NTIA: 'Significant' progress made in reaching 500 MHz goal by 2020

Just how is the government doing in the Obama Administration's goal to identify and make available 500 megahertz of spectrum for commercial wireless broadband use by 2020? According to a National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) report, (i.e., the government), it's made significant progress.

So far, the NTIA and FCC have made a total of 245 megahertz of spectrum available for wireless broadband technologies, including 165 megahertz during fiscal year 2015. This spectrum is comprised of 140 megahertz from federal or shared bands and 105 megahertz from non-federal bands.

That's the same amount of spectrum cited in last year's status update, but the "Sixth Interim Progress Report on the Ten-Year Plan and Timetable" said activities since the previous report have focused on making spectrum already studied available for commercial wireless services and continuing studies of additional spectrum toward meeting the 500 megahertz goal.

Key accomplishments in fiscal year 2015, which ran from Oct. 1, 2014 through Sept. 30, 2015, include the auction of AWS-3 licenses in the 1695-1710 MHz, 1755-1780 MHz and 2155-2180 MHz bands, with total provisional net bids coming in at more than $41 billion. The FCC also adopted new service and licensing rules for the 3.5 GHz Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) band and kicked off its Spectrum Frontiers proceeding, where it's looking at frequency bands above 24 GHz for mobile broadband and other uses.

The 2010 Presidential Memorandum directed NTIA to collaborate with the FCC to make available 500 megahertz of federal and nonfederal spectrum within 10 years for wireless broadband use. The "Fifth Interim Progress Report" stated that NTIA and the FCC had identified up to 589 megahertz of spectrum to study for potential reallocation. 

Looking ahead to the next 12 months, NTIA and the FCC will focus on the transition of operations in the AWS-3 bands, development of new capabilities to fully implement sharing in the 3.5 GHz band, the auction of 600 MHz UHF TV band frequencies, validation of proposed sharing approaches in the 5 GHz bands and identifying spectrum at higher frequencies for mobile broadband and other flexible uses. They also plan to continue pursuing the Model City program, which was the subject of a workshop last year, and will consider additional frequency bands for study toward the goal of making at least 500 megahertz of spectrum available for commercial broadband services by 2020.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has said the commission will vote on new rules for higher band spectrum at its July 14 meeting. If the commission approves his proposal next month, the United States will be the first country in the world to open up high-band spectrum for 5G networks and applications, he said.

While CTIA has praised the bipartisan efforts to release spectrum, it's also lobbying for the "right rules" that avoid experimenting with novel spectrum sharing regimes and the need for more low- and mid-band spectrum beyond what the ongoing 600 MHz auction is going to make available.

For more:
- download the report here

Related articles:
CTIA lobbies FCC to release high-band spectrum for 5G
CTIA: It takes 13 years, on average, to reallocate spectrum for carriers
NTIA: 245 MHz of spectrum freed so far for wireless, on track for 500 MHz by 2020
FCC plan calls for 500 MHz of new spectrum for wireless