FCC takes next step in 3G distribution

FCC's Third Generation Wireless page

The Federal Communications Commission published a notice of proposed rulemaking Thursday, the latest step in federal efforts to redistribute the radio spectrum to accommodate commercial third-generation wireless operations.

The notice marks an open comment period on the rules by the public and industry.

Gregory Rohde, assistant secretary of Commerce and head of the department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration, called the notice's release "a major development" in the Clinton administration's plan to make spectrum available for commercial 3G services.

"Comments on the [notice of proposed rulemaking] will help us determine to what extent existing allocations can be used for advanced wireless services...assess whether additional spectrum allocations will be necessary and, if so, how to meet the needs of incumbent users that will be replaced," Rohde said in a statement.

In meetings with FCC and NTIA officials, those most concerned about reshuffling the spectrum represent the Davids and the Goliaths of users: small-time networks on the one hand and the Defense Department on the other.

Small broadcasters are afraid of being bumped from their place on the spectrum and DOD is determined to safeguard its critical spectrum needs, which relate to satellite communications and combat simulation.

3G will enable high-speed Internet access, eliminating the need for modems and legacy phone lines. The technology is expected to 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, the White House announced in October when it directed federal agencies to develop plans for selecting radio frequencies to be used for 3G wireless systems.

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