Spectrum sharing - Top Wireless Technologies in 2013


What is it?
The idea of spectrum sharing in the United States really started gaining traction after the National Telecommunications and Information Administration issued a report in November 2010 that found 115 MHz of spectrum currently in the hands of the federal government that could be used for wireless broadband. That kicked off lots of conversations over whether and how wireless carriers could share spectrum with the federal government. Another NTIA report, in March 2012, found that 95 MHz of spectrum currently in federal hands, the 1755 - 1850 MHz band, could be repurposed for commercial wireless use, and as part of its review, the NTIA recommended both relocating federal users and sharing spectrum between federal agencies and commercial users. In August 2012 the FCC granted permission to T-Mobile USA to test the concept of sharing spectrum between federal and commercial users in the 1755 - 1780 MHz band.

For the most part, the CTIA has been cool to the concept of sharing spectrum, preferring instead that the government clear licensed spectrum for commercial use--but CTIA has said it is open to geographic or temporal sharing if clearing the spectrum is not possible. Spectrum could be shared through a variety of scenarios. For example, a carrier could use select bands previously controlled by the government, but leave a small area reserved for, say, military testing. Or a carrier could use a specific band of spectrum all of the time except for perhaps one week a year.

Why is it important?
Spectrum sharing is a concept FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has promoted repeatedly as a way to get more radio waves into the hands of carriers. Most carriers follow the CTIA's line on spectrum sharing, preferring to be the sole parties controlling the spectrum they run their services on.

However, as mobile data traffic increases, and with incentive auctions for TV broadcast spectrum not starting until 2014, spectrum sharing has taken on added importance as a way to free up more spectrum. AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T), Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) and T-Mobile USA recently inked an agreement with the Department of Defense to explore the possibility of sharing 95 MHz of spectrum that is currently used by the Pentagon and other federal agencies located in the 1755 - 1850 MHz band.