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Plan to Select Spectrum for Third Generation (3G) Wireless Systems

October 20, 2000
October 20, 2000


President Clinton signed a memorandum dated October 13, 2000, (Attachment 1) that states the need and urgency for the United States to select radio frequency spectrum to satisfy the future needs of the citizens and businesses for mobile voice, high speed data, and Internet accessible wireless capability; the guiding principles to be used for the development of 3G wireless systems; and the direction to the Federal agencies to carry out the selection of spectrum.

In summary, the President directed the Secretary of Commerce in cooperation with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to:

  • develop a plan by October 20, 2000, for the identification and analysis of possible spectrum bands for 3G services that would enable the FCC to select specific frequencies by July 2001 for 3G and complete the auction for licensing 3G wireless providers by September 30, 2002.
  • issue an interim report by November 15, 2000, on the current spectrum uses, and the potential for the sharing or segmenting, of two of the bands identified at the World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-2000) for 3G wireless use, 1755-1850 MHz and 2500-2690 MHz, about which the United States does not have sufficient knowledge at present to make a considered decision about allocation.
  • work with government and industry representatives through a series of public meetings to develop recommendations and plans for identifying spectrum for 3G wireless systems.
  • the Secretary of Defense, Secretary of the Treasury, Secretary of Transportation, Department of State and heads of any other executive department or agency that currently use any of the spectrum identified at the WRC-2000 for 3G systems to participate and cooperate with the government-industry group as established above by the Secretary of the Commerce.
  • the Department of State to coordinate and present the evolving views of the United States to foreign governments and international bodies.

All of the above work is expected to lead to the issuance of a final report by March 1, 2001, that describes the potential use of all identified bands for 3G wireless applications.

The President encouraged the FCC to participate in the government-industry program being led by the Secretary of Commerce and complete rulemaking for spectrum allocation in full coordination with the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information (Administrator, National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA)) by July 2001.


Over the past decade, there has been enormous worldwide growth in the use of mobile radios. Studies in the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and elsewhere indicate that this growth in personal communications is likely to continue. First and second generations of personal communications service (PCS) are operating now. The 3G PCS will provide mobile and satellite-based broadband capabilities, and represent a path for the evolution of existing cellular and PCS. A summary of various administrations' spectrum usage (cellular and PCS) and planned 3G wireless is shown in Attachment 2.

The ITU Radiocommunication Sector has addressed the characteristics of a 3G system and has termed it International Mobile Telecommunications-2000 (IMT-2000). Key features of IMT-2000 include: a high degree of commonality of design worldwide; compatibility of services within IMT-2000; and high-quality worldwide use and roaming capability for multi-media applications (e.g. video-teleconferencing and high-speed Internet access). The following was considered by the ITU's 2000 WRC-2000: "review of spectrum and regulatory issues for advanced mobile applications in the context of IMT-2000, noting that there is an urgent need to provide more spectrum for the terrestrial component of such applications and that priority should be given to terrestrial mobile needs, and adjustments to the Table of Frequency Allocations as necessary"(1).

The 698-960 MHz, 1710-1885 MHz, 2500-2690 MHz and the 2700-2900 MHz bands were some of the bands that WRC-2000 considered for IMT-2000 terrestrial systems. The United States position for this conference was established among U.S. industry and government representatives, resulting in a proposal that the United States believed could be the basis for a compromise at the conference, given the conflicting positions of many of the other administrations. The United States and many ITU Region II administrations proposed no change to the allocations in the 2700-2900 MHz band. The United States also suggested three possible bands for terrestrial IMT-2000, including the 1710-1885 MHz band (favored by the Americas), the 2500-2690 MHz band (favored by Europe), and the 698-960 MHz band. At the conference, the United States stated that it would study the 1755-1850 MHz and 2500-2690 MHz bands domestically to (1) see if there are alternate bands to relocate the existing systems, (2) determine the costs of any required relocation, (3) identify who would pay for relocation, and (4) assess how long the transition would take. The United States proposed, and the WRC-2000 adopted, full regulatory flexibility, giving each administration the right to determine which band it may want to identify for IMT-2000, if it wants to do so at all. Administrations can identify these bands at any time. Also, the United States proposed to keep bands identified for IMT-2000 open to any technology that fits in the mobile service rather than specifying a technology or standard for use in the spectrum.

