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Land Mobile Spectrum Planning Options Chapter 1: INTRODUCTION


The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is the Executive Branch agency principally responsible for developing and articulating domestic and international telecommunications policy. NTIA acts as the principal advisor to the President on telecommunications policies pertaining to the Nation's economic and technological advancement and to the regulation of the telecommunications industry. Accordingly, NTIA conducts studies and makes recommendations regarding telecommunications policies and presents Executive Branch views on telecommunications matters to the Congress, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and the public. NTIA is responsible for managing the Federal Government's use of the radio spectrum. Management of the spectrum for the private sector, including State and local governments, is the responsibility of the FCC.

The NTIA Spectrum Policy Study, published in 1991, recommended that NTIA and the FCC undertake a long-range spectrum planning effort that would forecast spectrum usage up to 15 years into the future.[Endnote (EN) #1] NTIA implemented this recommendation in the form of a Fiscal Year 1992 budget initiative for strategic spectrum planning. In appropriating funds for this effort, Congress tasked NTIA to provide strategic national spectrum planning to promote the effective and efficient use of the spectrum so that both near-term and long-term spectrum needs of the Federal Government and the private sector can be met. Strategic spectrum planning, in this context, involves (1) identifying a limited number of spectrum-use issues that require the attention of national-level spectrum-use regulators, and (2) developing a spectrum plan for implementation.

In response to this mandate from Congress to develop long-range spectrum plans, NTIA initiated the Strategic Spectrum Planning Program. NTIA's Strategic Spectrum Planning Program is divided into three phases: (I) definition of long-term spectrum requirements, (II) development of spectrum availability and planning options, and (III) development of spectrum allocation implementation plans. This report is the first in a series that address the spectrum requirements identified in the NTIA report U.S. National Spectrum Requirements: Projections and Trends (hereinafter NTIA Requirements Study).[EN #2] The NTIA Requirements Study, released in April 1995, marked the completion of Phase I of the NTIA Strategic Spectrum Planning effort. This report, and others in this series, constitute Phase II of the spectrum planning effort and address spectrum availability and planning options.

The NTIA Requirements Study addressed 40 radio services, but limited the spectrum forecast to a 10-year period. This study concluded that eight of these services needed access to additional spectrum in order to satisfy user requirements to the year 2004, as shown in TABLE 1-1. While all radio services are important to the nation, the most critical need for spectrum is for the land mobile services, including public safety and Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) applications. The land mobile service is defined as "A mobile service between base stations and land mobile services, or between land mobile stations." Various categories of land mobile include commercial mobile radio services, cellular telephony, personal communications services (PCS), industrial and business mobile services, Federal agencies' mobile units, State and local public safety services, and Federal law enforcement mobile units. To specify and address these needs quickly, this report will focus only on these land mobile spectrum requirements, addressing the spectrum requirements of the other services in the context of future efforts.

The Need for Long-range Planning

Long-range spectrum planning is critical to the effective management of the radio spectrum. First, planning provides for the efficient development of spectrum-dependent telecommunications services. Before a service provider can offer the services, a license must be granted for the radiocommunications system. This system should operate in a frequency band that supports its function, and be relatively clear of potentially interfering stations. Forecasting the demand for these services, and allocating adequate spectrum for the radio service in advance will assure that the telecommunication services are provided in a timely and efficient manner.

Second, early identification of spectrum for an intended use gives manufacturers adequate lead time to design and manufacture equipment for the planned frequency bands. In the Federal Government, funds for new radiocommunications equipment must be programmed two to three years in advance to correspond with government budget cycles. Failure to plan spectrum for new systems could lead to delays in deployment, and inefficient use of taxpayers' money.

Effects of National Planning Policies on Spectrum Availability

Spectrum to be used by licensed or unlicensed radio services is first allocated under current regulations. These regulations are either the FCC's regulations contained in Title 47 of the Code of Federal Regulations, or the regulations governing Federal use of the spectrum as contained in the Manual of Regulations and Procedures for Federal Radio Frequency Management (NTIA Manual).[EN #3] At the present time, the spectrum from 9 kHz to 300 GHz is allocated to one or more radio services.[EN #4]


Summary of Additional U.S. Spectrum Requirements

(10-Year Projection)

           Radio  Services                      Spectrum
         Discussed in Part I                  Requirements

