Defense Spectrum Management:

More Analysis Needed to Support Spectrum Use Decisions for the 1755-1850 MHz Band

GAO-01-795: Published: Jul 25, 2001. Publicly Released: Aug 20, 2001.

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Current plans for identifying spectrum to support third generation mobile wireless systems by July 30, 2001, and to auction licenses by September 30, 2002, are premature. GAO agrees with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Department of Commerce that delaying the identification of spectrum and the auction of licenses for third generation wireless systems could serve the public interest. Adequate information is not currently available to fully identify and address the uncertainties and risks of reallocation. The Department of Defense (DOD) and the federal government could make decisions affecting national security without knowing the full extent of risks they face or steps available to reduce those risks. Extending the current schedule for the identification and auction of licenses for this portion of the spectrum would allow DOD to complete technical and operational assessments and to consider the nation's future spectrum requirements. In addition, a delay would allow time to further consider the adequacy of existing national spectrum strategies affecting international agreements and for DOD overseas military operations to modify these strategies as necessary and to incorporate them into the nation's long-range spectrum plan.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In October 2001, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the Federal Communications Commission, the Department of Defense, and other Executive Branch agencies developed a new plan for the assessment of spectrum for third generation (3G) mobile wireless services. The agencies agreed to extend the timeframe for a final decision on allocation of spectrum for 3G services to ensure that the decision for additional spectrum for advanced wireless services is the best one possible. The agencies then began work on an interagency viability assessment of certain options and timelines for making additional spectrum available for 3G services, while ensuring incumbents can meet their current and future radio spectrum needs. The viability study focused on whether the 1710-1770 MHz and 2110-2170 MHz bands could be reallocated for 3G services. A portion of this band--1755-1770 MHz--falls within the band GAO had examined in the subject report, GAO-01-795; the remainder of the band GAO had examined in that report-- 1770-1850 MHz--was not part of this assessment. In July 2002, the Department of Commerce released a report on the results of the interagency working group's viability assessment. The report concluded that the 1755-1770 MHz band could not be a viable home for 3G due to difficulties in sharing with or relocating the incumbent defense systems. The assessment also concluded that the 1710-1755 MHz band can be allocated for 3G services with certain restrictions and limitation. This action envisions relocating certain incumbent defense systems from the 1710-1755 MHz band to the 1755-1850 MHz band; thus, reallocating any portion of the 1755-1850 MHz band has been taken off the table for the foreseeable future. Because reallocation of any portion of the 1755-1850 MHz band is no longer being considered, there is no longer a need to identify comparable alternative spectrum. Thus, this recommendation is no longer relevant.

    Recommendation: To provide DOD with adequate time and guidance to complete its plans and analysis, the Secretary of Commerce should direct the NTIA, in conjunction with the Federal Communications Commission to identify comparable alternative spectrum for use by the DOD systems before a decision is made to reallocate the 1755 to 1850 MHz band, should such an action be contemplated.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In October 2001, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the Federal Communications Commission, the Department of Defense, and other Executive Branch agencies developed a new plan for the assessment of spectrum for third generation (3G) mobile wireless services. The agencies agreed to extend the timeframe for a final decision on allocation of spectrum for 3G services to ensure that the decision for additional spectrum for advanced wireless services is the best one possible. The agencies then began work on an interagency viability assessment of certain options and timeliness for making additional spectrum available for 3G services, while ensuring incumbents can meet their current and future radio spectrum needs. The viability study focused on whether the 1710-1770 MHz and 2110-2170 MHz bands could be reallocated for 3G services. A portion of this band--1755-1770 MHz--falls within the band GAO had examined in the subject report, GAO-01-795; the remainder of the band GAO had examined in that report-- 1770-1850 MHz--was not part of this assessment. In July 2002, the Department of Commerce released a report on the results of the interagency working group's viability assessment. The report concluded that the 1755-1770 MHz band could not be a viable home for 3G due to difficulties in sharing with, or relocating, the incumbent defense systems. The assessment also concluded that the 1710-1755 MHz band can be allocated for 3G services with certain restrictions and limitations. This action envisions relocating certain incumbent defense systems from the 1710-1755 MHz band to the 1755-1850 MHz band; thus, reallocating any portion of the 1755-1850 MHz band has been taken off the table for the foreseeable future.

    Recommendation: To provide DOD with adequate time and guidance to complete its plans and analysis, the Secretary of Commerce should incorporate a sufficient amount of time into the new National Telecommunication and Information Administration (NTIA) plan to select spectrum for third generation mobile wireless systems to address the issues discussed in this report, specifically with respect to satellite operations.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In October 2001, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration , the Federal Communications Commission, the Department of Defense, and other Executive Branch agencies developed a new plan for the assessment of spectrum for third generation (3G) mobile wireless services. The agencies agreed to extend the timeframe for a final decision on allocation of spectrum for 3G services to ensure that the decision for additional spectrum for advanced wireless services is the best one possible. The agencies then began work on an interagency viability assessment of certain options and timeliness for making additional spectrum available for 3G services, while ensuring incumbents can meet their current and future radio spectrum needs. The viability study focused on whether the 1710-1770 MHz and 2110-2170 MHz bands could be reallocated for 3G services. A portion of this band--1755-1770 MHz--falls within the band GAO had examined in the subject report, GAO-01-795; the remainder of the band GAO had examined in that report--1770-1850 MHz--was not part of this assessment. In July 2002, the Department of Commerce released a report on the results of the interagency working group's viability assessment. The report concluded that the 1755-1770 MHz band could not be a viable home for 3G due to difficulties in sharing with or relocating the incumbent defense systems. The assessment also concluded that the 1710-1755 MHz band can be allocated for 3G services with certain restrictions and limitation. This action envisions relocating certain incumbent defense systems from the 1710-1755 MHz band to the 1755-1850 MHz band; thus, reallocating any portion of the 1755-1850 MHz band has been taken off the table for the foreseeable future. Because reallocation of any portion of the 1755-1850 MHz band is no longer being considered, there is no longer a need to complete technical, operational, and cost assessments of satellite systems in the 1755-1850 MHz band. Thus, this recommendation is no longer relevant.

