Paul Kirby, ‘NTIA Sets Framework for Industry-Agency Review of 1755-1850 MHz Band,” TRDaily, May 30, 2012.
National Telecommunications and Information Administration officials today outlined for the Commerce Spectrum Management Advisory Committee (CSMAC) a framework to enable the wireless industry and federal agencies to discuss ways to free up the 1755-1850 megahertz and 1695-1710 MHz bands for use by wireless carriers. The plan calls for five working groups to study the spectrum, with one completing its work by September and the other four by January 2013.
At the meeting at NTIA’s headquarters, several CSMAC members said there is a need for the working groups to use common parameters for the operations of wireless networks. Otherwise, the members said, the groups could arrive at different conclusions.
In March, NTIA released a report that concluded it is possible to repurpose the 1755-1850 MHz band for commercial broadband services, but it proposed that NTIA and the FCC sponsor discussions between federal agencies and industry entities to address a number of challenges, including relocation costs that could reach $18 billion and sensitive government operations that may have to stay in the spectrum indefinitely (TRDaily, March 27). The report emphasized the need for spectrum sharing.
During today’s meeting, Karl Nebbia, NTIA’s associate administrator-Office of Spectrum Management, stressed the importance of collaboration between representatives of federal agencies and wireless entities if they are to make progress in finding ways to relocate federal systems to other spectrum or enable sharing of federal bands. He also acknowledged the difficult work ahead but said NTIA wants the working groups to reach a consensus on their recommendations, which will then be forwarded to the CSMAC, which will decide which recommendations to give to NTIA.
“We’re looking for a cooperative environment, and outcomes that meet both the commercial needs and the government needs,” Mr. Nebbia said. “We are looking for output that represent a consensus outcome. So, as people are working together, we need to continue to keep ourselves in the same room until we work through whatever hurdles and difficulties we find.” Earlier, he said, “We have to set aside kind of our canned bullet points and sound bites.”
Mr. Nebbia said that NTIA is hoping to have the memberships of the working groups completed soon, saying the agency plans to invite agency and industry representatives to serve on the working groups over the next week or so, while firming up CSMAC liaisons to the groups and co-chairs of the groups. Each group will have an industry and agency co-chair. NTIA and the FCC will also each have participants in each group.
The working groups will tackle the following spectrum matters: (1) WG1: the 1695-1710 MHz meteorological-satellite band, which was identified for fast-track reallocation by NTIA in 2010 (TRDaily, Nov. 15, 2010), (2) WG2: law enforcement surveillance, explosive ordnance disposal, and other short-distance links in the 1755-1850 MHz band, (3) WG3: satellite control and electronic warfare in the 1755-1850 MHz band, (4) WG4: tactical radio relay and fixed microwave in the 1755-1850 MHz band, and (5) WG5: airborne operations, including air combat training systems, unmanned aerial vehicles, precision-guided munitions, and aeronautical telemetry, in the 1755-1850 MHz band.
Working group 1 is to complete its work by September, while the other groups are to complete their tasks by January 2013. Mr. Nebbia said the January 2013 date was chosen to provide time to prepare the 1755-1780 MHz band for possible pairing and auction with the 2155-2180 MHz AWS (advanced wireless services)-3 band. The FCC must auction the 2155-2180 MHz band by February 2015.
Mr. Nebbia said the analysis each working group will have to conduct “will be different depending on the applications” in the band under study.
For example, he said, working group 1 will be tasked with assessing the likely wireless network operations in the band in an effort to reduce the size of exclusion zones around National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration earth stations, which receive information from NOAA weather balloons.
By contrast, working group 2 will try to come up with city by city relocation plans for law enforcement surveillance. “This is really a challenging issue,” Mr. Nebbia said. “We know that they’re not compatible,” he said of law enforcement and commercial systems.
Working group 3 will look to define protection zones around satellite sites, and it will also look at rules to protect electronic warfare systems. Working group 4 will consider ways to narrow protection zones around tactical relay sites while looking at the relocation of fixed microwave links beginning from the 1755-1780 MHz band. Working group 5 will determine what protection is needed for airborne operations.
“The Working Groups will produce written outputs recommending to the CSMAC concerning approaches to sharing, transition and/or relocation of the band that will determine the steps that will have to be taken and any factors that may reduce the projected costs, or limitations or restrictions on spectrum availability,” NTIA said in its framework document. “In the case of the 1755-1850 MHz band, the work should consider the steps that might support earlier auction and entrance of service providers into the 1755-1780 MHz portion, where feasible, while maintaining the goal of the entire 1755-1850 MHz band. A critical decision point for each group is a determination of whether incoming industry can or cannot share with a particular incumbent federal system. Where sharing is feasible, the groups should explain the proposed manner of sharing in a way that could potentially be incorporated into service rules.”
