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ITIF Report Charts Path to Spectrum Reallocation Policy for Mobile Communications Revolution

WASHINGTON - Policymakers need to move beyond current approaches and reform the spectrum allocation system to maximize the economic opportunities created by the mobile communications revolution, according to Powering the Mobile Revolution: Principles of Spectrum Allocation, a report released today by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.

A dramatic shift to mobile devices, wireless networks, and location-centric applications could reshape society. However, U.S. spectrum allocation policies are not keeping pace with innovation and global competition. The report warns the current system for reallocating spectrum has created a critical shortage of spectrum in the most dynamic sector of the economy while over-allocating spectrum to wasteful or obsolete systems.

"It is time to acknowledge the spectrum crunch is real and technical advances that promise to resolve it will not arrive for a very long time," said Senior Research Fellow Richard Bennett, the report's author. "We need to begin reallocating spectrum in a rational way to deal with this crunch while working to speed up technological breakthroughs that we will use in tomorrow's wireless networks."

The report explains the United States leads the world in the adoption of 4th Generation LTE technology but it lags the rest of the developed world in re-purposing spectrum from legacy systems to LTE. Therefore, it is critical to release spectrum to the most successful commercial networks through reassignment of government applications and the transfer of licenses from declining systems such as MSS and OTA television broadcasting to high-value mobile broadband.

Incentive auctions called for in the National Broadband Plan are not enough to facilitate this reallocation according to the report. Exclusive use of spectrum by government agencies must be scrutinized for opportunities to upgrade applications to modern standards and shift them to commercial networks.

The report is a comprehensive set of spectrum management principles based on empirical knowledge of the nature of spectrum and the likely timeline of new developments in radio engineering. It also proposes a scoring system using recent and pending agency decisions to help establish new spectrum policies based more on the latest understanding of spectrum technology and more consistent with advancing innovation in the mobile communications arena.

A rational system of spectrum assignment would respect the following:

 

  1. Sharing: The most desirable allocations are those that can be shared by large numbers of people. Broadcast television can longer claim the share it once did.
  2. Application Flexibility: Historical spectrum allocations have been made to single-purpose systems such as AM/FM radio, TV, satellite TV and radio, and taxi networks need to yield to commercial mobile networks and Wi-Fi™ networks that host a v