    Recommendation: To more accurately assess the potential impacts to DOD if the 1755 to 1850 MHz band is selected for third generation systems in the United States, the Secretary of Defense should complete the technical, operational, and cost assessments of satellite systems in the 1755 to 1850 MHz band and review and complete assessments of other systems as necessary.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In July 2002, the Department of Commerce reported on the results of a viability assessment conducted by an interagency working group. The interagency group--made up of representatives from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the Department of Defense (DOD) and other executive branch agencies--had been tasked with assessing whether the 1710-1770 MHz radio frequency band could become a viable home for third generation (3G) wireless services. A portion of this assessed band, 1755-1770 MHz, falls within the band that GAO had examined in the subject report, GAO-01-795. The assessment concluded that the 1710-1755 MHz band can be reallocated for 3G services with certain restrictions and limitation, but that the 1755-1770 MHz band could not be made available for 3G within the foreseeable future due to difficulties in sharing with or relocating incumbent defense systems. Because reallocation of any portion of the 1755-1850 MHz band is no longer being considered, there is no longer a compelling need to prepare a long-range defense spectrum plan to assess potential impacts of reallocating the 1755-1850 MHz band specifically. However, GAO continues to believe that preparation of a long-range spectrum plan would help DOD assess the potential impacts of any future and unforeseeable reallocation decisions affecting other bands. Moreover, DOD has taken steps toward implement this recommendation. In particular, the "DoD Electromagnetic Spectrum Management Strategic Plan" was published in December 2002. This Strategic Plan establishes goals and objectives along with specific initiatives to guide DOD toward achieving its long-term vision for spectrum. To accomplish these goals, DOD plans to develop appropriate implementation plans for each of the Strategic Plan's objectives.

    Recommendation: To more accurately assess the potential impacts to DOD if the 1755 to 1850 MHz band is selected for third generation systems in the United States, the Secretary of Defense should prepare a long-range spectrum plan and make programmatic decisions necessary to carry out that plan.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  5. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In October 2001, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the Federal Communications Commission, the Department of Defense, and other Executive Branch agencies developed a new plan for the assessment of spectrum for third generation (3G) mobile wireless services. The agencies agreed to extend the timeframe for a final decision on allocation of spectrum for 3G services to ensure that the decision for additional spectrum for advanced wireless services is the best one possible. The agencies then began work on an interagency viability assessment of certain options and timeliness for making additional spectrum available for 3G services, while ensuring incumbents can meet their current and future radio spectrum needs. The viability study focused on whether the 1710-1770 MHz and 2110-2170 MHz bands could be reallocated for 3G services. A portion of this band--1755-1770 MHz--falls within the band GAO had examined in the subject report, GAO-01-795; the remainder of the band GAO had examined in that report--1770-1850 MHz--was not part of this assessment. In July 2002, the Department of Commerce released a report on the results of the interagency working group's viability assessment. The report concluded that the 1755-1770 MHz band could not be a viable home for 3G due to difficulties in sharing with, or relocating the incumbent defense systems. The assessment also concluded that the 1710-1755 MHz band can be allocated for 3G services with certain restrictions and limitation. This action envisions relocating certain incumbent defense systems from the 1710-1755 MHz band to the 1755-1850 MHz band; thus, reallocating any portion of the 1755-1850 MHz band has been taken off the table for the foreseeable future. Because reallocation of any portion of the 1755-1850 MHz band is no longer being considered, there is no longer a need to complete a system-by-system analysis to determine existing and future spectrum needs in the 1755-1850 MHz band specifically. Thus, this recommendation is no longer relevant. However, GAO envisions that, in preparing its long-range spectrum plan (as GAO also recommended), DOD would address its existing and future spectrum needs in the 1755-1850 MHz band, as well as other bands.

    Recommendation: To more accurately assess the potential impacts to DOD if the 1755 to 1850 MHz band is selected for third generation systems in the United States, the Secretary of Defense should complete a system-by-system analysis to determine existing and future spectrum needs and requirements of systems in the 1755 to 1850 MHz band.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  6. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Existing national spectrum management plans and policies are currently undergoing a review by both the White House and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). In particular, in November 2002, the FCC released a report prepared by its Spectrum Policy Task Force (SPTF); the Task Force had been established in June 2002, to assist the Commission in identifying and evaluating changes in spectrum policy that will increase the public benefits derived from the use of radio spectrum. In conducting its future rulemaking, the Commission intends to consider the recommendations made in the Task Force's Report. In June 2003, the White House announced the establishment of a "Spectrum Policy Initiative" to develop recommendations for improving spectrum management policies and procedures for the Federal Government and to address state, local, and private spectrum use. To date, however, no decision has been made regarding whether the United States will establish a clearly defined "national spectrum strategy".

    Recommendation: To provide DOD with adequate time and guidance to complete its plans and analysis, the Secretary of Commerce should coordinate with appropriate executive branch agencies to review existing national spectrum management plans and policies, and, if necessary, to establish a clearly defined national spectrum strategy reflecting DOD requirements for international agreements and spectrum requirements to operate overseas.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

 

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