Reports: Little room for 3G

NTIA's 3G wireless home page

Options for allocating radio frequency spectrum space to third-generation (3G) wireless systems — without disrupting current federal users of the spectrum — are limited, according to two studies that were released Friday.

Unrestricted sharing of the 1755-1850 MHz band with 3G systems isn't feasible, according to the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration. That band is used mostly by the Defense Department for such activities as satellite control, precision-guided weapons data links and air combat training.

NTIA's study covered the 1710-1850 MHz band, but because the 1710-1755 band will be transferred to the Federal Communications Commission on a mixed-use basis, the report focused only on the 1755-1850 MHz band.

The FCC examined another band, 2500-2690 MHz, which is used by the Instructional Television Fixed Service and the Multipoint Distribution Service. Those two services operate in the most populated areas of the country, and their use varies from one area to the next, making sharing with 3G services difficult, according to the FCC's report.

The studies also looked at the possibility of moving federal users off of those two bands to other ones, but that too was found to be challenging. Relocating ITFS and MDS operations could cost $19 billion over 10 years, the FCC found. For DOD, migrating its non-space systems might not be finished until at least 2010, and space-related systems could take until 2030, NTIA reported.

However, both agencies said they will continue to look at options for allocating spectrum space to 3G.

The FCC plans to identify 3G spectrums by July and auction off that spectrum to industry by Sept. 30, 2002.

DOD has balked at giving up spectrum it now uses or moving to another location on the band.

"[DOD] uses the 1755-1850 band for critical national defense systems," said Art Money, DOD chief information officer. "Furthermore, Defense spectrum needs are growing. We must preserve sufficient spectrum with the flexibility to accommodate future growth."

3G wireless 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.

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