Myriad of Parties Offer Views on National Spectrum Strategy

A myriad of parties have offered advice to the Trump administration on the development of a national spectrum strategy, including terrestrial wireless, cable, satellite, GPS, TV broadcaster, utility, and public safety entities. Among other things, entities stressed the importance of exclusive access to licensed spectrum, unlicensed channels, spectrum sharing, the protection of incumbents from interference, changes to the Spectrum Relocation Fund, transparency in how federal bands are being used, spectral efficiency, and a road map detailing when spectrum will be made available. They filed comments with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration in response to a request for comments released last month (TR Daily, Dec. 20, 2018).

President Trump signed a memorandum in October directing the executive branch to develop the national spectrum strategy and emphasizing the importance of efficient government spectrum use, spectrum sharing, and leading the world in 5G deployment (TR Daily, Oct. 25, 2018). Mr. Trump’s memo requires the secretary of Commerce, working through NTIA, and in consultation with Office of Management and Budget, the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the FCC, and other federal entities, to submit the national spectrum strategy to the president within 270 days.

NTIA is closed like the rest of the Commerce Department due to the partial federal government shutdown, but TR Daily received comments filed with NTIA in docket no. 181130999-8999-01 from the parties themselves.

“Fundamental to the Strategy should be the U.S. Government’s commitment to deliver substantial additional terrestrial spectrum for 5G, and on a clearly defined schedule,” CTIA argued in its comments. “History has shown that, where sufficient spectrum is available for wireless service, the private sector will invest billions of dollars to convert that raw material into innovative products and services that help consumers, create jobs, and grow the economy – and that opportunity will be even more profound with 5G. Yet today, terrestrial, flexible-use spectrum available for mobile wireless use is comprised of less than 6.5 gigahertz; by comparison, fixed (non-flexible use) allocations amount to nearly 23 gigahertz and satellite allocations cover nearly 30 gigahertz.”

CTIA asked the administration in the national spectrum strategy to adopt certain principles for spectrum management. “A top priority should be identifying and making available low-, mid-, and high-band spectrum for exclusive, licensed terrestrial use – more specifically, the U.S. Government should make available hundreds of megahertz of mid-band spectrum and thousands of megahertz of high-band spectrum for terrestrial wireless use in the near term – and licensees should be able to provide fixed, mobile, or both types of service.”

CTIA also called on the Trump administration to “develop and execute on a five-year action plan for FCC auctions of identified spectrum bands, and the Strategy should outline a process, consistent with the principles herein, to prepare for the next 10-15 years of wireless developments while also retaining flexibility to account for continued innovations.”

“While unlicensed spectrum plays – and will continue to play – a key part in meeting consumer demand, the Government should appropriately balance the allocation of licensed and unlicensed operations and ensure that any unlicensed spectrum regimes are technologically neutral and available for Wi-Fi, LTE-Unlicensed (‘LTE-U’), Licensed Assisted Access (‘LAA’), and all unlicensed technologies,” CTIA said. “In international fora, U.S. policy should support harmonization in key 5G bands, while maintaining flexibility in the ITU Radio Regulations when possible.”

In addition, the national spectrum strategy “should promote transparency and collaboration between Federal agencies and the commercial sector and should support use of the Spectrum Relocation Fund (‘SRF’) for exploring technology advancements that could facilitate the transition of Federal spectrum for commercial use,” according to CTIA, which added that “the Strategy must be vested with a sense of urgency. Many nations are vying to lead on 5G, and the United States cannot wait.”

“In order to most effectively promote Fifth Generation (‘5G’) and future wireless networks and services, NTIA should develop a national spectrum strategy that promotes reliable access to sufficient spectrum for exclusive licensed commercial use,” urged T-Mobile US, Inc. “5G technology will utilize much wider bandwidths and require far greater amounts of spectrum than previous generations of mobile broadband to provide the extreme data speeds and volume needed to support applications, such as 4K video, virtual reality, augmented reality and widely deployed Internet of Things.

“It will need the reliability to support services that require high reliability, such as remote surgery, autonomous vehicles and drones. It must have the breadth and depth to support services in remote areas of the country and the densest urban areas to serve a generation of devices that require ubiquitous connectivity. Meeting the diversity of demands will require a spectrum strategy that provides a sufficient supply of high, mid- and low-band than was necessary to implement earlier generations of wireless technology and the national spectrum strategy should reflect that imperative,” T-Mobile added.

