According to a nearly two hundred page report issued by the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), Americans are using more and more wireless devices for work, social networking, entertainment, and other purposes, with global mobile data volumes more than doubling every year for the past four years. This has resulted in a growing demand for access to regions of the wireless spectrum now held by government agencies or private entities for other purposes.
The report addresses the importance of responding to increasing demand by not only the consumer and commercial markets - but also for military and government purposes.
From the PCAST Report:
Responding to this demand is important. Access to mobile information through wireless smartphones, tablets, and other devices is increasingly essential to daily life, and commercial wireless applications for healthcare, energy, homes, and transportation are a major driver of economic growth. At the same time, U.S. Federal spectrum needs are rising for a range of activities including maritime mobile satellite and radio navigation, space and satellite communications, missile detection and surveillance radar, and Forest Service communication for law enforcement and wildfire tracking.
In a new report, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST)—an independent council of experts from industry and academia concludes that the traditional practice of clearing and reallocating portions of the spectrum used by Federal agencies is not a sustainable model for spectrum policy. PCAST finds instead that the best way to increase capacity is to leverage new technologies that enable larger blocks of spectrum to be shared. One advantage of sharing is that it does not require licensed businesses and government entities to fully clear certain wavelengths already in use—a process that can be time consuming and expensive. “The norm for spectrum use should be sharing, not exclusivity,” the new PCAST report concludes, noting that a new spectrum architecture and a corresponding shift in practices could multiply the effective capacity of the spectrum by a factor of 1,000. “Spectrum should be managed not by fragmenting it into ever more finely divided exclusive frequency assignments, but by specifying large frequency bands that can accommodate a wide variety of compatible uses.”
The PCAST report notes that existing approaches to spectrum sharing can be augmented by a variety of means, including dynamic redirecting of devices to available frequencies and better prevention of interference among signals in close proximity to one another. Several such approaches are in development and a number are ready for real-world testing.
Among its major recommendations are that the Federal Government should share underutilized Federal spectrum to the maximum extent possible and identify 1,000 MHz of Federal spectrum as part of an effort to create “the first shared-use spectrum superhighways”; authorize and implement, in collaboration with industry partners, a Federal Spectrum Access System (SAS) to serve as an information and control clearinghouse for the band-by-band registrations and conditions of use that will apply to all users with access to each shared Federal band under its jurisdiction; establish methodologies for spectrum management that consider both transmitter and receiver characteristics to enable flexible sharing of spectrum; and take steps to implement a mechanism that will give Federal agencies incentives to share spectrum.
The National Telecommunication and Information Administration (NTIA) was the first federal agency charged with developing a national policy for spectrum identification and allocation. After the agency released its first report on spectrum allocation, NTIA Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and NTIA Administrator Lawrence E. Strickling said:
"Today’s report sets a path for putting prime spectrum into commercial wireless broadband use, in support of the Obama Administration’s goal to encourage investment and innovation while enhancing America’s economic competitiveness. Spectrum is a finite resource in growing demand, and we need to focus on new ways to maximize its use” continued Strickling. “By working with the FCC, other federal agencies, and the industry, we can make more spectrum available to fuel innovation and preserve America’s technological leadership while protecting vital government missions.”"