U.S. government aims to free up more wireless spectrum


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Joe Biden’s administration on Monday announced steps aimed at freeing up additional wireless spectrum for advanced technology needs and soaring U.S. wireless demand including by repurposing spectrum currently set aside for parts of the federal government.

The White House said it was releasing a National Spectrum Strategy and a presidential memorandum to modernize U.S. spectrum policy that “includes new actions to improve spectrum management and spectrum access – including a study of more than 2,700 megahertz of spectrum for potential repurposing.”

Demand for spectrum use is soaring as are planned new uses like connected vehicles that can communicate with the internet, other vehicles and additional sources. Mobile U.S. wireless data traffic rose 38% in 2022.

The White House has said additional spectrum is key to next-generation wireless service and a variety of advanced technology, infrastructure and government needs.

“Innovations ranging from 5G networks, to precision agriculture, to unmanned aerial vehicles, to moon missions take large amounts of spectrum to operate,” the White House said in a statement on Monday.

The spectrum identified for potential repurposing is nearly double the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) goal released in March to identify at least 1,500 megahertz of spectrum to study for potential new uses.

The White House said the spectrum in five bands “could support a range of uses, including wireless broadband, drones and satellite operations,” and that NTIA will complete its study within two years.

Congress in March let the authority of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to auction wireless spectrum lapse for the first time in three decades, prompting some lawmakers to quickly restore the authority that has raised $233 billion in proceeds for the U.S. government.

Key issues include working to free up government-owned spectrum that agencies no longer need to use, establishing processes for resolving spectrum-related conflicts and developing dynamic spectrum-sharing capability, the White House said.

“Future demand for spectrum-based services and technologies is expected to grow substantially across many, if not all, of our nation’s commercial sectors,” the White House said in its strategy document.

“Next-generation wireless technologies such as 5G, 6G and Wi-Fi necessitate additional spectrum resources with the capacity for wider channels, resulting in benefits beyond increased capacity, including enhanced energy efficiency, improved reliability and reduced latency,” it added.

It said that demand for satellite-based services is expanding, with domestic companies filing license applications for satellite constellations to support consumer broadband and other uses.

The FCC in January proposed making 5 GHz band spectrum available for the rising number of drones.

Biden’s administration plans within 12 to 18 months to “advance research, create investment incentives and set forth measurable goals to advance spectrum access technology” including establishing spectrum test beds, the White House said.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Will Dunham)

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