“The United States pioneered the global transition to 4G LTE services. We did so with the help of smart spectrum policies, rooted in the principle that exclusive-use licensing drives investment and promotes innovation. Those same policies can help facilitate a successful 5G revolution and cement the United States’ position as a wireless leader for generations to come,” said Verizon Communication, Inc. “Exclusive-use licensing should continue to form the bedrock of our spectrum licensing framework.”

Verizon continued, “Unlicensed spectrum and spectrum sharing mechanisms are also important pieces of the wireless puzzle with the potential to free more spectrum for commercial use than would otherwise be available. The Administration and the Federal Communications Commission (‘FCC’) should maintain a balance between unlicensed and licensed spectrum allocations. But in light of the substantial swaths of spectrum the FCC already has earmarked for unlicensed use, identifying additional spectrum for licensed, exclusive-use is all the more important. Making additional, licensed mid-band spectrum available is particularly critical.”

Verizon also asked the administration to “proceed with caution in expanding the use of sharing mechanisms until such approaches are carefully studied and validated. Spectrum sharing may offer opportunities to access new spectrum bands where there are no practicable alternatives, but it is not a substitute for the exclusive-use licensing policies that have shaped the thriving wireless industry of today and that will help secure U.S. leadership of the 5G future.”

The Wireless Internet Service Providers Association said that “effective spectrum policy must be guided by three fundamental principles. First, NTIA should declare that spectrum is the quickest and most cost-effective way to provide access to broadband services to rural areas that lack access or choice.  … Second, spectrum policy should favor a balance of unlicensed, shared access and licensed allocations for flexible use, both fixed and mobile, and should not mandate specific technologies or use cases. As NTIA is aware, it is increasingly difficult to find or clear spectrum nationwide, and spectrum access models that promote efficient geographic sharing with Federal and commercial incumbents must be a part of an overall policy approach.”

“Third, licensed spectrum should be accessible to small broadband providers through various means such as small geographic license areas and build-out rules that incentivize deployment to rural areas or leasing of spectrum in rural areas,” WISPA added. “Policies also should provide incentives for build-out to rural areas instead of relying solely on vague build-out standards that have led to significant spectrum warehousing.”

NCTA said “the National Spectrum Strategy should recognize the importance of Wi-Fi to Americans and the U.S. economy and include steps to promote additional spectrum for unlicensed use. NTIA should also recognize that both fixed and mobile technologies are part of a balanced spectrum policy. In addition, in identifying additional spectrum for licensed or unlicensed use, NTIA must recognize that hundreds of millions of Americans rely on existing non-federal licensed spectrum for current services, including C-Band satellite spectrum used to deliver television service to more than 100 million cable households across the country.

“NTIA can account for these economic and marketplace realities by adopting a simple framework to guide spectrum policy. It should be the policy of the United States to: (1) put unused spectrum to work; (2) increase efficiency and intensity of use of underutilized spectrum; and (3) create careful solutions to enable additional uses, while protecting consumers’ use of existing services in bands where there are intensive incumbent operations,” NCTA added.

Specifically, NCTA argued that NTIA should recommend that the FCC “open the critical 5.9 GHz band to unlicensed operations, thereby preventing impending service degradation as demand for unlicensed spectrum outstrips existing capacity, and bringing next-generation Wi-Fi services to Americans” and “recommend a balanced approach to the examination of 3.7 GHz and 6 GHz mid-band spectrum.”

The Wi-Fi Alliance asked “NTIA, consistent with Section 617 of Ray Baum’s Act, part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018, to consider the benefits and applicability of access to spectrum available for unlicensed operations in expanding flexibility, availability and utilization of spectrum. Also, in developing a national plan for unlicensed spectrum pursuant to Section 618 of Ray Baum’s Act, NTIA should consider the Wi-Fi Alliance suggestions below to reform the Spectrum Relocation Fund to address costs incurred by Federal entities to expand spectrum sharing with technologies that use unlicensed spectrum and to ensure that the Spectrum Relocation Fund can cover those costs.”

The Telecommunications Industry Association said the national spectrum strategy should be based on principles such as predictability, flexibility, efficiency, and priority. “Good spectrum policy decisions need to be made on a band-by-band basis, depending on the particular propagation characteristics of a band, existing service allocations, and existing incumbent services within a band,” TIA added. “For example, while spectrum sharing approaches and technologies are increasingly becoming available, the existence of either should not, by itself, justify regulatory action to implement a sharing system. Rather, that should be one of multiple factors for each specific service and band.”