“Success of the discussions will require cooperation,” NTIA also said in its framework document. “Participants will determine what information they can share and how to manage its use in the context of the Working Group’s deliberations. NTIA expects the members of the Working Groups to be prudent in their conduct as participants in the Working Group. Each Working Group would be free to adopt its own ‘ground rules’ to avoid premature release of information, if necessary. Similarly, individual Working Group members should be able to meet or exchange sensitive information ‘offline’ and bring it to the group if they believe it would inform the deliberations. If a group identifies a requirement for discussion of classified or otherwise sensitive information, the government participants will identify any appropriate method and controls to do that.”
Mr. Nebbia said the need for a discussion of classified information during the process can probably be avoided, but he said it’s possible some “sensitive” spectrum issues could arise, such as the bandwidths of spectrum used for law enforcement surveillance, although he said agencies might be less sensitive in some cases after the experience of clearing their systems from the 1710-1755 MHz band.
Several CSMAC members said there is a need to ensure that each of the working groups is using the same assumptions for how the wireless networks will operate. “I really think that we do need to have an agreement on the kinds of parameters that are needed and … how the systems are going to be deployed,” said Charles Rush, a consultant for Qualcomm, Inc., and Aerospace Corp. But other panel members said that wasn’t possible.
“You’re not going to have a completely uniform approach,” said Bryan Tramont, managing partner of Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP. He noted that all of the working groups will have industry representation and said the groups should communicate with each other.
Kevin Kahn, a technology policy consultant for Intel Corp., suggested that it would be adequate to make sure that any recommendations take into account the expected technical standards for wireless systems.
Janice Obuchowski, a former NTIA administrator and president of Freedom Technologies, Inc., a consulting firm, said she wanted to raise the “somewhat thorny question” about how agencies will have a “guarantee” that the FCC will endorse the same deployment architecture recommended by the CSMAC. She noted the difference between focusing on sharing or attempting to free up spectrum for exclusive use by wireless carriers.
Mr. Nebbia noted that each of the groups will have industry members, and he said NTIA will rely on them to come up with recommendations that reflect carrier parameters. He also said the FCC will have representation on each working group and noted the FCC worked with NTIA and industry in freeing up 5 gigahertz band spectrum years ago.
Regarding the $18 billion cost estimate for moving most federal systems from the 1755-1850 MHz band, which NTIA has not validated, Mr. Nebbia said those figures will be assessed as “part of a formal process” under the Commercial Spectrum Enhancement Act. He said the initial $900 million estimate to relocate agencies from the 1710-1755 MHz band was actually lower than the actual cost of about $1.5 billion. “Coming up with initial estimates is just that,” he said. He said he doesn’t expect the working groups to focus on “changing the numbers.”
In opening remarks at today’s meeting, Tom Power-deputy U.S. chief technology officer-telecommunications, acknowledged that “whether you’re a federal agency or a commercial provider, sharing is probably not the first option you would jump to in a perfect world,” adding that “exclusive access, if nothing else, bring some certainty.”
He also said that “sharing can encompass a lot of approaches,” including the use of databases such as those being used in the TV “white spaces,” cognitive radios, lower power, or small cells.
“We really are going to be looking at a more refined focus on what the needs of the federal agencies are, the costs and opportunities involved in relocating vs. staying put” and sharing,” said Mr. Power, NTIA’s former chief of staff. But he acknowledged that “getting certainty out of this process is certainly going to be hard.” He also stressed the need to both protect the classified nature of some government systems and the proprietary nature of commercial networks.
“There really is a ton of work to get done,” said NTIA Administrator Lawrence E. Strickling.
After the meeting, Mr. Strickling told TRDaily that he was pleased with the general sharing theme of a report approved Friday by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). The report calls for President Obama to issue a new spectrum memorandum calling for the immediate identification of 1,000 MHz of federal government spectrum for sharing with the private sector (TRDaily, May 25). Mr. Strickling said he has not yet seen the report, which has not been released publicly.
“We’re glad that they’re embracing the same high-level concept that we’ve got to do more of this through sharing,” Mr. Strickling said.
The CSMAC agreed that at least two of its subcommittees – ones dealing with spectrum sharing and the search for 500 MHz of spectrum for wireless broadband services – would go on hiatus during the process involving the 1755-1850 MHz and 1695-1710 MHz bands. More may do so as well.
During today’s meeting, J.H. Snider, an open-government advocate who is founder and president of iSolon.org, raised a point about why there was no public comment period scheduled. Brian Fontes, co-chair of the CSMAC, told Mr. Snider that was because today’s session was an “information meeting” that did not include discussion or votes on any reports. He said there is no plan to eliminate the public comment period at future such meetings. Mr. Snider also reiterated complaints about the CSMAC’s subcommittee process not being open to observers.- Paul Kirby, firstname.lastname@example.org
TRDaily – May 30, 2012