WRC-2000 identified the 806-960, 1710-1885, and 2500-2690 MHz bands for terrestrial IMT-2000. The 1525-1559, 1610-1660.5, 2483.5-2500, 2500-2520 and 2670-2690 MHz bands were identified for the satellite portion of IMT-2000. These bands are shown in Attachment 2. The conference also adopted a resolution pointing out that some countries may implement IMT-2000 in the 698-806 and 2300-2400 MHz bands. The WRC-2000 agreed that the identification of these bands does not preclude the use of these bands by any application of services to which they are allocated, and does not establish priority in the Radio Regulations. Administrations can implement any bands in any timeframe, for any service or technology, and may use any portion of the bands that they deem appropriate, based on national requirements. All of these bands are used at present. For those who may be required to relocate, additional spectrum may have to be found or other accommodations will have to be made to continue their operations.

The United States recognizes that discussions relative to spectrum for advancing mobile telecommunications systems are vital for administrations to plan their spectrum use, and for industry to plan how it will meet the marketplace needs of the future. The United States supports the development and implementation of advancing mobile telecommunications systems, such as IMT-2000, as critical components of the communications and information infrastructure of the future.

In addition to the three WRC-2000 bands, other bands that could be considered in the United States are: 698-746, 746-764, 776-794, 806-960 (includes the present U.S. cellular), 1710-1850, 1850-1990 (present PCS bands), 2110-2150, 2160-2165 and 2500-2690 MHz. A brief description of these bands is contained in Attachment 3. All these bands will be given full consideration in the formulation of the final allocation order. For some of these bands, no extensive studies are required to provide decision-makers with a factual basis for a decision. However, in order to achieve a full understanding of all the options available, the FCC and NTIA need to undertake studies of the frequency ranges of 1755-1850 MHz and 2500-2690 MHz. The studies' purpose is to determine whether, and under what conditions, these bands could be made available for 3G wireless systems and the costs and operating impacts to the incumbent users. These analyses are the subject of the study plan described below.


A. Overview

The NTIA will study the 1755-1850 MHz band, and the FCC will study the 2500-2690 MHz band. It is important that the studies be based on the same assumptions where applicable and address common spectrum options. The two studies will proceed along the same timelines and use similar assumptions to assure equal treatment for both.

The results of the two studies, relevant information regarding the other bands identified in Section II, above, (806-960, 1710-1755, 2110-2150, 2160-2165 MHz) and public comment generated either during the Secretary of Commerce's government-industry dialogue (see Section IV, "Outreach," below) or in response to the FCC's Notice of Proposed Rulemaking will be taken into consideration when reviewing the overall spectrum requirements and future plans for 3G. Among other things, there will be an evaluation of private sector plans to migrate their 1G and 2G systems to 3G in the existing bands they already have. National security and public safety will also be taken in account. In addition, among other factors, the U.S. will also have to consider the ramifications of the deployment of 3G elsewhere in the world with regard to possible spectrum harmonization that could lead to global roaming.

The analysis will also have to take into account the provisions of the FY 00 National Defense Authorization Act, which requires that before there can be any reallocation of spectrum where the Department of Defense is a primary user, which includes 1755-1850 MHz, certain conditions must be met: (1) NTIA, in consultation with the FCC, must identify and make available to the Department of Defense an alternative band or bands of frequencies as a replacement; and (2) the Secretary of Commerce, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have jointly certified to specified committees of the Congress that the replacement band or bands of frequencies provides comparable technical characteristics to restore essential military capability that will be lost as a result of this reallocation. The same analysis will apply if the DoD is a primary user of a band selected as an alternate band in which to place incumbent users of the candidate bands.

