In June, President Obama set a goal of freeing up 500 MHz of federal and commercial spectrum over the next 10 years. Much of this newly available spectrum would be sold at auction to licensees. But some amount would be unlicensed and free for anyone to use. Unlicensed spectrum has spurred considerable innovation in the past, giving us technologies from Wi-Fi to the cordless phone.
NTIA has identified 15 MHz that can be freed up by consolidating what is currently used for meteorological observation systems. In addition, NTIA has identified 100 MHz of federal radar bands that can be shared with private users in the areas of the country currently beyond the reach of the radars. Going forward, the Department of Commerce is working to make more and better spectrum available for wireless broadband over the next 10 years.
The most promising spectrum for reallocation is currently assigned to commercial users, such as broadcast television stations and satellite telephone providers. Many of them are using it efficiently and, under the administration’s plan, those who wish to continue will be able to do so. But the administration also is seeking legislative tools that will allow broadcasters and other spectrum holders to relinquish or share their current spectrum and participate in voluntary incentive auctions.
To capture the full potential of mobile broadband and the innovation and job growth that it offers, we also need legislative action to provide for voluntary incentive auctions by private-sector spectrum holders.