NTIA: 245 MHz of spectrum freed so far for wireless, on track for 500 MHz by 2020

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) said that during the past five years it has freed up 245 MHz of spectrum for licensed and unlicensed commercial wireless communications. And the agency said it remains on track to release about that same amount during the next five years.

"I'm happy to report that we are making steady progress toward meeting the President's 500 megahertz goal," wrote Paige R. Atkins, associate administrator of NTIA's Office of Spectrum Management, in a post on the agency's website. Atkins pointed to President Obama's announcement on June 28, 2010, directing the NTIA and FCC to make 500 MHz of federal and non-federal spectrum available for commercial wireless broadband by 2020.

"Since that time, NTIA has been working with the FCC, federal agencies and industry to help clear technical obstacles that would enable more federal spectrum to be repurposed for exclusive or shared use by wireless providers," Atkins wrote.

Specifically, Atkins said that the FCC and NTIA have freed up 100 MHz of spectrum in the 3550-3650 MHz band; 40 MHz in the AWS-4 band (2000-2020 and 2180-2200 MHz); and 65 MHz in the AWS-3 band (1695-1710, 1755-1780, and 2155-2180 MHz). Indeed, it was the FCC's AWS-3 spectrum auction, which ended early this year, that generated an astounding $41 billion in winning bids from the likes of AT&T (NYSE: T), Verizon (NYSE: VZ), Dish Network (NASDAQ: DISH) and T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS).

Here is the NTIA's complete report on spectrum it has freed up so far:

WCS: 2305-2320 and 2345-2360 MHz

30 MHz

H Block: 1915-1920 and 1995-2000 MHz

10 MHz

AWS-4: 2000-2020 and 2180-2200 MHz

40 MHz

AWS-3: 1695-1710, 1755-1780, and 2155-2180 MHz

65 MHz

3550-3650 MHz

100 MHz


245 MHz

"But while we're on track to achieve the President's goal, we recognize there is still much work to do," Atkins wrote. "The next opportunity to generate additional spectrum for wireless broadband will come early next year with the FCC's planned launch of the first-ever spectrum incentive auction. The novel mechanism will afford broadcasters the opportunity to voluntarily relinquish all or some of their spectrum through a 'reverse auction' in exchange for a portion of the proceeds generated by a 'forward auction' of the freed-up spectrum to wireless operators. The availability of between 42 MHz and 144 MHz of prime, sub-1 GHz spectrum promises to facilitate significant wireless broadband deployment and enhance competition."

The FCC's incentive auction continues to remain a hot topic among major players in the wireless industry since it promises to be the last major FCC spectrum auction for the foreseeable future, and it involves valuable, low-band 600 MHz spectrum. As a result, companies including AT&T and T-Mobile continue to push the FCC for auction rules that will free up as much spectrum as possible through the auction.

For more:
- see this NTIA post

Related articles:
Broadcasters warn that FCC could lower 600 MHz auction opening prices by a collective $8.3B
FCC's Wheeler reaffirms that incentive auction will take place in Q1 2016
T-Mobile's quest for larger 600 MHz reserve gets boost from DOJ
Wheeler shoots down T-Mobile's push for 40 MHz spectrum reserve in 600 MHz auction
FCC gets grief from broadcasters over incentive auction rules