Feds Launch Spectrum-Sharing Model City Project

WASHINGTON—The federal agencies in charge of managing radio frequency spectrum are launching a project to develop a test bed for dynamic spectrum sharing. The Federal Communications Commission along with the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications & Information Administration has issued a Joint Public Notice seeking comment on establishing a public-private partnership “to facilitate the creation of an urban test city that would support rapid experimentation and development of policies, underlying technologies and system capabilities foo advanced, dynamic spectrum sharing.”

The yet-to-be-determined “model city” may include “large-scale facilities for systems-level testing in real-world environments across multiple frequency bands, including public safety and selected federal bands,” the Public Notice states.

The project is being undertaken at the recommendation of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, who in July of 2012, delivered a report to the president exploring more efficient management of the RF spectrum. The feds had explored clearing and reallocating spectrum used by federal agencies, since the government is the largest user of spectrum. The report concluded that doing so would cost too much and take too long. It instead emphasized a “new spectrum architecture premised on spectrum sharing rather than exclusive use.”

The FCC has pushed various forms spectrum-sharing with limited success. In the 2008 auction of TV Chs. 52-69, the commission designated 10 MHz in what was referred to as the “D Block” to be shared in a public-private wireless broadband network. Bids fell short of the $1.3 billion reserve by more than $800 million. The D Block remains undeveloped.

Spectrum sharing is in effect in the remaining TV bands in the form of unlicensed devices, which are supposed to sniff out frequencies in use by TV stations or wireless mics, and jump to open ones. The commission is also encouraging TV stations to share channels in the wake of next year’s incentive auction.

Dynamic spectrum sharing takes the concept to a more fluid level than that used with unlicensed devices, which ping one of several FCC-certified databases to seek out available frequencies. Presumably, dynamic devices “automatically and swiftly adjust frequencies in response to changing RF conditions,” according to SSC of Vienna, Va.

The FCC and NTIA’s Notice seeks comment on “ways to establish, fund and conduct the model city program.” They’re also looking for suggestions for what type of technologies and applications to test, and how to manage the project within the scope of existing federal rules and funding initiatives, as well as other funding sources. It does not mention if the FCC’s recent $100 million allocation for broadband experiments will be a part of that consideration.

Comments are due 45 days after publication in the Federal Register—likely during the third week in August. The FCC docket No is 14-99.