 Land Mobile
   a) Conventional dispatch, public      a) 119 MHz Additional below 5 GHz
      safety, cellular, PCS, trunked     b) 75 MHz below 10 GHz
      mobile, and paging                    10 MHz between 10 and 100 GHz
   b) Intelligent Transportation System
 Aeronautical Mobile                     30 kHz Additional (HF) for off-route
                                            (OR) and 108 kHz for route (R).
                                            100 kHz Additional (HF) allocated
                                            to the Mobile Service.
 Maritime Mobile                         36-60 kHz Additional (HF)
 Mobile-Satellite                        60 MHz Additional
 Fixed                                   Up To 250 MHz Reduction
 Fixed-Satellite                         200-400 MHz Additional (Feeder Links)
 Broadcasting                            1,900 kHz Additional (HF)
 Broadcasting-Satellite                  Present Spectrum Adequate
 Radionavigation                         Present Spectrum Adequate
 Radiolocation                           Present Spectrum Adequate
 Radiodetermination-Satellite            Present Spectrum Adequate
 Inter-Satellite                         Present Spectrum Adequate
 Space Operation                         Present Spectrum Adequate
 Space Services                          Present Spectrum Adequate
 Radio Astronomy                         9.6 MHz Additional (see note)
 Amateur and Amateur-Satellite           2,180 kHz Additional 
 Standard Frequency and Time Signal      Present Spectrum Adequate
 Meteorological Aids                     Present Spectrum Adequate

Note: The radio astronomy community also requested access to an additional 231 MHz, which could be obtained on a local, coordinated basis.

As a basic plan for usage, the radio spectrum is allocated to various radio services in blocks of frequencies. The concept of the block allocation system is that a band of contiguous frequencies is dedicated to one or more radio services, depending on the technical and operational characteristics of the service(s). A block so dedicated is said to be allocated to the radio service(s) associated with that block. Further, within a block the radio services may have a hierarchial structure (i.e., Primary, Permitted or Secondary) that grants rights or imposes limitations on the services relative to other services in the same block. The assemblage of these spectrum blocks, along with associated footnotes, is called the National Table of Frequency Allocations, and is used for general spectrum planning. The Table also further separates those allocation blocks that are managed by NTIA from those managed by the FCC.

There is, however, considerable flexibility in the block allocation system. Footnotes to the allocation blocks may permit operation of additional radio services in the spectrum block, restrict the operation of services allocated in the block, or stipulate other requirements for operation. Other footnotes may permit multi-mode operation, where the transmitted signal is used for more than one purpose, and would otherwise be separate radio services.

Radio systems are generally permitted to use only spectrum that is allocated to the radio service associated with that system. Revisions to the allocation table have generally resulted from international radio conferences, where U.S. allocation proposals often were approved. International radio conferences, generally of limited scope, have been held periodically since 1947, with a major allocation conference held in 1979. Although several radio conferences have been held since then, a large number of spectrum allocations from those earlier conferences are still in force. More recent conferences have focussed on specific radio services, such as mobile and space services.

Advanced technology has spawned new radiocommunications services, however, allowing radio operation in higher frequencies. Further, consumers are demanding additional spectrum-dependent services at an ever-increasing rate, to the degree that there is no longer a firm correlation between future spectrum requirements and many current spectrum allocations. As an example, some mobile systems are capable of operating in portions of the spectrum once the sole domain of fixed microwave systems. Failure to adequately plan for future radio system usage has resulted in a mismatch between demand for services and the availability of appropriately allocated spectrum.

National policies that govern spectrum allocations have not completely kept pace with the increased demand for spectrum. This is due, in part, to the reactive nature of national spectrum management. National policies can address this problem in a number of ways. One way is to place greater reliance on market-based forces to guide spectrum apportionment. Another way is to develop a coordinated long-range spectrum management plan. NTIA in its Spectrum Policy Study and elsewhere has examined the use of market-based forces to guide spectrum apportionment. This study will focus on national long-range spectrum planning.

