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White House Spectrum Strategy Directs DOD to Free Up Wireless Bandwidth

A national strategy on the spectrum outlines a role for the department to assign sections of its designated spectrum to the private sector.

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The Defense Department will carve out portions of its allotted radio frequency spectrum, according to the White House’s new plan to address the rising demand for unfettered wireless capabilities.

The White House’s National Spectrum Strategy outlined the ways in which government can best tackle growing needs in macro-cellular networks, 5G, 6G and space-based satellite constellations. The demand for macro-cellular networks is projected to increase 250% within five years.

Officials see the strategy as critical to both helping meet demand in 5G capabilities and also counter threats from China, as much of the modern military is dependent on spectrum for navigation, communications and weapons guidance.

“America’s wireless networks need 1,500 MHz of additional full power, licensed spectrum within the next 10 years,” said Meredith Attwell Baker, president and CEO of wireless industry trade association CTIA.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) identified five spectrum bands that the White House aims to study for potential private sector repurposing. The five bands together comprise approximately 2,790 megahertz of spectrum that could become available to the private sector, potentially lowering congestion.

The five spectrum bands (Lower 3 GHz [3.1-3.45 GHz], 5030-5091 MHz, 7125-8400 MHz, 18.1-18.6 GHz and 37.0-37.6 GHz) are all marked as spectrums with potential for increased government and private sector use in emerging technologies.

Bands operating within Lower 3 GHz (3.1-3.45 GHz) and 37.0-37.6 GHz are of particular interest to DOD. The agency determined that Lower 3 GHz spectrum could be shared with non-federal government entities if advanced interference mitigation features were implemented and if a framework was constructed for spectrum sharing.

DOD and the Department of Commerce are tasked with co-leading any further studies to the Emerging Mid-band Radar Spectrum Study (EMBRSS) that involves any future use of the Lower 3 GHz spectrum.

Within the 37.0-37.6 GHz band, DOD will partner with the NTIA and FCC to study 600 MHz of spectrum to create a shared framework to allow Federal and non-Federal users to simultaneously use the band.

Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information and NTIA Administrator Alan Davidson said in a statement that the strategy “will foster innovation in the public and private sectors,” and keep America’s status as a wireless technology leader.

“Spectrum is a vital national resource that plays a central, if unseen, role in American life,” Davidson said. “Demand for this scarce resource, especially the midband airwaves critical for next-generation wireless services, continues to grow.”

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