Sunday, June 27, 2010

President Obama Commits to Opening 500 MHz of Spectrum

As called for in the FCC's National Broadband Plan announced earlier this year, President Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum committing the federal government to make available 500 MHz of federal and commercial spectrum available to new mobile broadband usage over the next 10 years.

Th effort, which will nearly double the amount of commercial spectrum currently available for commercial use, is expected to result new rounds of spectrum auctions.

Specifically, the Administration is announcing a four-point plan:

1. Identify and plan for the release of 500 MHz of spectrum. The first step is to initiate the administrative process for identifying spectrum that can be repurposed. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), in collaboration with the FCC, will make available 500 MHz of federal and nonfederal spectrum over the next 10 years, suitable for both mobile and fixed wireless broadband use. A fast-track process will determine whether any spectrum can be identified by October 1, 2010, that could be made available within five years for exclusive or shared use. The federal government will also create a publicly available inventory of the spectrum currently used by government and commercial users on a separate track from the NTIA and FCC processes to make spectrum available for new uses.

2. Provide the tools needed to effectively reallocate spectrum. Under current law, the Federal agencies whose spectrum is reallocated are reimbursed for the costs of relocating systems to retain comparable capabilities. The President is seeking broader tools that would give Federal agencies upfront planning and research funds and allow agencies to use a portion of the proceeds to enhance state-of-the-art communications.

3. Enable spectrum to be put to its highest value uses. The majority of the new spectrum will be auctioned off for licensed mobile broadband. Some spectrum will be made available for free for unlicensed use by technology startups, small businesses and others that benefit from the low barriers to entry and fast time to market. In addition, the NTIA, in consultation with Federal research agencies, will work to facilitate R&D that explores innovative spectrum-sharing technologies.

4. Use the auction proceeds to promote public safety, job-creating infrastructure investment and deficit reduction. The Administration has no official estimate of the auction revenues from this plan. The actual amount will depend on effective implementation and additional design details, but based on past auctions, many analysts believe the revenue potential could reach in the tens of billions of dollars, including revenue from spectrum that is currently cleared and set to be auctioned by the FCC.

Grant Seiffert, President of the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA), commented: "TIA applauds President Obama for recognizing the urgent need to make large bands of spectrum available for mobile communications devices. This decision will create hundreds of thousands of jobs for Americans while improving U.S. technological competitiveness. The spectrum will enable the mobile industry to meet the demand for high-speed wireless applications, and will help drive the U.S. economy, both near-term and long-term."