Additional 3G Wireless Spectrum in the United States
By Darlene A. Drazenovich and Del Morrison

The search for additional U.S. spectrum that could be used by advanced mobile wireless communications systems, such as the third generation (3G) cellphones, resulted in the identification of 90 MHz of additional spectrum.

Commerce Secretary Don Evans, in announcing this major spectrum decision, said "By making additional spectrum available to consumers, the Bush Administration is moving forward decisively on its commitment to promote the technology needs of all Americans and to ensure the nation's economic prosperity." The additional 90 MHz is made up of 45 MHz from the 1710-1755 MHz band, now used exclusively by federal government agencies, and 45 MHz from the 2110-2170 MHz band, used by non-federal government entities. "This plan promotes our country's economic growth while protecting national security and public safety," Secretary Evans added.

The United States recognized the increased demand for advanced commercial wireless services, and it initiated studies in 1999 with the public and private entities participating, to identify additional spectrum for advanced mobile wireless systems such as 3G. The studies resulted in a Viability Assessment, which culminated three years of research and analysis conducted by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), the Federal Communication Commission (FCC), the Department of Defense and other Executive Branch Agencies. The 3G Viability Assessment, press releases and other related information can be found at: www.ntia.doc.gov/osmhome/osmhome.html

A key step in the search for additional advanced wireless spectrum in the United States included the identification of likely frequency bands - a difficult process because of the extensive incumbent usage in the preferred spectrum areas. For example, it was concluded that the 1755- 1770 MHz band could not be made available for commercial wireless use due to difficulties in sharing with or relocating the incumbent Department of Defense users with national security applications. Numerous technical sharing studies were conducted, and re-accommodation studies identified the preferred new bands for the displaced users.

The ITU was first involved in the advanced wireless process 10 years ago at WARC-92. WARC-92 and WRC-2000 identified a total of 749 MHz of spectrum for IMT-2000, the ITU terminology for the 3rd generation of commercial mobile wireless personal communication systems (3G). The bands identified in the Radio Regulations are: 806-906 MHz, 1710- 2025 MHz, 2110-2200 MHz and 2500- 2690 MHz. In the United States, commercial operators use parts of the 800 MHz band (824-849 MHz and 869-894 MHz) for cellular operations, and the 1900 MHz band (1850-1990 MHz) for cellular-like personal communications systems or PCS. U.S. commercial operators are already offering a variety of 3G services, such as text messaging, high speed data communications and video, on their existing networks.

In support of advanced mobile networks, the FCC recently allocated the fixed and mobile services to the 1710-1755 MHz and the 2150-2155 MHz bands. This new allocation resulted in the entire 2110- 2155 MHz band being allocated to the fixed and mobile services in the United States. For the mobile service, the mobiles were authorized in 1710-1755 MHz, and their associated base stations in 2110-2155 MHz. The fixed service is also authorized in 2110-2155 MHz. The bands were allocated to both the fixed and mobile services to provide prospective licensees the maximum flexibility in the services to respond to the needs of their customers. One important result of this action was the decision to make the spectrum contiguous, especially in the 2110-2155 MHz band. Currently, the 2150-2155 MHz band is allocated to the Multipoint Distribution Service (MDS), a fixed point-to-multipoint service. The MDS licensees will need to move to another part of the spectrum, an action that the FCC will consider in a future proceeding.

The FCC service rules for advanced wireless services are currently being developed. At this time, there is no date set for the auction of licenses. Subsequent to the auction, federal entities will be reimbursed for the costs incurred to relocate their radiocommunications systems from the 1710-1755 MHz band or to modify their systems. Funds for relocating federal systems from the band will be made available either directly by the private sector entities winning the auction, or via a relocation fund created from auction receipts. Legislation to authorize the use of a relocation fund mechanism is currently being considered in the House and Senate.

There was considerable Region 2 activity in the search for new advanced wireless bands. The U.S. decision on the advanced wireless bands is consistent with recent decisions taken by the ITU-R and the Organization of American States (OAS) Inter-American Telecommunications Commission (CITEL). ITU-R Working Party 8F (WP8F) and subsequently Study Group 8 adopted a new recommendation on frequency arrangements for implementation of the terrestrial component of IMT-2000 in the bands 806-960 MHz, 1710-2025 MHz, 2110-2200 MHz and 2500-2690 MHz. This recommendation is on the agenda for approval by the Radio Assembly. CITEL's Permanent Consultative Committee II (PCC II) on radiocommunications issues, also recently approved a recommendation on the frequency arrangements for IMT-2000 in the bands 806 to 960 MHz, 1710 to 2025 MHz and 2110 to 2200 MHz. Each of these includes frequency arrangements for advanced wireless in the bands the United States has made available.


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