Study Information Basic Requirements

2. Candidate Band Incumbent System Description. The studies will describe incumbent systems in the candidate bands including: (1) nature of use (what it is used for); (2) system technical characteristics description (as a minimum, the necessary information to perform sharing studies with 3G systems); (3) spectrum currently used, including channeling bandwidths and overall spectrum to cover regions or nationwide; (4) current geographical deployments; (5) planned geographical deployments; (6) system life expectancy; (7) planned replacement systems; (8) interference thresholds (ITU based if available); (9) unique operational features (e.g., it has to be located in a specific location, area or elevation; or it has a special relationship with other frequency bands such as a set separation between uplinks and downlinks); and (10) any operational considerations including national security and public safety that will have a bearing on the evaluation of the sharing or relocation options above. If any of the above information is classified or non-releaseable under the Freedom of Information Act or any other legislation, it will not be released to the public or contained in any unrestricted report. This information and subsequent use will be contained in a separate report accessible only to those having the necessary security clearances and/or need-to-know. FCC will provide the report on the 2500-2690 MHz band and the NTIA will provide the report on the 1755-1850 MHz band.

3. Potential Alternate Bands. When selecting alternate bands for incumbent users of candidate bands, consideration should first be given to those bands in which no, or minimum, disruption would occur to the incumbents in those bands. Also, the potential alternate bands should afford candidate band incumbent systems that may require replacement spectrum the capability to function without loss of functionality or necessary interoperability in the alternate band(s). The study will describe the alternate bands as to: (1) existing rules and regulations that govern the use of the bands; (2) the changes in allocation rules and regulations that would be necessary to make them acceptable to the candidate band incumbent users; (3) the relocation of alternate band incumbents if necessary; (4) the operational constraints on the alternate band incumbents or on the candidate band systems; and (5) any other considerations, including national security and public safety, in the use of the alternate bands that would have a negative effect on candidate band incumbent users.

    1. 3G System Description. The study will describe 3G system requirements and include: (1) nature of proposed use; (2) system technical characteristic description (as a minimum, the necessary information to perform sharing studies with candidate band systems); (3) spectrum required including channeling bandwidths and overall spectrum plans (includes segmentation of candidate bands) to cover regions or nationwide; (4) timing requirements for identification of spectrum; (5) planned geographical deployments; (6) interference thresholds (ITU based if available); (7) potential relationship with other countries' deployment of 3G and global roaming; (8) potential alternate spectrum band plans including any band segmentation; and (9) any operational considerations that will have a bearing on the evaluation of the sharing/relocation options below. FCC will provide this description.

C. Spectrum Sharing/Relocation Options

Using the information above, the study will include a technical evaluation of the following sharing/relocation options:

2. Band/Channel Segmentation.

The studies will assess the feasibility of dividing the candidate bands into segments and/or channels and evaluating how the incumbent and 3G systems would share these segments and/or channels to meet their respective radiocommunication requirements. The FCC will propose possible segmentation plans for both 1755-1850 and 2500-2690 MHz bands to evaluate as part of the interim band studies. These options may also consider use of the 1710-1755 and 2110-2160 MHz segments. Additional segmentation possibilities may be evaluated later in the process. 3G alternate plans and 1G/2G migration could have a bearing on this option.

Studies for both sharing and segmentation will use generally-accepted interference protection criteria, where available, for determining unacceptable levels of interference. Studies will also consider possible operational methods to mitigate potential interference while retaining the capability to perform the same mission or service in light of current requirements.

3. Band/Channel Segmentation & Alternate Band Combination. If the candidate bands could not support all requirements of the incumbents and 3G simultaneously, identification of alternate bands to satisfy requirements would be required.

