White House Report: Let’s Share The Airwaves

Former methods to solve spectrum crunch won't meet demand

The administration's report on finding new spectrum to feed the public's growing demand for wireless services concludes that the answer lies in spectrum sharing between government and private industry.

The report, "Realizing the Full Potential of Government-Held Spectrum to Spur Economic Growth," represents a major shift in the administration's spectrum management policy, which formerly cleared and reallocated it for exclusive uses.

The original plan to reallocate more spectrum to wireless services was set in motion two years ago in the National Broadband Plan, which recommended that spectrum allocated to wireless services be doubled. Since then, the government identified some new spectrum for wireless and Congress authorized the Federal Communications Commission to hold incentive auctions of voluntarily relinquished TV spectrum. But that will still fall way short of demand.

"The plan was to double mobile spectrum by 500 MHz, but demand has increased five to 10-fold, said Jason Furman, the principal deputy director of the National Economic Council, during a press conference today. "Exclusive license use won't be near enough to keep up with demand," he said.

The solution, the report concludes, is to use new technologies that allow the sharing of spectrum in order to maximize its use, recommending that the federal government target 1,000 MHz of spectrum for shared use with private industry.

"The old method just isn't sustainable any longer. We've already moved the easy stuff," said Larry Strickling, the assistant secretary for communications and information and administration for commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which is in charge of managing the federal government's spectrum.

The report puts a three-year time frame to clear the policy hurdles. Consumers that are already running up against dropped calls and slow connections on congested networks can only hope they'll succeed.