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NTIA Report on Spectrum Repurposing Finds Significant Progress

January 07, 2021 by Charles Cooper, Associate Administrator, Office of Spectrum Management

The Second Annual Report on the Status of Spectrum Repurposing, released this week, found that NTIA and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) have made significant spectrum available for commercial wireless services, including mid-band spectrum for 5G, during the past four years.

The 2020 repurposing report describes recent accomplishments and documents ongoing efforts to address reallocation of federal and non-federal spectrum bands in 23 band segments below 95 GHz. It also provides details for 14 low- and mid-range bands that have been repurposed or remain under consideration for repurposing.

According to the report, the U.S. has made a collective 1,130.5 megahertz of licensed mid-band spectrum ready for the U.S. industry to deploy for innovative 5G services, through a combination of reallocation, license modifications, new leasing authority, and greater regulatory flexibility. Additionally, 15,215 megahertz of unlicensed spectrum has been made available that will power the next generation of Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi 6, and other emerging unlicensed technologies. 

For the mid-band, the U.S. took action in three bands to create a contiguous 530 megahertz of spectrum from 3450-3980 MHz available for 5G and beyond. The General Authorized Access tier of the Citizens Broadband Radio Service began deployment, and the tier of Priority Access Licenses were auctioned this past summer. Meanwhile, the FCC repurposed 280 megahertz of the C-Band (3700-3980 MHz) for auction, and in August 2020, the White House and the Department of Defense jointly announced a sharing agreement for the 3450-3550 MHz band.

The report, which is required by an October 2018 Presidential Memorandum, documents the nation’s progress in providing spectrum access for vital services, such as 5G. As the President’s principal advisor on telecommunications matters, NTIA has worked closely with other federal agencies, including the FCC, to reach the milestones outlined in the report. During this process, NTIA oversaw significant efforts to replace or modify sophisticated equipment, find suitable bands for repurposing, and coordinate with new commercial entrants. These successful repurposing efforts could not have been achieved without enormous work by the various federal agencies – all done while still carrying out their primary federal missions.