Everyone likes high-speed wireless access for their mobile devices. Unfortunately while the demand seems limitless, the supply is highly limited. Almost all available spectrum from microwaves on down is already allocated and increasingly crowded.
Despite this inconvenient truth–or rather because of it–on June 28, 2010 President Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum that directed the Secretary of Commerce, through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), to collaborate with the FCC to produce a ten-year plan and timetable for making available 500 megahertz of Federal and non-Federal spectrum suitable for wireless broadband use, while taking into account the need to ensure there is no loss of existing critical government capabilities and the need for appropriate enforcement mechanisms and authorities.
The NTIA and DOC have subsequently release two reports that include:
- A Ten-Year Plan and Timetable to make 500 megahertz of Federal and non-Federal
spectrum available for wireless broadband use; and
- Fast Track Evaluation of the 1675-1710 MHz, 1755-1780 MHz, 3500-3650 MHz, and
4200-4220 MHz and 4380-4400 MHz bands.
The NTIA has identified 2,200 megahertz of spectrum to evaluate for wireless broadband opportunities, including the four fast-track bands, as candidate bands for review. The report provides a roadmap for identifying wireless spectrum assigned to both Federal and non-Federal users that can be allocated for wireless broadband, as well as for using all spectrum more efficiently.
A detailed fact sheet spelling out the highlights of the reports is available here. The bottom line is that it should be no problem to find a spare 500 MHz of useful spectrum out of the proposed 2,200 MHz…after the FCC holds more meetings to hear from and address the concerns of a wide range of stakeholders.
That won’t be easy and it won’t happen overnight. But at some point it will happen. When it does, expect to see an outpouring of applications to take advantage of the newly opened spectrum. When the FCC opened up the ISM bands to unlicensed devices it gave rise to new wireless technologies that created multi-billion dollar industries. I’d expect nothing less the next time around.