CTIA embraces spectrum sharing, but sees it as second-best option

The idea of sharing spectrum between federal agencies and commercial wireless carriers is becoming more popular, and while the CTIA has voiced support for the idea in principle, the lobbying group is more focused on clearing government spectrum for commercial use.

Spectrum sharing has taken on greater urgency in the wake of reports about a forthcoming government study by the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, which the New York Times first reported last week. The report calls for federal agencies to make use of new computerized radio technologies to lease government spectrum to wireless carriers.

In an interview with the Times, Chris Guttman-McCabe, vice president of regulatory affairs at CTIA, said that CTIA is working with T-Mobile USA and has asked the FCC and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to look into spectrum sharing in the 1755-1850 MHz band. In a report released in late March the NTIA found that 95 MHz of spectrum currently in federal hands, the 1755-1850 MHz band, could be repurposed for commercial wireless use. The agency recommended spectrum sharing as a possibility to repurpose the spectrum.

"With the industry and T-Mobile filing, it was geographic sharing and temporal sharing," he said. "So for example, you can use all of the spectrum in the country, but not this small area because we [e.g., the military] train in that area. Or you can use all of that but just not during this one week a year. We've already begun to look at the idea of sharing, but more in a geographic and temporal nature."

Guttman-McCabe said the biggest concern with the government's report is that its vision of spectrum sharing relies on cognitive radio technologies which may take years to develop and use commercially. "My biggest issue with that approach is we're not aware that that technology exists in a really truly commercially viable or scalable format," he said.

Guttman-McCabe said CTIA is excited about some of the ideas in the new presidential report, but that the priority should be to clear spectrum for commercial wireless use. "We're eager to see that the administration is going to focus on clearing spectrum and that the fallback will be sharing--that the gold standard is trying to find cleared spectrum, like they have in Germany, UK, France, or Spain," he said. "All of these countries have found hundreds of megahertz of spectrum that is clear in the last year and a half basically."

For more:
- see this NYT article
- see this separate NYT article

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