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Spectrum

House Committee Pushes Through Bills to Improve NTIA Spectrum Management

Markup of bills comes after much discussion about federal spectrum management.

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Photo of Mike Doyle, D-PA

WASHINGTON, June 16, 2022 – The House subcommittee on communications and technology advanced two bills for floor votes providing the National Telecommunications and Information Administration with resources to develop “innovative spectrum management technologies” at a subcommittee markup Wednesday.

Spectrum management is essential to minimize interference on radio spectrum and optimize the use of the finite resource.

The first, the Institute for Telecommunication Sciences Codification Act, provides statutory authority to the ITS, an arm of the NTIA, authorizing the ITS to implement certain spectrum legislation on behalf of the NTIA. The institute will be required to establish an initiative to support the development of emergency communication and tracking technology.

One amendment clarified the role the ITS plays in supporting spectrum advancements and promoting effective use of spectrum.

The second bill – Simplifying Management, Reallocation and Transfer of Spectrum Act, or the SMART Act – was introduced by Representative Brett Guthrie, R-KY, requiring “the assistance of the secretary of communications and information at NTIA to develop and implement framework to enhance the sharing of spectrum between federal entities and non-federal users as well as between multiple federal entities,” said Chairman Mike Doyle, D-PA.

The SMART act will establish a common platform for sharing spectrum use across federal agencies and other users. An amendment was passed to ensure that the coordination with spectrum would support a broad range of users in many industries.

Spectrum

Agency Leaders Urge Improvements to Spectrum Management

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel advocated for bills that would make better use of spectrum.

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Photo of Matthew Pearl of the FCC, Derek Khlopin of the NTIA, Anna Gomez of Wiley Rein LLP (left to right)

WASHINGTON, June 23, 2023 – Agency leaders at speaking at a Public Knowledge conference Thursday said more needs to be done to bring spectrum management up to speed, as a issues outlined by a decades-old task force report are still pertinent today.

Receiver standards continue to prohibit innovation, barriers remain for a national spectrum strategy, and spectrum frequencies are becoming more crowded and valuable, said panelists at the event, pointing to challenges outlined by the 2002 Spectrum Policy Task Force.

“[The task force recommendations] were spot on but they also identified a lot of persistent challenges that remain today,” said Derek Khlopin of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. “I don’t think that it means we haven’t made progress.”

Technology, use cases, and standards will constantly evolve, added Matthew Pearl of the FCC. “We need to constantly assess them and be very nimble while at the same time honoring the principles like flexibility to all users.”

Suggested steps for improvement

Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, speaking at the event, suggested three areas of improvement for spectrum innovation.

First, she advocated for the Spectrum Innovation Act, a bill introduced to the House in September and awaiting committee approval that would make available new airwaves for commercial wireless broadband.

Second, Rosenworcel suggested that the FCC update the Commercial Spectrum Enhancement Act, which encourages federal users to clear spectrum by establishing a spectrum relocation fund to reimburse agencies operating on airways that are allocated for commercial use.

She also suggested that federal relocators can be given a broader range of options to update their capabilities when they relocate. These changes could “help avoid spectrum disputes and smooth the way for reallocation of airways.”

Third, “we should explore receiver performance.” The efficient use of our airways is a two-way effort and low quality receivers will make it difficult to introduce new services in the same frequencies. The FCC recently launched a new inquiry on receiver performance.

These suggestions come a week after a House subcommittee on communications and technology advanced two bills for floor votes that would provide the NTIA with resources to develop “innovative spectrum management technologies.”

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Spectrum

FCC Auction Authority Bill Ensures No Disruption in Spectrum Distribution: Lawmakers

The Extending America’s Spectrum Auction Leadership Act of 2022 was introduced last month.

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Congressman Frank Pallone, D-NJ

WASHINGTON, June 1, 2022 – Legislation introduced last month that would extend the authority of the Federal Communications Commission to conduct spectrum auctions is needed to ensure a seamless process when the agency comes to close out existing auctions, lawmakers said last week.

The Extending America’s Spectrum Auction Leadership Act of 2022, or H.R. 7783, was introduced on May 16 in the House, giving the FCC an extension on its spectrum auction mandate – which ends this September – to March 31, 2024. It was referred to the energy and commerce committee.

“We cannot let the FCC’s auction authority lapse under any circumstances,” said Representative Doris Matsui, D-Calif., at an energy and commerce committee hearing on May 24. “Congress has extended the FCC’s spectrum auction authority on a bipartisan basis several times over the last three decades and has never let it lapse.

“Even a brief lapse in FCC auction authority could jeopardize licenses from being awarded and delay the carriers’ ability to supercharge their networks with this 5G-ready spectrum. That cannot happen,” said Matsui.

With a long history of auction authority, the FCC has conducted auctions of licenses for spectrum since 1994.

“Congress has never let the FCC’s spectrum authority lapse since authorizing it in the early 1990s, so I am pleased we are taking this important step forward today,” said committee chairman Frank Pallone, D-NJ. “As a result, the FCC will be able to hold its planned auction of the 2.5 gigahertz band in July without disruption and also fully close out auctions that have already occurred.”

In May, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel talked about the importance of upcoming spectrum auctions to fund infrastructure projects and the transition to a next-generation 911 system. In this hearing, Matsui and Pallone agreed that this authorization from Congress will be crucial for the FCC to carry out its spectrum authority.

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Spectrum

It Will Take Multiple Strategies to Provide Enough Spectrum for Nascent Technologies, Expert Says

Rysavy argued that it would take an “all of the above” approach to meet the coming need for spectrum.

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Photo of Peter Rysavy (left) from January 2018 by the Internet Education Foundation used with permission

WASHINGTON, May 27, 2022 – Spectrum sharing can provide unique opportunities for needed bandwidth, but it is not an end-all-be-all solution, and the U.S. cannot afford to turn down any strategies freeing up more spectrum, a spectrum expert said Wednesday during a Georgetown University event.

Spectrum sharing often refers to dynamic spectrum sharing, a process whereby an operator uses a radio band that is already being used by an incumbent operator. The incumbent may not use the band all the time, and thus the incumbent can allow the secondary operator to use the band when the incumbent does not need it.

During an event hosted by the university’s Center for Business and Public Policy, Rysavy Research CEO Peter Rysavy said that while this process can have useful applications, its utility is not limitless.

Rysavy explained that spectrum sharing solutions have only been developed to address specific scenarios for specific systems. “We do not today have any spectrum sharing solution that is general purpose – that can be applied to arbitrary systems,” he said.

This specialized and complex nature makes spectrum sharing solutions makes them not only more expensive, but also take longer to deploy.

Rysavy advocated for what he referred to as an “all of the above approach,” whereby spectrum sharing, licensed, and unlicensed spectrum strategies are utilized to address the U.S.’s growing need for broadband as 5G services continue to expand.

He referred to several killer applications for 5G, such as home broadband, augmented reality, and the metaverse that will be completely dependent on 5G infrastructure.

“We are really reaching the limits of physics as far as how efficient the technology is,” Rysavy said. “There are other things you can do on the edges, but there is only so far you can go with technology.”

Rysavy explained that growing physical infrastructure – such as increasing the number of small cell signal boosters – is not sufficient in resolving the need for bandwidth. “Ultimately, you do have to keep adding more spectrum into the equation – there is just no other way around it.”

Though Rysavy noted that wireless cannot compete with fiber in terms of bandwidth, he stated that it should not be viewed as a “wireless versus fiber” situation.

“The way to look at it is that we are extending fiber through the environment and close to the endpoint all the time,” he said. “The question then is just ‘how do we connect that last 100 yards?’”

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