The trade group also stressed the importance of spectrum being globally harmonized, saying that it “enables efficiencies of scale in product development and manufacturing. Such harmonization is also important for promoting coverage, and some systems, including satellite systems, rely heavily upon it to efficiently utilize the capabilities of launched satellites. TIA therefore urges policymakers to prioritize attention on globally-harmonized spectrum bands, and a national spectrum strategy should reflect the importance of this principle. Harmonization alone, however, should not determine the government’s actions; it is one factor among several that should be considered.”

“To meet the growing demand for wireless bandwidth and to ensure that America maintains its global competitiveness, the National Spectrum Strategy … should seek to improve federal spectrum management.  Specifically, it should seek to increase transparency regarding how federal spectrum is used and what federal spectrum could be made available for commercial use.  The National Spectrum Strategy can accomplish this by taking a number of steps,” the Consumer Technology Association said.

“First, the National Spectrum Strategy should develop methods for ongoing measurement of federal spectrum utilization.  By some accounts, the federal government occupies — either exclusively or on a primary basis — sixty percent of the spectrum best suited for mobile broadband.   To help policymakers understand how, where, and when the federal government is using spectrum resources the National Spectrum Strategy should identify methods to measure the utilization of spectrum by the federal government.  This measurement should happen on a recurring basis to enable an assessment of whether spectrum is being used efficiently,” CTA added. “Second, the public should have access to the results of these measurements, subject to any national security concerns.  Providing public transparency into federal spectrum use will allow for engagement on how to best utilize the nation’s limited spectrum resources while ensuring that federal agencies are able to meet their mission requirements.  Ultimately, such engagement will contribute to policies that meet the growing demand for bandwidth in the consumer innovation industry while ensuring that federal agencies can continue to provide mission-critical services.

“Third, the National Spectrum Strategy should provide a roadmap identifying bands that are being explored for future commercial use on an exclusive or shared basis,” the trade group added. “CTA previously urged the Federal Communications Commission (‘FCC’) to issue a roadmap that would describe the timing related to the release of spectrum in the pipeline.  Specifically, CTA recommended that such a roadmap include dates, in the near term, for holding spectrum auctions.   Similar to an FCC roadmap, providing estimated timing about the Administration’s activities to free up spectrum would give the industry and consumers useful information to plan commercial development and deployment of 5G and next generation wireless products and services that would utilize these bands.  To that end, the National Spectrum Strategy also should explore the possibility of a joint FCC/NTIA roadmap that could provide a more comprehensive picture of the timeline for making more spectrum available for commercial use.”

“When the U.S. seized leadership in 4G, the result was unprecedented growth in investment, innovation, consumer welfare, and contribution to the U.S. economy. It can do the same with 5G, first and foremost by making more 5G spectrum available in the near term; the objective here is to provide allocations of large amounts of contiguous spectrum that support several wide-bandwidth carriers,” Ericsson said. “Over the longer term, Ericsson agrees that ‘the Nation requires a balanced, forward-looking, flexible, and sustainable approach to spectrum management.’ In the ever-ground breaking spectrum ecosystem, that is precisely what is needed to encourage investment and innovation, promote competition, and deliver the enormous benefits that 5G has to offer.”

Ericsson urged the adoption of principles for the national spectrum strategy. “The United States should adopt a recurring process for a spectrum pipeline that (i) identifies federal spectrum that can be repurposed for commercial wireless services; and (ii) provides incentives for efficient and effective repurposing of non-federal spectrum. Where possible, spectrum should be globally harmonized with that of other countries, including use of ‘tuning ranges’ for adjacent or near-adjacent spectrum,” Ericsson said. “Exclusive use should remain the preferred spectrum access model, with flexible rights to allow wireless providers to respond quickly to market demand. Where spectrum sharing is the only path, rules should be as simple and flexible as possible to permit markets to develop and efficient technologies to evolve.”

Ericsson added, “Efficiency of spectrum use should be prioritized in both the commercial and government sectors. Users of government spectrum should be encouraged to draw from technological developments in the commercial sector and to use commercial standards and services where they lead to greater network efficiency.”

Nokia urged the federal government to prioritize work on whether spectrum in the 410-430 MHz and 450-470 MHz, 3.45-3.55 GHz, and 37-37.6 GHz bands can be made available for commercial use. Nokia also cited the potential benefits of automated arrangements, network slicing, and public-private partnerships to share frequencies.