4. Alternate Bands Only. Relocate incumbents to other bands if necessary.

5. Other Options. Potential combination of the above.

    1. System Sharing. An evaluation of the current and planned systems in the candidate bands to share with 3G systems.

For each of options above, the evaluation will consider implementation of the option by the end of 2003, 2006, 2010 or any other variant that is costed out above.

D. Cost and Benefits

2. Benefits. An estimate will be made of the benefits, if any, including potential auction receipts that could be potentially realized as a result of the auction of the spectrum selected for 3G as well as the economic benefits. The assumptions made in the estimates will also be described. There may be a number of band options to be estimated.

3. Cost and Benefits Analysis. Based on 1 and 2 above, OMB/FCC/NTIA will perform a cost and benefits analysis for each option and implementation timeframe. An independent audit may be appropriate to evaluate the cost estimates.

4. Costing Rules. Both the FCC and NTIA will use consistent cost standards. OMB may have to delineate the portions of the cost estimates that may be disallowed.

    1. Option Implementation Cost Estimates. For each of the options in C. above, a cost estimate will be provided to include a description of the costs to implement the option or any iterations thereof and any associated assumptions. The estimates will include implementing the option by the end of 2003, 2006, 2010, or at times where there is a potential cost advantage to do so (an example might be that an incumbent system is scheduled to relocate to a different band in the future and there would be no new cost to relocate the incumbent; or by stopping any further build-outs of systems thereby reducing the costs to relocate future incumbents).

E. Schedule

2. Reports and Content.

    1. 3G Description. FCC will provide the 3G description to NTIA so the options can be evaluated and reports completed as scheduled below.
    • a. Interim Report - Nov 15, 2000
      • (1) 3G description
        (2) candidate band incumbent system description
        (3) evaluation of system sharing and band segmentation options
    • b. Final Report - Mar 30, 2001
      • (1) information from Interim Report
        (2) information on other bands
        (3) description of alternate bands/relocation studies
        (4) evaluation including costing and migration schedule for three time periods (2003, 2006, & 2010) for the two options in the interim report and the other options (segmentation & alternate band combination, alternate bands only, and other sharing/ segmentation/alternate band mixes)
    • c. Other Information - As required


The President's Memorandum instructs the Secretary of Commerce to work with government and industry representatives through a series of regular public meetings to develop recommendations and plans for identifying spectrum for 3G wireless systems. Additionally, it directs the Federal agencies that use the spectrum, and urges the FCC, to participate and cooperate with the government-industry group. NTIA, on behalf of the Secretary of Commerce, will act as the primary facilitator in the Department's outreach program. Each Federal agency will designate a person to represent the agency to attend these public meetings. The following activities are planned to carry out the President's direction:

B. Interim Reports. The FCC and NTIA will release their interim reports to the public on November 15. NTIA will ask industry for comments. Subsequent meetings may be held depending on the nature of the comments.

C. FCC Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). The FCC plans to release a NPRM on 3G in December which will include information from the interim reports. The FCC will receive comments on the NPRM. The FCC and NTIA will hold joint information exchange meetings with industry representatives relative to the comments.

D. Final Report. The FCC and NTIA will release their final reports on March 30, 2001, describing all identified bands for 3G wireless use. Industry will be asked to comment on these reports.

    A. Initial Ideas and Positions. NTIA will invite industry representatives to articulate their ideas and positions for selection of spectrum for 3G and to suggest industry initiatives to supplement this plan. Areas of discussion could include anticipated 3G spectrum requirements, band segmentation, 1G/2G/2.5G migration, alternate bands for incumbents, short and long range plans, and global roaming considerations. Representatives will be asked to submit their ideas and positions in writing. NTIA, on behalf of the Secretary of Commerce, will schedule an opportunity for industry representatives to explain their ideas and positions. Based on this initial information, subsequent meetings may be held.


