DOD not ready to share 3G spectrum

The Defense Department has not said "no" to sharing radio spectrum with future commercial users of third-generation wireless technologies, but DOD isn't ready to say "yes," either.

Mike Williams, a senior engineer with the Joint Spectrum Center at the Pentagon, said DOD does not want to be hard-line about holding on to spectrum that's presently dedicated to its purposes. "But we've got to maintain our operations capability," he told federal and industry telecommunications officials gathered Friday for the second public hearing on 3G wireless.

The meeting, hosted by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, also included representatives from the Federal Communications Commission. NTIA is the agency charged with developing international telecommunications policy for the United States.

DOD concluded that sharing frequencies would require substantial distance between military users and commercial users, according to DOD's interim report on 3G technology.

Relocating some military operations to remote areas is a possible solution, said Robert Brock Jr., a science adviser working under contract to the Joint Spectrum Center. But he said that few truly remote areas exist, and as 3G wireless develops, it's unlikely that there will be areas it doesn't serve.

"You can go into the middle of Montana, and someone is going to run [the technology] down the interstate," Brock said.

Segmenting parts of the radio spectrum appears more promising, Williams said, but segmentation also has problems for defense systems.

In November, NTIA head Gregory Rohde delivered his agency's interim report on 3G, which indicated that segmentation and sharing of bandwidth would be possible in the 1755-1850 MHz band. This is the spectrum in which federal systems operate, including government space systems, medium-capacity, conventional communications, military tactical relay radios and air combat training systems.

Final reports on 3G wireless will be issued by DOD, NTIA and the FCC next year. Meanwhile, the FCC will issue a notice of proposed rulemaking for spectrum allocation on Dec. 31.

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