Summary of Recent NTIA/FCC Actions

Both NTIA and the FCC are involved in proceedings and efforts that will increase the capacity of the land mobile services. NTIA has submitted to Congress its plan to improve the efficiency of Federal land mobile operations. [EN #5] This plan calls for the use of narrowband technology in certain Federal frequency bands used primarily for land mobile operations, and the establishing of commercial land mobile service providers using Federal spectrum resources. According to NTIA's plan, the narrowbanding of the 138-150.8 MHz band will be complete in 2008, the 162-174 MHz band in 2005, and the 406.1-420 MHz band in 2008. Although the channel bandwidths have been made narrower, narrowband signals are not the only approach to additional capacity. New land mobile technologies are encouraged so that wider bandwidths can be used, as long as the resulting capacity is a least equivalent to the number of narrowband channels used. Additionally, commercial specialized mobile radio (SMR) providers, using Federal Government frequencies, are now operating and offering service to Federal agencies in six cities using trunking technology. These SMR systems were established by private sector entities at no initial cost to the Federal Government. Federal agencies having requirements for trunked land mobile service in the areas served can subscribe to these services at a cost that may be less than for similar, dedicated Federal trunked radio systems.

NTIA, in its Spectrum Reallocation Final Report (hereinafter NTIA Final Reallocation Report), has identified 235 MHz of Federal spectrum for transfer to the FCC.[EN #6] This spectrum transfer was required by the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993. Ninety-five megahertz of this spectrum has already been transferred to the FCC for private use; the remaining spectrum will be vacated by Federal users, with some exceptions, within the next 10 years.

In the search for additional spectrum, the concept of mobiles sharing spectrum allocated to other radio services is being intensely studied, and in some cases, is being adopted. A comprehensive agreement has been reached between a coalition of TV broadcasters operating in the metropolitan New York area, and a coalition of metropolitan New York public safety agencies. The agreement calls for the use of ultra high frequency (UHF) TV channel 16 in the metropolitan New York area by public safety agencies for at least five years while these agencies work to convert their existing radio systems to more spectrum efficient technologies and modes of operation. The concept of UHF TV mobile sharing is not new, however. In a special allocation decision reached in 1970, the FCC made various UHF TV channels in the 470-512 MHz band available for private land mobile use in the top 10 cities in the United States, later extended the arrangement to the top 13 cities. In effect, only 11 cities have this sharing agreement, since the lack of Canadian clearance has rendered two cities from using the sharing plan.

In another action, the FCC has amended its rules to authorize private land mobile sharing of certain maritime very high frequencies (VHF). The amended rules will permit the industrial and land transportation radio services to share marine VHF public correspondence channels 24-28 and 84-87 on a primary basis within the 48 contiguous states far from navigable waterways and existing VHF public coast stations.

The FCC has required the use of narrowband technologies in the land mobile bands between 72 MHz and 512 MHz (Docket No. PR 92-235). In this proceeding, the FCC will not type-accept 25-kHz equipment after August 1996, and will not type-accept 12.5-kHz equipment after January 2005. All new equipment after January 2005 will have to operate in 6.25-kHz or narrower channels, or show equivalent efficiency relative to 25 kHz if using wider channels.

The FCC has also initiated a rulemaking that would develop service rules for radio services above 40 GHz. This action would allow licensing of radio systems in this portion of the spectrum. Candidate systems are in the fixed and mobile services.

NTIA and the FCC have jointly established a Public Safety Wireless Advisory Committee (PSWAC). This committee will advise NTIA and the FCC on operational and spectrum needs of the public safety community, including the Federal, State, and local levels. The committee will also consider options for common spectrum and systems for Federal and non-Federal operations. The PSWAC began meetings in September 1995, and should have recommendations regarding public safety operations within a year.


1. National Telecommunications and Information Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, NTIA Special Publication 91-23, U.S. Spectrum Management Policy: Agenda for the Future (1991) [hereinafter NTIA Spectrum Policy Study]

2. National Telecommunications and Information Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, NTIA Special Publication 94-31, U.S. National Spectrum Requirements: Projections and Trends (1995) [hereinafter NTIA Requirements Study].

3. National Telecommunications and Information Administration, Manual of Regulations and Procedures for Federal Radio Frequency Management (January 1995)[hereinafter NTIA Manual]

4. Eighty megahertz is currently held in reserve by the FCC as a result of their PCS allocation proceeding. However, the FCC in a recent NPRM (ET Docket No. 95-18) proposed to allocate 70 MHz of this reserve to satisfy mobile-satellite requirements.

5. National Telecommunications and Information Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, NTIA Report 93-300, Land Mobile Spectrum Efficiency (1993).

6. National Telecommunications and Information Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, NTIA Special Publication 95-32, Spectrum Reallocation Final Report (1995) [hereinafter NTIA Final Reallocation Report]

Proceed to Chapter 2: Spectrum Requirements
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