WASHINGTON, June 27, 2013 – Witnesses from government agencies and private industry underscored the importance of making more efficient use of radio-frequency spectrum, including sharing and utilization of new technology, at a hearing on Thursday afternoon.
In his opening remarks at the Communications and Technology Subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., discussed the importance of freeing spectrum for commercial use through actions such as the upcoming incentive auctions.
“Such auctions can help make spectrum available to meet the growing demand from mobile broadband services,” he said.
Several committee members expressed concerns that the Department of Defense was not working adequately to prepare for changes in spectrum use. Teri Takai, Chief Information Officer for Defense, was unable to provide any estimates on the cost of sharing spectrum or moving Defense networks to different bands.
Takai said that many spectral functions, particularly in regard to aeronautical uses, cannot share frequencies with commercial users without risk of interference.
However, Takai also noted that some functions can be shared, and the department would be willing to do so. Takai said that Defense has been awaiting a final decision from the Federal Communications Commission before moving forward any further on a study regarding spectrum relocation.
The block of spectrum between 1755 and 1780 Megahertz (MHz) was also a significant topic of discussion.
Christopher Guttman-McCabe, executive vice president of CTIA – The Wireless Association, noted that the block is adjacent to spectrum already in commercial use. Therefore, he said, it could easily be integrated into private networks. Most other developed countries have this band designated for commercial use. Guttman-McCabe urged the committee to follow the example of these other nations.
Currently, the 1755-1780 MHz band is utilized partly by Defense for training purposes. Takai argued that the department needs all of this spectrum for training purposes. However, Guttman-McCabe said that that block of spectrum would be unable to be used in nearly any country where the military might be deployed – a point that he said detracted from Takai’s arguments.
Although clearing of federal spectrum for auction was a main topic, the hearing also covered other solutions to the spectrum crunch.
Dean Brenner, senior vice president of government affairs for Qualcomm, claimed that small, low-power cellular base stations, sometimes called femtocells, had a significant role to play in future wireless networks. Between 10 to 20 percent of people would have them installed in their homes within the next five years, said Brenner.
Additionally, Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., suggested that spectrum sharing between government agencies, rather than between agencies and the private sector, was a more promising direction. However, Karl Nebbia, associate administrator in the Office of Spectrum Management for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, pointed out that this already occurs quite often.
“Federal agencies have almost no exclusive spectrum to a particular agency,” Nebbia said. Nebbia’s agency is part of the Commerce Department.