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NTIA Releases Spectrum Occupancy Data to Help Enable Successful Sharing in the Mid-Band

April 23, 2020

The Trump Administration is poised to make significant progress this year in efforts to promote new 5G opportunities through mid-band spectrum sharing. In January, NTIA reported considerable potential for spectrum sharing options in the 3450-3550 MHz band. This summer, years of work by NTIA engineers in collaboration with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Department of Defense will culminate in an FCC auction of Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) licenses in the adjacent 3550-3650 MHz band.

Incumbent federal operations in both these bands are primarily military radars and include shipborne, airborne, and land-based systems. But limited information exists about actual usage of these bands – what’s sometimes known as spectrum occupancy data.

Today, NTIA’s research lab, the Institute for Telecommunication Sciences (ITS), published a summary report that presents data collected from a two-year effort to measure spectrum occupancy in these two key bands. Interim occupancy reports were provided to NTIA engineers throughout 2018 and 2019, helping to inform CBRS policy. Today’s publication makes a summary of the measurements available to the public for the first time.

To collect this data, ITS developed and deployed spectrum monitoring sensors that performed mostly continuous, long-term measurements in both bands at four key locations in the U.S. The technical report describes measurement strategy, data processing, and results. It also gives an example of a standardized common data model — essentially, how the information is presented — which would allow spectrum monitoring data to be collected and shared among many entities, producing reliable and fulsome records capable of assisting with future spectrum policy decisions.

Understanding how often these federal systems are used is critical for ensuring that spectrum sharing with commercial services functions as intended. The data show that, despite federal use at the measurement sites, a commercial service will be able to operate largely as intended even at those locations where the measured incumbent spectrum usage is the greatest.