The FCC is responsible for allocating spectrum for non-government uses. The Commission allocates spectrum through the rule making process in accordance with the Administrative Procedures Act. The process generally begins when an organization or member of the public submits a petition for rule making requesting a change in the United States Table of Frequency Allocations contained in Section 2.806 of the FCC rules. The Commission issues a public notice inviting comment on such petitions. If the Commission finds that the petition has merit, it issues a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM). The public is afforded an opportunity to file comments which the Commission must consider before arriving at a final decision. The Commission then adopts a Report and Order that makes changes to the Table of Frequency Allocations as appropriate.

The Commission recently received two petitions for rule making requesting spectrum allocations for 3G mobile services. The Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA) submitted a petition (RM-9920) asking the Commission to allocate spectrum for 3G terrestrial mobile services, and in particular to conduct studies to consider use of the 1755-1850 MHz and 2500-2690 MHz bands identified at WRC-2000. The Satellite Industry Association (SIA) submitted a petition (RM-9911) asking the Commission to allocate the 2500-2520 MHz and 2670-2690 MHz bands for the mobile satellite service for the mobile component of 3G services. Comments were filed on both petitions on September 12, 2000.

The Commission plans to initiate a Notice of Proposed Rule Making by the end of this year proposing spectrum allocations for fixed and mobile services that would be available for 3G terrestrial mobile services. It is anticipated that the Notice of Proposed Rule Making will consider the frequency bands identified in attachment 1. Further, the NPRM is expected to consider the future role of the cellular and PCS services in providing 3G services. The NPRM may consider other relevant frequency bands that may be used to serve the demand for 3G terrestrial services. A number of factors will be considered in developing proposed allocations, including the studies of 1755-1850 MHz and 2500 - 2690 MHz bands.

A Report and Order (R&O) is planned to be completed by July 2001 allocating spectrum for fixed and mobile services that will be available for 3G services. The allocation decisions will be based on the comments filed on the Notice of Proposed Rule Making and studies of the 1755 -1850 MHz and 2500 - 2690 MHz bands, and any other relevant information.

The Commission routinely coordinates frequency allocations that may affect government use of the spectrum with the NTIA. Because certain of the frequency bands of interest are allocated to the Federal Government, the Commission will closely coordinate both the NPRM and R&O with NTIA.

The spectrum allocation proceeding will be followed by another rule making proceeding to establish service rules. The service rule proceeding will be completed in time to complete auctions of the licenses by September 30, 2002.


A. Oct 13, 2000 President signs Memorandum to set the major milestones and guidance to the Federal Agencies and FCC

B. Oct 20, 2000 Secretary of Commerce releases a plan to select spectrum for 3G to the public

C. Oct 20-Nov15, 2000 Industry shares its ideas, positions, & supplemental plans on 3G spectrum selection.

D. Nov 15, 2000 Secretary of Commerce and the FCC release their Interim band studies

E. Nov 15-30, 2000 Industry provides comments on Interim Reports.

F. Dec 31, 2000 FCC releases Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) to address 3G allocation issues.

G. Mar 30, 2001 Final FCC/NTIA band studies completed and final reports describing all identified bands for 3G wireless use made available for public comment

H. Mar 1 - Jun 15, 2001 NTIA/FCC will have information exchange meetings with industry.

I. Mar 1 - Jun 15, 2001 NTIA/FCC will meet regularly during the formulation of the allocation order, and final draft will be coordinated between them.

J. Jul 30, 2001 FCC issues an allocation order (specifies the bands selected for 3G) and a FNPRM on service & auction rules for allocated bands

K. Dec 15, 2001 FCC issues Service & Auction rules for allocated bands

L. Jun 15, 2002 FCC conducts the auction of 3G spectrum

M. Sep 30, 2002 Assignment of licences for 3G spectrum is completed.

Those items in "bold" are the major milestones that are contained in the President's Memorandum.

1. Resolution 721 (WRC-97) Agenda for the 1999 World Radiocommunication Conference, International Telecommunication Union Radio Regulations, Volume 3, (Geneva: ITU 1998) p.319