Military Embedded Systems

DoD deputy CIO outlines spectrum sharing at MobileCon 2012


October 11, 2012

Brandon Lewis

Technology Editor

Embedded Computing Design

Deputy CIO of the Department of Defense (DoD) Major General Robert Wheeler keynoted at CTIA MobileCon 2012 yesterday on the DoD’s plans to help free 500 MHz of wireless spectrum for the commercial market. The speech was centered on National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) findings that clearing the 1755 – 1855 MHz bands of high-value spectrum for commercial use could cost as much as $18 billion, and unveiled DoD proposals for spectrum sharing. In advance of his spectrum sharing proposal, Wheeler asserted that “there isn’t one solution to clearing [the 1755 – 1855 MHz] spectrum” but that “there will be some vacating” by the DoD, the largest licensee of government-owned spectrum.

According to Wheeler, the DoD is willing to approach spectrum sharing in three ways: geographic, time shift, and true. Geographic sharing would permit the DoD to continue using spectrum for their applications in select areas while the rest would be available for commercial use, while time-shift sharing would allocate spectrum between the two sectors for select periods. In true or “cognitive” sharing, technologies that inspect airwaves would be used to ensure that applications that leverage the same frequencies cannot operate simultaneously and create interference. True sharing technologies are currently employed in unlicensed wireless spectrum and are planed for unlicensed white space spectrum, but have yet to be used on licensed spectrum.

Spectrum sharing has already begun to generate security and privacy concerns. John Marinho, CTIA Vice President of Technology and Cybersecurity agreed that spectrum sharing is a useful way to supply immediate capacity, but will need a plan to be cleared. "We can't share spectrum into perpetuity," he said. "That doesn't benefit anyone. Clearing spectrum is the most ideal scenario, and we need to do that as quickly as possible."

Releasing 500 MHz of government-owned spectrum to relieve the “spectrum crunch” is part of a President Obama initiative from 2011. The spectrum sharing of government-owned spectrum is an option that has recently been advocated by the NTIA, who oversees the allocation of wireless spectrum to government agencies, and the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST).