New 3.5 GHz rules reveal less control-freaky Department of Defense

When the FCC voted to adopt new spectrum sharing rules for the 3.5 GHz band, it acknowledged the hard work the FCC staff, National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and U.S. Department of Defense did in order to come up with a workable plan.

As part of opening up more spectrum for commercial and consumer wireless broadband use, the DoD agreed to smaller exclusion zones, where commercial and other operators cannot operate. Those zones were reduced by 77 percent from an original proposal.

"Two-thirds of the 150 megahertz that we make available today was previously unavailable for consumer and commercial use because it was locked up by a single user, the Defense Department," FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said ahead of Friday's vote.

The situation changed for two reasons, he said. First, advanced computing systems can now act like spectrum traffic cops, "and it's appropriate that as we come up on the 50th anniversary of Moore's law… the power of Moore's law is being demonstrated to us in how we can use and re-use and share this valuable natural resource," Wheeler said.

The other factor that changed everything was the cooperation and leadership of the Defense Department. Wheeler said that early in his tenure in this job, he sat down with Secretary Hagel and told him how impressed he was with the DoD's new enlightened approach to spectrum policy. "The reasons for that are many, starting with presidential leadership. But like everything else, it boils down to people," Wheeler said, calling out former DoD CIO Teri Takai and current CIO Terry Halvorsen, as well as Major Gen. Robert Wheeler.

In particular, however, he said Fred Moorefield of the Defense Department and the NTIA's Ed Drocella deserved a shoutout due to their hard work and commitment. They were supported in their efforts by folks at NTIA, led by Larry Strickling. Wheeler also called out the FCC staff for their perseverance, including Paul Powell, the "Luke Skywalker of 3.5 GHz" who presented the Report and Order to the commission, and John Leibovitz, deputy wireless bureau chief.

The commissioners aren't the only ones noticing a change in the DoD's approach to spectrum. Mimosa Networks CEO and co-founder Brian Hinman and his team have been working directly with the Defense Department in order to address issues in the 10 GHz band. It's a band the company has identified as ideal for long-distance, high-capacity links for broadband access in underserved rural areas and for cellular backhaul. However, it needs to show its technology can work there without disrupting existing users, which includes radar for the DoD.

Rather than being put off, the company has managed to work directly with DoD staff to come up with what it hopes will eventually be a workable solution.

For more:
- see this Multichannel News article

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FCC moves closer to adopting new 3.5 GHz spectrum sharing rules
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