Spectrum inventory bill praised


Most of the witnesses who spoke about the House bill that would instruct the NTIA and FCC to conduct a comprehensive inventory of communications spectrum felt it was an excellent plan. At least one, speaking before the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet, said that much spectrum currently in use is not used efficiently and suspected a careful accounting could turn up a great deal that could be used for new purposes.

Here are testimony summaries.

* Dale Hatfield, Adjunct Professor, Interdisciplinary Telecommunications Program, University of Colorado at Boulder: 1. Unprecedented demand for spectrum; cellular and safety/security issues among them. 2. Going higher in frequency; improving technology to use more efficiently; reallocating; sharing; frequency reuse. 3. Increased sharing – voluntary sharing via secondary markets; reuse isn’t always possible. 4. Strong supporter of spectrum inventory — you can’t manage what you don’t measure. 5. Potential shortcomings associated with paper study – it should be augmented by selected field measurements to achieve maximum spectrum usage.

* Steve Largent, President and CEO, CTIA – The Wireless Association: Two bills on the table are much needed bookends to make spectrum available for wireless broadband. US is already a wireless broadband leader. Urgent need for additional spectrum below 10 gHz. Countries will need 1300 MHz for commercial wireless; has about 500 MHz now. Policymakers must use inventory to reallocate spectrum – must move much more quickly than the typical 10-year reallocation time frame.

* Michael Calabrese, Vice President and Director, Wireless Future Program, New America Foundation: Seamless mobile connectivity anywhere anytime is goal. iPhone is the canary in the coalmine – this type of phone uses more bandwidth than regular cell phone. Spectrum isn’t scarce; government permission to use it is scarce. Vast majority of frequency bands are not being used much of the time. Inventory needs to be granular and detailed on a market basis. Improve secondary market uses, reallocation and spectrum sharing. Not just spectrum, but use of spectrum must be measured. Take advantage of smart radio capabilities to better currently allocated spectrum.

* Gordon H. Smith, President and CEO, National Association of Broadcasters: NAB believes that any inventory should be comprehensive, including federal government bands. Recognize value of free over-the-air broadcasting. Wireless broadband and broadcast is not an either-or question. DTV transition was a success, the benefits are remarkable. It would be short-sighted to stunt the growth of DTV. Consumer expenditures to get ready for DTV would be wasted. Government invested $2B into DTV; broadcasters invested $10B. If, as some advocate, all this is done away with, consumers will never benefit from these improvements. Broadcast TV is the first to expand benefits while decreasing spectrum use. Mobile DTV just getting started – seven channels in Washington DC are already broadcasting to mobile phones. Soon you’ll be able to get TV on almost any device and to short-circuit it now would be very unwise. Broadcast’s ability to serve many over a small bandwidth stream is unique among media, it’s the most efficient. Wireless, on the other hand, puts strain on a stream-by-steam basis. Broadcasters continue to be effective custodians of spectrum. Many services cannot be replicated by broadband providers, particularly during local emergencies, provision of AMBER alerts. DTV – we spent a lot of time to get it right, to make sure nobody was left behind. When you consider highest and best use, value of broadcasting is evident.

* Ray O. Johnson, Ph.D., Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, Lockheed Martin Corporation: Advanced security using spectrum. Endorses inventory, but suggests it be modified. Thinks bill should specifically order NTIA and FCC to study efficiency. Concerned that FCC/NTIA might inadvertently disclose classified information. Concerned about possible misinterpretation of directive overseas and in long-term technology investments.

* Thomas Stroup, Chief Executive Officer, Shared Spectrum Company: Inventory must focus on actual spectrum utilization. We caution against any preconceived notions prior to completion of inventory. His company studies show that only a third of spectrum is in use at any given time. Better use of this could provide accommodation for wireless without dislocating any incumbents. Don’t believe incumbent claims that they are making effective use of their slice – find out what they are really using, and what they are not. Use new technology to make better use of spectrum sharing.

RBR-TVBR observation: We are all for tightening up current spectrum use before looking around for incumbents to chop off.