WASHINGTON Nov 25 The U.S. Defense Department
has reached an agreement with the broadcasting industry on
sharing some radio airwaves, making progress toward President
Barack Obama's goal of clearing more valuable spectrum for
Obama directed federal agencies in June to look for ways to
give up or share with the private sector more of the airwaves
they control, three years after his call to open up 500
megahertz (MHz) of federal spectrum for commercial use to
satisfy growing demands from data-hungry devices and services.
The Pentagon, which uses spectrum for programs such as pilot
training and drone systems, has been criticized for resisting
efforts to share. But in a surprise move in July it offered to
share the airwaves it dominates in the slice of frequencies from
1755 MHz to 1780 MHz.
On Monday, the roadmap to this goal emerged, thanks an
agreement with the National Association of Broadcasters that
would move military systems to another slice of frequencies,
which would be shared with remote news gathering operations
often used in emergencies.
"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, said in an interview. "It was sort of a surprise. I'm
happy we were able to work together."
The agreement gained the endorsement of the Commerce
Department's National Telecommunications and Information
Administration (NTIA), which oversees federal spectrum. The
Federal Communications Commission plans to auction off the
"It has been a long and bumpy road," said the Senate
Commerce Committee's top Republican, Senator John Thune of South
"I am happy that the administration has listened to the
bipartisan calls from Congress to grow our economy by freeing up
these valuable airwaves, while addressing our military's needs."
The FCC, with NTIA's help, is preparing for several auctions
of airwaves in coming years, including one that would sell off
chunks of federally controlled spectrum.
The FCC is now gathering public input on various proposals
for how it should auction the airwaves to the private sector,
including on the Pentagon's new plan, which the agency estimated
would carry relocation costs of about $3.5 billion.
Ultimately, the auctions would raise funds that could
reimburse the Defense Department, as well as help fund a new $7
billion first-responder network, FirstNet, and contribute to the
national coffers at the Treasury.
To increase the value of the auctions, the wireless industry
and some lawmakers have urged the FCC to pair up the auction of
the cleared 2155-2180 MHz slice of spectrum with the valuable
1755-1780 MHz band occupied by military systems.
Congress has required the FCC to auction off the 2155-2180
MHz band by February 2015.
"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," said Scott Bergmann, vice president of regulatory
affairs at CTIA-The Wireless Association.
"Pairing these bands will maximize their value to industry
and consumers alike, and generate significant revenue for the
(Reporting by Alina Selyukh. Editing by Andre Grenon)