Yesterday, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) issued a Request for Comment that seeks input on a “National Spectrum Strategy,” which would include a plan to study federal spectrum usage to identify spectrum that could be reallocated or repurposed to commercial or shared federal/commercial use. This National Spectrum Strategy also would include a process for identifying the spectrum bands best suited for repurposing (a “Spectrum Pipeline”). NTIA seeks input in creating a Spectrum Pipeline for the next decade, with the goal of identifying at least 1,500 megahertz of spectrum to study for potential repurposing to meet the future requirements of both commercial and federal users.
NTIA requests input from various stakeholders, including private companies, academia, and the public sector, on its National Spectrum Strategy, which NTIA describes as intending to address the current and future spectrum needs of “spectrum reliant services and missions.” Notably, NTIA identifies the following services and industries, among others:
- Internet of Things (IoT) and smart cities;
- Next-generation satellite communications and other space-based systems;
- Advanced transportation technologies;
- Industrial and commercial applications (i.e., manufacturing, agriculture, and utilities);
- Wireless medical devices and telemedicine;
- Fixed and mobile wireless broadband services; and
- Critical government missions, such as national defense, safeguarding the national airspace, securing the Nation’s critical infrastructure, climate monitoring and forecasting, and other scientific endeavors.
NTIA’s Request for Comment seeks comment from interested stakeholders (e.g., end-users of spectrum-based technologies, wireless broadband providers, network vendors, original equipment manufacturers) on the following three “pillars” of the National Spectrum Strategy:
1. A Spectrum Pipeline
NTIA’s Spectrum Pipeline would be an ongoing process through which NTIA would identify spectrum bands, regardless of whether they are currently allocated to federal or commercial use, that should be reallocated for new or additional uses. Among other issues, NTIA seeks comment on the following:
- Spectrum requirements for next-generation networks and emerging technologies and standards (e.g., 5G Advanced, 6G, Wi-Fi 8).
- Specific use cases and high-level technical specifications (e.g., power levels, data rates) that drive these spectrum requirements.
- Spectrum bands that should be studied for potential repurposing in the short (less than 3 years), medium (3-6 years), and long term (7-10 years).
- Benefits and tradeoffs of various approaches for repurposing spectrum (e.g., exclusive-use licensing, dynamic spectrum sharing).
- Incentives or policies that may encourage federal and commercial spectrum-sharing arrangements, including in high-priority spectrum (i.e., mid-band spectrum).
2. Long-Term Spectrum Planning
NTIA is collaborating with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to develop a long-term spectrum planning process that would create a roadmap for future spectrum access and compatibility based on projections for future national spectrum needs. NTIA generally seeks comment on this long-term spectrum planning process, including on the following issues:
- The specific timeline NTIA would define as “long term” for the purposes of its planning process, as well as how often NTIA should revisit or reevaluate its prior spectrum-related determinations.
- Specific approaches (e.g., rationalization of spectrum) that would optimize the effectiveness of spectrum allocations, or reallocations, in the U.S.
- The groups or categories of stakeholders that should be considered for participation in the development of the National Spectrum Strategy and long-term spectrum planning process.
- How to improve federal/commercial spectrum coordination and interference-protection assessment to avoid delays in spectrum repurposing and deployments in repurposed spectrum.
3. Unprecedented Spectrum Access and Management through Technology Development.
NTIA seeks broad input on the role new or emerging technologies can play in helping the U.S. maintain global leadership in spectrum-based services. NTIA’s questions seek comment on the following issues, among others:
- Expected innovations and next-generation capabilities for spectrum-management models that may help expand and improve spectrum access (including the anticipated timeline for when these innovations may be available).
- The role federal agencies should play in promoting research into, investment in, and development of advancements in spectrum management (e.g., participation in standards development; promotion of tools, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, for spectrum coordination and interference protection).
NTIA’s Request for Comment includes many additional questions and seeks comment on an implementation plan for the National Spectrum Strategy. Specifically, NTIA requests input on (1) the specific steps that could be taken in the next 12-24 months to ensure successful implementation of the Strategy, and (2) the particular spectrum bands that should be prioritized for potential repurposing.
NTIA’s filing guidance states that written comments will be due Monday, April 17, 2023. Ahead of the comment deadline, NTIA will hold two public listening sessions: one on Thursday, March 30, 2023, in Washington, D.C., and another on Tuesday, April 11, at the University of Notre Dame.