallocation within five years: 1) 1675-1710 MHz, 2) 1755-1780 MHz, 3) 3500-3650 MHz, and 4) 4200-4220 MHz and 4380-4400 MHz. The report recommends that various portions of these bands totaling 115 megahertz be made available for wireless broadband use within five years, contingent upon the allocation of resources for necessary reallocation activities.

Specifically, NTIA recommends reallocating 1695-1710 MHz, currently used for dissemination of severe weather information and alerts via satellites operated by Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and 3550-3650 MHz, which would be shared with Department of Defense radar systems mainly on ships. NTIA recommends some geographic limitations on the availability of these bands to prevent harmful interference to government facilities in the 1695-1710 MHz band and to the proposed commercial services in the 3550-3650 MHz band.

"While we are committed to spurring innovation, we will not sacrifice public safety," Locke said. "In order for NOAA and other federal users to free up additional spectrum and continue their critical operations, they will need timely funding to adjust their operations."

Presidential Memorandum: Unleashing the Wireless Broadband Revolution (June 28, 2010)

White House Fact Sheet: Doubling the Amount of Commercial Spectrum to Unleash the Innovative Potential of Wireless Broadband (June 28, 2010)

Remarks of Lawrence H. Summers: Technological Opportunities, Job Creation, and Economic Growth (June 28, 2010)