Feds Free Up Wireless Spectrum

Wireless carriers applaued President Bush's plan to free up 90 MHz of spectrum for commercial wireless services.

The Bush administration on Tuesday announced plans to free up 90 MHz of spectrum for commercial wireless services, much to the delight of wireless carriers and the lobbying groups that support them.

Under the plan, 45 MHz of the 90 MHz will come from a band the U.S. Defense Department currently uses.

The DOD has until 2008 to relocate its systems in the 1710-1755 MHz band to other bands, according to officials, who said that several agencies have been working on a way to satisfy the spectrum needs of both commercial and government parties.

"Throughout the past year, an interagency working group with staff from the FCC (Federal Communications Commission), NTIA (National Telecommunications and Information Administration), DOD, and other executive branch agencies, has been working diligently to identify spectrum for advanced wireless services," said Michael Powell, chairman of the FCC, in a statement to the press. "The interagency effort examined existing federal operations in spectrum already earmarked for transfer to non-federal use -- specifically, the 1710-1755 MHz band... The interagency working group developed a creative plan for relocating these operations to other bands and thus clearing the band for commercial use."

Carriers applauded the decision.

"Todays action by the Bush Administration is a welcome step in the long-term goal of making additional spectrum available to wireless consumers," said Denny Strigl, president and CEO of Verizon Wireless, in a statement, adding that the plan should allow for new spectrum auctions in the 2004-2005 timeframe.

Initial plans had called for the Pentagon to clear out space in three bands of spectrum for commercial services, but the Pentagon had said it would take until 2017 to clear its equipment from three bands. DOD officials said they were satisfied with the compromise, but added that it will require a relocation package from the government.

To that end, the Commerce Department this week sent legislation to Congress proposing a relocation trust fund for DOD and other parties that will have to relocate to other bands.

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