Regarding automated arrangements, it said, “Automated spectrum sharing can play a critical role in making spectrum available for commercial use while preserving the spectrum access necessary to satisfy the mission requirements and operations of Federal entities. An example of such an automated federal/non-federal automated sharing arrangement was developed for the CBRS 3.55-3.7 GHz band, currently allocated for use by DoD for Navy ship-borne and ground-based radar systems. Sharing is enabled by a SAS [spectrum access system], which serves as an advanced, highly automated frequency coordinator providing Federal users interference protection from commercial users and optimizing frequency use to allow maximum capacity and coexistence for commercial users.

The Satellite Industry Association said it “supports NTIA’s efforts to develop a long-term sustainable U.S. spectrum strategy. As recognized by the President’s Space Policy Directives and the White House Spectrum Memorandum, the commercial satellite industry plays an important and growing role in the U.S. economy and national security. The commercial satellite industry provides both the domestic manufacture of equipment, including satellites and terrestrial ground infrastructure, and the provision of critical services, including broadband and launch of government and commercial space assets. To continue to support this crucial U.S. economic sector, it is vital that long-term access to sufficient spectrum for the expanding needs of the commercial satellite industry be made available.”

In joint comments, EchoStar Satellite Operating Corp. and its Hughes Network Systems LLC subsidiary said they support “the development of [a] national spectrum strategy that is technology neutral and increases the efficient use of the spectrum resource. By developing such a strategy, the competitiveness of the US space-based and terrestrial communications industries can be advanced, leading to significant public interest benefits, including increased jobs, national security, innovation, and continued US leadership in the space industry. As discussed below, this national spectrum strategy must include access to adequate spectrum on a long-term basis for the commercial satellite industry. By doing so, NTIA and the Administration can ensure the long-term growth of the commercial satellite industry, which supports residential users, businesses, and the government, no matter where the need for advanced communications develops.”

The Boeing Co. noted that in its comments, it “addresses a number of specific substantive concerns of relevance to NTIA, particularly protecting and expanding access to spectrum for aircraft flight test operations (Section V below), protecting the global navigation satellite service (‘GNSS’) (also Section V), protecting aeronautical radio altimeter systems (also Section V), developing operational rules for spectrum allocated to unmanned aircraft systems (also Section V), ensuring access for broadband  satellite systems in millimeter wave (‘mmW’) spectrum (Section VII), and identifying significant additional spectrum for unlicensed operations in mmW frequencies (also Section VII).”

Among other things, Boeing said, “Predictability in spectrum access could be greatly improved if NTIA provided better access to reliable and up-to-date database information regarding the specific spectrum uses of the federal government within the United States at identified geographic locations. When a private interest such as Boeing identifies the need for spectrum resources to support a new invention, service, or initiative, the first step in the process is usually an investigation into what spectrum resources may be available (either on an exclusive or shared basis) in the geographic locations where the new spectrum use could be located.”

The Aerospace Industries Association said, “The aerospace and defense industry is on the cutting edge of technological innovation and will continue to be in the years to come. Spectrum access is vital to our industry’s success. Every time an aircraft takes off, a new satellite is launched, or a missile is fired, they rely on spectrum to perform. 5G will change the way our world connects, increase the speeds at which we engage, and transform so many parts of our lives. However, the technology must be introduced in a safe manner.

“As the Administration looks to continue to develop a ‘National Spectrum Strategy,’ it is critical that it establish sharing regimes that ensure adequate testing is completed beforehand, take into account safety over speed of introducing new allocations, and add more transparency to the process,” AIA added. “Such an approach will help maintain the United States’ global competitiveness, allow all industries to flourish in the new 5G world while maintaining the right levels of safety for all spectrum users. AIA and our members look forward to continuing to work with NTIA and the Administration to help craft that strategy.”

The GPS Innovation Alliance said it “appreciates the efforts that NTIA has taken and will take to develop a sustainable spectrum strategy. NTIA must include in these efforts the recognition of the critical difference between communications and navigation systems and the need to protect the latter using internationally established criteria such as a ‘zoning’ approach and, ultimately, the prevention of a 1 dB decrease in [carrier-to-noise ratio]. When weighing the economic and human costs to incumbent services against the potential benefit from new services, it is essential that NTIA give priority to critical services like GPS.”

The National Association of Broadcasters emphasized difficulties in sharing spectrum. “NAB’s experience to date in working with DoD in the 2025-2110 MHz band suggests that spectrum sharing presents complex challenges that have not yet been fully resolved,” it said. “Broadcasters’ experience with other sharing arrangements, including Television White Spaces (TVWS) operations,  are significantly more troubling. To date, TVWS has been a failure despite being sold to the public and to regulators as ‘WiFi on steroids.’  In practice, TVWS has proven to be an empty promise, with only a few hundred devices deployed nationwide.”

