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Presidential memorandum calls for greater spectrum sharing

President Barack Obama last week directed federal agencies and offices to accelerate spectrum sharing efforts that would allow commercial businesses such as wireless broadband providers access to spectrum currently allocated exclusively for government use.

In a presidential memorandum to the heads of executive departments and agencies released June 14, the president said his administration must continue its efforts to make more spectrum available as quickly as possible to benefit consumers and businesses. Sharing spectrum allocated for federal use, where economically and technically possible, is one effective way of achieving that goal, he said.

The memorandum lays out several steps for government agencies and offices to take to hasten spectrum sharing, including

  • Directing the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the FCC to publish a report within a year describing how they are incorporating spectrum sharing into their spectrum management practices;
  • Instructing NTIA to continue discussions to expedite commercial entry into the 1695MHz-1710MHz band, the 1755MHz-1850MHz band, and the 5350MHz-5470MHz and 5850MHz-5925MHz bands and expanding those discussions to include bands below 6GHz;
  • Ordering publication within three months of an inventory of Federal test facilities available to commercial interests and other stakeholders involved in research and development of technologies that enhance spectrum sharing; and
  • Directing NTIA to include in its next interim report a plan that directs applicable agencies to quantify their actual use of spectrum in bands previously identified as having the greatest potential for spectrum sharing with nonfederal users.

The memorandum also encourages the FCC and NTIA to expedite repurposing of spectrum. Obama directed the agencies to identify spectrum allocated for nonfederal uses that can be made available for broadband service and devices “while fairly accommodating the rights and reasonable expectations of incumbent users.”

The memorandum directs the agencies to identify spectrum allocated to nonfederal users that can be made available to government agencies on a shared or exclusive basis to accommodate agencies relocated out of bands made available for licensed or unlicensed devices.

It also directs the agencies to develop and enforce rules providing incentives for licensees to put spectrum to use and avoid warehousing.

Acting FCC chairwoman Mignon Clyburn issued a statement June 14 saying the memorandum “will enable us to meet the challenge of unleashing spectrum for commercial use while also ensuring more efficient use of spectrum. “

She also said the FCC will continue to work closely with NTIA to achieve the goals laid out in the memorandum.