NTIA looks to boost lasting spectrum plan

radio spectrum 

Data from federal agencies on their spectrum use is rolling into the National Telecommunications and Information Administration as the agency tries to set a 15-year, forward-looking policy for federal use of the airwaves, according to its top official.

The Trump administration is trying to put a federal spectrum policy in place that will last, instead of having to be addressed and replaced by successive administrations, said David Redl, assistant secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information and administrator of the NTIA.

"Anyone who's come into this space for a significant period of time knows presidents come in and immediately rescinded the previous presidential memoranda and put their own stamp on spectrum policy," said Redl at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C., on March 27.

"President Trump wanted us to move beyond that" to create a persistent federal spectrum strategy that can be built on, he said.

The approach, he said, will address the ongoing concerns of shrinking pools of spectrum for widening licensed or unlicensed spectrum uses.

Asking federal agencies to "do more with less, or do the same with less" with their spectrum holdings has worked for a while, he said. With an ever tightening supply, "those days are largely gone. At this point, we're trying to figure out what are our needs going forward?" said Redl.

Some agencies, he said, were surprised NTIA asked for 15 years-worth of forward-looking data. "In spectrum time, 15 years is an eternity, but it was our way of saying, 'We want to be able to forecast what you need going forward.'"

Extreme demand for the limited resources is driving systems and the services using them closer together in bandwidths and forcing more sharing between public and federal applications.

He cited the work on the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) to share spectrum in the 3.5 GHz band between incumbent Navy radar systems and commercial users as an important example of dual use. Testing of the two systems that allow that sharing is ongoing, he said.

In the Nov. 28 memo, Redl told federal agencies to submit initial reports on their spectrum requirements for the next decade and a half by Feb. 21. Final reports, he said, are due by April 23.

The assessment will be used to develop a comprehensive, long-term national spectrum strategy by July 22.

That summer policy deadline, he said, is firm.

"We're in the data gathering phase," he told FCW in an interview after his presentation. "We're going to have to harmonize it and see where there are trends, themes. We have to go where the data takes us."

Redl said he hadn't read the initial reports yet. He also said wouldn't be surprised if some agencies were very conservative with how they handle their spectrum holdings. "I don't know if that's the case, but given the nature of some of the missions that we're talking about, I wouldn't be surprised if agencies are conservative."

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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