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Uncle Sam Wants You to Help Us Design a Spectrum Monitoring Pilot Project

Meeting Americans’ increasing demand for broadband wireless technologies requires finding more spectrum. NTIA has been leading efforts to help meet President Obama’s goal of identifying 500 megahertz of spectrum for wireless broadband by 2020 while balancing the spectrum needs of federal agencies.

Finding spectrum bands, however, that can be shifted from their current applications to enable new broadband services is a difficult task. While clearing spectrum bands to make way for new wireless services has been a viable approach for many years, options for relocating incumbent operations are dwindling, getting more expensive, and taking longer to implement. Given this, NTIA has been working with the Federal Communications Commission, other federal agencies, and industry stakeholders to explore ways to share the spectrum without displacing existing systems in the same bands.

In a June 2013 executive memorandum on “Expanding America's Leadership in Wireless Innovation,” President Obama noted that spectrum sharing can and should be used to enhance efficiency among all users and can expedite commercial access to additional spectrum bands where technically and economically feasible. The memorandum directs federal agencies to take a number of additional steps to accelerate shared access to spectrum and tasks NTIA to design and conduct a pilot program to monitor spectrum usage in real time in selected communities throughout the country.

NTIA encourages all those interested in providing input on the development of this new spectrum monitoring project to submit comments in response to our Notice of Inquiry (NOI). The NOI seeks comment from stakeholders on the measurement system’s design, features, deployment options, operational parameters, expected utility, potential benefits, and other issues. The deadline for submitting comments is this Thursday, October 3, 2013, and they can be sent via email to: Comments will continue to be accepted electronically in the event of a government shutdown.

This spectrum monitoring initiative would provide many potential benefits. By collecting better data on how much spectrum is being used in selected metro areas, NTIA can evaluate the potential for relocating federal systems or determining where spectrum sharing would be more viable. The new system would initially include a new network of fixed radiofrequency sensors installed at selected sites in up to 10 major metropolitan areas to collect data across particular bands of interest. The measurement equipment would automatically feed data to a centralized database for storing, retrieving, and analyzing spectrum usage and occupancy information. More comprehensive and longer-term data collections like those proposed in the new pilot program could provide better general information that could be analyzed along with other considerations to evaluate the potential for deploying additional federal and nonfederal systems on a shared basis.