Pentagon strikes deal with broadcasters, clearing way for 1755-1780 MHz auction

The Department of Defense and the broadcasting industry struck a deal that will clear the way for the FCC to auction the 1755-1780 MHz band as part of the AWS-3 auction, a move long sought by the CTIA and wireless carriers clamoring for more airwaves.

In a letter sent from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to the FCC, the NTIA detailed the agreement, which the Pentagon struck with the National Association of Broadcasters. Under the deal, the Defense Department will move its operations off the 1755-1780 MHz band to the 2025-2110 MHz band. TV broadcasters currently use the 2025-2110 MHz band for remote news gathering operations, often to transmit video from the scenes of emergencies. The Defense Department and the broadcasters have agreed to share the spectrum, clearing the way for the 1755-1780 MHz band to be used for commercial mobile services.

Congress has directed the FCC to allocate and license the 2155-2180 MHz band by February 2015. The NTIA in March 2012 recommended that the 1755-1850 MHz band be repurposed for commercial wireless use on a shared basis. The thinking is that the 1755-1780 MHz band could be paired with the 2155-2180 MHz band.

"In July, we knew that the Department of Defense had a plan to move (from the 1755-1780 MHz band) and now it has a place to go," Rick Kaplan, NAB's executive vice president for strategic planning, told Reuters. "It was sort of a surprise. I'm happy we were able to work together."

In the letter, the NTIA said it "appreciates the FCC seeking comment on options for preserving federal users' access to the AWS-3 bands on federal lands and military training ranges in unpopulated areas that are generally unserved by commercial wireless networks."

The NTIA, an arm of the Commerce Department charged with managing federal use of spectrum, noted that federal agencies' domestic spectrum needs, particularly DoD's, "sometimes require intermittent or geographically limited tactical and training operations that may not hinder the nationwide implementation of wireless broadband services."

The CTIA praised the agreement. "We welcome the letter that NTIA sent today to the FCC as an important step forward to ensuring the U.S. wireless industry has access to additional licensed spectrum to meet continued consumer demand," Scott Bergmann, CTIA's vice president of regulatory affairs, said in a statement. "We are hopeful that the 1755-1780 MHz band is ready in time to pair with 2155-2180 MHz band, as the industry has long sought. Pairing these bands will maximize their value to industry and consumers alike, and generate significant revenue for the U.S. Treasury."

The FCC is still seeking input and comments on the AWS-3 auction, including on the Pentagon's new plan, which could carry relocation costs of about $3.5 billion.

For more:
- see this NTIA letter (PDF)
- see this Reuters article 
- see this The Hill article 

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