“The authorization of waveform-sensing based Unlicensed National Information Infrastructure (U-NII) devices in spectrum shared with radar systems has proved similarly frustrating. The FAA has reported hundreds of interference incidents to Terminal Doppler Weather Radar systems that were traced to improperly configured U-NII devices. Broadcasters have deployed weather radar systems in that same spectrum and have similarly experienced widespread interference from U-NII devices. Such interference continues to plague weather radar systems, creating a potential public safety hazard,” NAB said. “While the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) presents an opportunity to test an updated sharing mechanism with more capability, it is far too early to declare success and attempt to apply this system in other contexts. The Spectrum Access System used in CBRS is designed in part to protect a few dozen Navy radar systems operating in U.S. coastal waters. It is unclear whether this approach can be scaled from protecting a few ship-borne radars to potentially thousands or millions of legacy spectrum users, many of which are passive receivers.”

In a joint filing, the Edison Electric Institute and the Utilities Technology Council said the national spectrum strategy should “address the urgent need among critical infrastructure industries – including electric companies and other critical infrastructure industries – for access to licensed, interference-free radio spectrum for private wireless networks. For decades, electric companies have operated private wireless networks to support their operations. These networks are designed, built and maintained to high standards of reliability because they support mission-critical communications that ensure operational integrity and the safety of life, health and property. Moreover, these networks must remain operational during emergencies such as severe storms, when commercial networks can become overwhelmed due to congestion or completely fail due to damage.

“That is why it is important that the National Spectrum Strategy address the spectrum needs of electric companies and other critical infrastructure, because the private wireless networks they use must maintain network reliability. Due to the advent of advanced smart grid technologies, access to additional spectrum is needed to support increasing capacity and coverage requirements. There is explosive growth in the number of IIoT devices that are being deployed by electric companies and other critical-infrastructure industries,” EEI and UTC added.

The mmWave Coalition asked NTIA “to facilitate greater access to spectrum above 95 GHz for non-Federal use. At present, with minor exceptions, no licensed or unlicensed use of this spectrum is allowed under FCC rules. Since virtually all of this spectrum has Government/Non-Government (‘G/NG’) shared allocations, NTIA policies are key for access to these bands. Such access is essential for both the international competitiveness of the United States. … Allowing increased shared use of bands above 95 GHz is consistent with the National Spectrum Strategy, which calls for actions to ‘(i)ncrease spectrum access for all users, including on a shared basis.’ Unfortunately, to date, NTIA has not applied this strategy to passive services above 95 GHz, but rather has applied what is essentially a blanket prohibition of commercial sharing in these bands. We urge NTIA to review whether present passive spectrum policy above 95 GHz is compliant with the goals of the Communications Act, the National Spectrum Strategy, and the Department of Commerce that are cited below.”

“As NTIA develops a national spectrum strategy, particularly with regard to opportunities to reallocate spectrum, it must recognize that evaluations of efficiency and effectiveness for public safety may differ from other types of spectrum users such as business and for-profit commercial licensees,” said the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials-International. “Public safety communications systems are designed for the worst-case, highest-use scenario and therefore may require a much greater surge capacity than commercial systems. Additionally, mechanisms such as reverse spectrum auctions intended to increase efficiency for commercial spectrum use are not well-suited to incumbent public safety licensees. Public safety agencies require sufficient spectrum resources to support their missions, and should not be asked to put a price on responder or public safety in exchange for the prospect of incentive payments.  Furthermore, public safety’s various communications needs may be uniquely served by specific spectrum bands without sufficient alternatives.”

APCO continued, “With regard to modern spectrum sharing techniques, APCO is open to a sharing approach so long as public safety users retain interference-free, reliable access to spectrum. Sharing has the potential to promote the efficient use of spectrum and create opportunities for incumbents and new entrants alike. Expanding the use of spectrum bands can also encourage new and existing equipment manufacturers to innovate and expand the device ecosystem. However, any sharing techniques must be tested and proven to be effective at protecting public safety’s use of the band before being put to use. Public safety communications must not be placed at risk by new, unproven spectrum sharing methods. As an additional precaution, the introduction of spectrum sharing techniques that could impact public safety communications should be accompanied by mechanisms to help public safety rapidly identify and resolve potential sources of interference.- Paul Kirby,

Courtesy TRDaily