DOD pressed on giving up bandwidth

Wireless Information Technology and Networks

President Clinton's recent call to agencies to develop plans for selecting

radio frequencies to be used for third-generation wireless systems is being

greeted with a mixture of optimism and concern by the Defense Department,

which uses the targeted bandwidth for sensitive and secure operations.

Linton Wells, DOD's principal deputy assistant secretary for command,

control, communications and intelligence, officially said the department

"is pleased" with Clinton's directive and will cooperate with the Federal

Communications Commission and National Telecommunications and Information

Administration to ensure security concerns are addressed when identifying

spectrum to be used for commercial 3G wireless.

But an FCC official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said, "DOD

continues to have concerns over how much spectrum they can turn over to

commercial use" because it could limit the department's available bandwidth

at a time when its use of the Global Positioning System, satellite communications

and other applications is still on the rise.

3G will enable high-speed Internet access while eliminating the need

for modems and legacy phone lines, and it will pave the way for new tools

such as handheld devices that combine the features of a phone, computer,

radio GPS locater and even credit card, according to the White House announcement.

The Pentagon opposed a move earlier this year at the World Radiocommunication

Conference that would have allocated bandwidth utilized by DOD for commercial

3G uses, the official said. The conference is held every two years by the

International Telecommunication Union, and at its last meeting in Turkey,

the organization adopted "a flexible multiband approach," the FCC official

said.

This means that a broader range of the spectrum may be allocated, including

frequencies used by DOD.

In his announcement, Clinton said the WRC this year adopted the U.S.

government's position on allocating spectrum, which permits governments

to choose from among the spectrums identified by the various countries.

The agreement also permits countries to choose spectrums at their own pace

and prohibits identifying a specific 3G wireless technology.

The FCC official said he believes that DOD, working through the NTIA,

can "kill" any move to commercialize any of the spectrum it now uses. Glenn

Flood, a Pentagon spokesman, said no one from DOD would comment on the spectrum

issue beyond Wells' statement.

The Transportation and State departments also have previously opposed

converting selected frequencies to commercial 3G uses. Neither agency responded

when asked to comment on the White House message.

In an official statement, FCC Commissioner Susan Ness said the agency

places a high priority on making 3G wireless services available to the public.

The Clinton announcement warned that not allocating spectrum for 3G

wireless systems will put the U.S. economy at a serious disadvantage. Europe

and Japan have been at the forefront of moving 3G into commercial hands,

and observers said the United States is concerned that Europe might try

to steal a lead on 3G by adopting standards and technologies ahead of an

international agreement.

Gregory Rohde, assistant secretary of Commerce for communications and

information, said Clinton's directive requires government agencies to work

with the private sector to determine 3G spectrum needs. Rohde, who is also

administrator for the NTIA, said the government/industry process will respect

the requirements of national security and public safety while keeping in

mind the economic benefits of 3G.

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