Department of Defense Offer to Share Spectrum with Commercial Carriers – Could lead to a $12B Auction Value

By Dawood Khan

Red Mobile Consulting, Toronto, Canada

TORONTO – The U.S Federal Communications Commission (FCC) confirmed this week that the Department of Defense (DoD) has offered to share spectrum in the 1,755 – 1,780 MHz band with commercial wireless carriers. In March 20, 2013, the FCC had notified the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) of its plans to commence the auction of licenses in the 1695-1710 MHz band and the 1755-1780 MHz band as early as September 2014.

Commercial carriers, especially those with limited spectrum, such as T-Mobile, who have been struggling to keep up with demand for data services, have been advocating the pairing of the 1755-1780 MHz band with the AWS-3 (2155-2180 MHz) band. The FCC plans to auction the 2155-2180 MHz band by February of 2015.

In a study done by Brattle Group, The value of the AWS-3 band paired with the 1755 MHz band is approximately $12 billion. Pairing the military spectrum with spectrum in the AWS-3 band will provide complementary channels for the uplink and downlink through frequency division duplex (FDD). The 1,755 – 1,780 MHz band is used internationally for commercial wireless services, and the DoD has faced pressure from the private sector and the Obama Administration to open up the band for commercial use.

The DoD plans to clear portions of the spectrum, which it currently uses for pilot training and drone systems, and share it with commercial carriers. It plans to do this by relocating some of the current systems occupying the said band onto other bands, and by compressing usage of the existing band. This is expected to cost the DoD $3.5 billion.

At this time, it is not clear how the Department of Defense will share the spectrum.

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