GAO calls for improved spectrum use

The General Accounting Office wants agencies to do a better job of managing their airwaves.

In a report released this week, GAO recommended that the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the Federal Communications Commission learn more about spectrum problems that agencies face and technologies that could improve airwave efficiency. Auditors also told NTIA, which manages the spectrum, to take actions that encourage agencies to use it more efficiently. Their report, issued in May, is titled "Spectrum Management: Better Knowledge Needed to Take Advantage of Technologies that May Improve Spectrum Efficiency."

The radio spectrum that once seemed unlimited faces increased demands because of wireless phones and networks, and Global Positioning System receivers, GAO officials said. But agencies mostly invest in technologies for spectrum efficiency for specific mission requirements rather than improved spectrum management, they said. For instance, because of space constraints, officials the Defense Department, Federal Aviation Administration and NASA invested in technologies that increase information throughput using smaller segments of their available spectrum, the GAO report stated.

Agencies could use software-defined cognitive radios that sense unused frequencies, called white spaces. They could also use these radios to operate in spectrum areas currently occupied without creating interference, known as gray spaces, GAO said.

To view the report, go to www.gao.gov/new.items/d04666.pdf

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