Mobile data usage continues to rise and put strains on the available spectrum allocated for cellular communications. As users continue to eat up more and more mobile data services, carriers continue to demand more and more spectrum to feed their networks. Unfortunately, there is only so much spectrum available. To combat this problem, the US government auctioned the 700 Mhz spectrum block in 2008 and plans to auction the 600 Mhz block sometime next year. On Friday, President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum aimed at freeing up even more over the long run.
Currently, wide swaths of spectrum are held for government use. While there is a great deal of bureaucracy to it, any given agency, department, or program within the federal government is essentially able to create their own, fully-independent network using this reserved spectrum. As one might imagine, this is an extremely inefficient use of spectrum. The Presidential Memorandum seeks to maximize efficiency through industry collaboration and generally better management.
Included with this memorandum, the White House announced $100 million in funding for research and development into spectrum sharing technologies. The funding will be sourced through the National Science Foundation and DARPA. In addition to new technologies, the memorandum also pushes the FCC to promote spectrum efficiency using existing technologies like higher performance radio receivers.
Using technological advances and smarter resource planning, the White House plans to identify 500 Mhz of spectrum currently assigned to the government that can be repurposed for consumer wireless broadband use. This is a massive chunk of spectrum and would be one of the largest in US history. The transition will nearly double the amount of spectrum allocated for wireless broadband in the United States. Unfortunately for the impatient though, the federal government aims to accomplish this “within 10 years.”