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NTIA Releases First Annual Report on Spectrum Repurposing

September 03, 2019
News Media Contact
Anne Veigle

Today, NTIA released the first annual report showing continuing efforts to repurpose parts of the nation’s radiofrequency spectrum to meet the future communications needs of commercial and federal users. The report shows that the United States already leads the world in spectrum available for 5G technology, and is working to more-than-double the radio spectrum available for the next generation of wireless network technology.

“Our nation has made significant progress in making spectrum available for 5G wireless usage,” said Douglas Kinkoph, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information. “This is one of several actions NTIA is taking to maintain the U.S. as a global leader in deploying 5G wireless systems and innovative satellite and space applications, while supporting critical federal missions.”

The report fulfills a requirement in the Oct. 25, 2018 Presidential Memorandum (PM), “Developing a Sustainable Spectrum Strategy for America’s Future,” which set policies for optimizing spectrum resources to advance U.S. leadership in 5G, space commerce and other emerging technologies.

Under the PM, NTIA is leading the effort to craft and implement a national spectrum strategy. Additionally, NTIA has asked federal agencies to review their current spectrum frequency needs, concentrating initially on two specific bands: 3100-3550 MHz and 7125-8400 MHz, with responses due over the next nine months. Federal agencies also have prepared reports on their future spectrum needs over the next 15 years as NTIA builds a system for the continued reporting of federal requirements and spectrum usage.  

The spectrum repurposing report shows that the United States leads the world in spectrum that could be used for 5G, with a total of nearly 5.9 gigahertz (GHz) available for licensed, exclusive use. An additional 7.25 GHz of potential licensed spectrum is under active study, which could ultimately yield over 13 GHz that could be available for licensed 5G networks. For unlicensed use, 14.7 GHz has been made available, with more on the way. 

The frequencies being made available span low-band, mid-band and high-band ranges, which each have important attributes. Low-band spectrum is used primarily for wide-area mobile voice and data services including Internet-of-Things devices. Mid-band spectrum is prized for increasing capacity without significantly impairing coverage, while high-band is being eyed for its potential to provide quantum leaps in data speeds, network capacity, and reduced latency.

Comprehensive band-by-band spectrum updates in the repurposing report extend from 512 megahertz (MHz) to 246 gigahertz (GHz). The report looks at 24 categories of frequency bands, and lists the status of activities including economic benefits from auctions, and bands under study and targeted for future action. The report also notes past and current regulatory and legislative mandates for the bands.

The repurposing report is another step in NTIA’s commitment to make the best use of the nation’s spectrum resources for economic growth, national security, and scientific advancement.