AWS-3 auction: DoD pledges to enable greater access to shared spectrum

The next major U.S. spectrum auction, for AWS-3 frequencies, is slated to begin in less than two months, and the Department of Defense (DoD) is pledging to do what it can to reduce the size of coordination zones in the 1755-1780 MHz band to enable greater access to shared spectrum by commercial operations.

That pledge is included in recently released government data, which is aimed at helping potential bidders assess how to proceed in order to coordinate their spectrum needs with incumbent DoD licensees in the 1755-1780 MHz band.

The AWS-3 auction begins on Nov. 13, and the FCC hopes to raise a minimum of $10.587 billion for the airwaves. The auction will include the 1695-1710 MHz band, assigned as unpaired spectrum used for low-power uplink operations, and the 1755-1780 MHz band, which will be licensed for low-power uplink operations and paired with the 2155-2180 MHz band, which is unencumbered by federal users, for downlink operations. In most cases, federal spectrum users will have to exit the 1695-1710 MHz and 1755-1780 MHz bands or geographically share them with commercial users.

To help bidders prepare for the auction, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) recently released a revised 1755-1780 MHz workbook from the DoD plus an accompanying workbook information file in support of AWS-3 transition planning.

"This release is unprecedented in terms of the scope and granularity of government data provided to help applicants prepare for an auction," wrote John Leibovitz, deputy chief of the FCC's wireless telecommunications bureau and special advisor to the chairman for spectrum policy, in post on the FCC blog.

Leibovitz reminded readers that the downlink at 2155-2180 MHz is already free of government users and is available for immediate use after licenses are granted, though there are some coordination requirements with incumbent non-federal users, as there were in the PCS and AWS-1 bands. "This is 25 MHz of valuable downlink spectrum, generally available from day one," he added.

According to Leibovitz, the need to coordinate with federal incumbents prior to deployment in the uplink at 1755-1780 MHz largely goes away five and a half years after the auction, at which time incumbent coordination zones should contain about 8 percent of the MHz-POPs in the uplink, leaving 92 percent of the uplink free and clear.

In addition, he said that because the DoD pledged in the workbook information file to employ "real-world assumptions about terrain, clutter, network loading, and other parameters to the maximum degree possible," it is possible that coordination zones will be reduced in size, enabling greater access to shared spectrum by commercial operations in most geographic areas.

Chris Hardy, general manager of CommScope subsidiary Comsearch, previously told FierceWirelessTech that winners in the upcoming AWS-3 auction may have to confront years of spectrum-coordination challenges as they finesse their way through incumbent relocation and frequency-sharing issues.

Among other things, Hardy noted that some DoD operations will remain in place indefinitely. For example, there are 34 zones for air combat training systems (ACTS), and two of those will not be moving off the AWS-3 spectrum anytime soon, if ever. The ACTS protection zones run from 285-415 kilometers. Hardy added that the aeronautical mobile telemetry (AMT) service has a 10-year spectrum exit plan, and the AMT protection zones could run as large as 560 kilometers.

For more:
- see this FCC blog post and public notice

Related articles:
Sprint won't participate in AWS-3 spectrum auction, ceding opportunity to competitors
Expectations high for upcoming AWS-3 spectrum auction
T-Mobile to raise new debt, likely for AWS-3 spectrum auction
AWS-3 auction winners could face lots of spectrum-coordination hitches

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