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DOD Announces Plans for Electromagnetic Spectrum Sharing/Conservation

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) released its Electromagnetic Spectrum Strategy last month. The document does not address specific frequency bands, but it does provide information on DOD's growing need for spectrum and outlines some of the ways it can share spectrum with commercial users and make more efficient use of the spectrum it has.

"The Department’s Electromagnetic Spectrum Strategy addresses the ever increasing need for spectrum to achieve national security goals," said Teri Takai, DOD chief information officer. "This strategy also addresses short and long-term spectrum challenges as it relates to the growing U.S. demand for wireless broadband services. To achieve the balance required between national security and economic growth, DOD will continue to work in close collaboration with federal regulatory agencies and policymakers, including the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), Federal Communications Commission, and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, as well as with commercial industry.

Taki observed that the organizations would work in unison to try and identify ways to make more spectrum available for commercial use, and identify technologies for enhancing spectrum sharing, while at the same time attempting to improve the way in which the DoD "accesses spectrum, where and when needed to ensure mission success."

You may recall the agreement in which the DOD agreed to give up spectrum in exchange for sharing the 2 GHz BAS band. As a result of that agreement, the wireless industry gave up a push to reallocate part of the 2 GHz band for wireless broadband. This was a win-win for everyone.

Ms. Takai, while not addressing that agreement specifically, said: "In order to reach balanced decisions about relocating from or sharing spectrum, we need time, funding and comparable spectrum. Through the established goals and objectives of the EMS Strategy and our close work with the White House OSTP, the NTIA and industry partners, we are confident in our ability to meet the requirements set forth by the president while maintaining the needs of our nation’s military requirements."

The EMS Strategy noted: "The demand for more and timely information at every echelon is driving an increase in DOD’s need for spectrum. Increasingly lower echelons, including individual soldiers, require situational awareness information resulting in more spectrum-enabled network links. The growth in the complexity of modern military systems has similarly led to an increase in spectrum requirements."

The EMS Strategy included a graph that illustrates the "Mbps used per 5,000 Military Members." It starts near zero at the time of the Desert Storm campaign in the early 1990's and increases to more than 50 Mbps for Operation Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom in 2003.

By 2015, the "Mbps used per 5,000 Military Members" is predicted to approach 250 Mbps. This obviously means that the DOD can't give up spectrum and meet its needs without spectrum-sharing agreements.

The EMS Strategy outlines how such sharing may be achieved.

"Cognitive radio systems, improved spectrum sensing, and geo-location databases are among new opportunistic use technologies being considered."

The success of these new access techniques will almost certainly create regulatory pressure to share Federal spectrum via dynamic access or other similar technologies. Conversely, DOD’s adoption of these technologies may provide opportunities for DoD to operate in government and commercial spectrum that would otherwise be unavailable."

One of DOD's objectives is to develop the ability to perform near-real-time spectrum operations. DOD also plans to take a more active role in regulatory and policy discussions. The recently released Department of Defense Electromagnetic Spectrum Sharing has more on DOD's spectrum needs and its plan for meeting those needs while opening some existing DOD spectrum for commercial uses.

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. He has been with NBC since 1985 and is currently vice president of broadcast technology for NBC/Telemundo stations.