gets more frequencies for 3G
& Technology Desk
WASHINGTON, July 23 (UPI) -- In an attempt to make
high-speed wireless communications more available in the
United States, the Commerce Department Tuesday announced a
deal to free up an additional 90 megahertz of radio spectrum
by December 2008.
Though telecommunications experts welcomed the move,
industry analysts questioned whether it was sufficient to
deliver "3G" or third-generation services, such as wireless
Debate over the decision weighed national security vs.
business interests. The new frequencies will be in the
1710-1755 MHz and 2110-2170 MHz ranges, with much of the first
segment being reallocated from the Department of Defense. The
latter section comes from civil users a Federal Communications
Commission spokesman said.
"While the plan requires some changes to certain of our
systems the Defense Department concludes that military
capabilities will not be degraded," said Steven Price, deputy
assistant secretary of defense for spectrum, space, sensors
and C3. He noted in prepared statement that DoD would gain
access to comparable spectrum and receive reimbursement and
enough time to shift its usage.
At a news conference Tuesday morning, Commerce Secretary
Don Evans said, "This plan promotes our country's economic
growth while protecting national security and public safety."
Industry trade groups applauded the move, saying the
announcement from the Bush administration will help add
certainty to today's fragile telecommunications industry, hard
hit by economic difficulties in general and WorldCom's
bankruptcy announcement this weekend in particular.
"For too long, spectrum decisions have been an unstable
dynamic driven by ad hoc budget determinations," said Tom
Wheeler, chief executive officer of the Cellular
Telecommunications and Internet Association. "Today's decision
eliminates that instability."
Some wireless analysts, though, saw the announcement
The FCC has projected the U.S. needs an additional 200 MHz
of spectrum. The compromise announced Tuesday not only falls
short of this but divides up the 90 MHz into two 45-MHz
allocations from two non-contiguous frequency bands, said Rudy
Baca, a former FCC chief of staff, who today serves as a
global and wireless strategist for The Precursor Group, an
investment advice firm in Washington. "No matter how you slice
it, 90 doesn't cut it," he said.
Baca said he is concerned Commerce's proposal is too small
to deliver true high-speed wireless services, thereby
continuing to keep U.S. wireless businesses far behind
European and Asian businesses. Furthermore, Commerce's
timetable is too far off as well as too uncertain, he
"This is not anywhere near 3G. The data rates are not going
to even come close," Baca said. "This is not going to cheer
the street. Companies are going to abandon efforts for
Michael Gallagher, the Commerce Department's deputy
assistant secretary, defended delaying implementation until
"That 2008 date is the absolute clearance date," Gallagher
told United Press International in a telephone interview.
"Clearing can -- and more than likely will -- commence much
sooner than that."
Gallagher tied implementation to the availability of funds,
from both the public and private sector, which might push up
the schedule by a year or two.
Another telecommunications analyst, David Chamberlain,
research director for wireless Internet services at Probe
Research of Cedar Knolls, N.J., said he saw the move as a
"step in the right direction." However, Chamberlain said he is
concerned it still will keep the United States from being
globally on a par with other nations. Today, U.S. wireless
businesses use about 189 MHz, compared with 300.1 MHz in
Japan, 305 MHz in Germany and 364.6 MHz in the U.K.
"This does not give us full harmonization with other
countries in the world," said Chamberlain. "We're still sort
of an island of technology -- but it's far closer than we have
Gallagher questioned comparisons with Europe and Asia,
noting the way European and Asian governments have handled
high-speed wireless access "is not the model we should be
following." For example, he said, "the European 3G auctions
had been pretty universally panned as being a mortgaging of
their future. They are going to be living with that hangover
for a long time."
Military systems impacted by the Commerce deal include six
microwave links used for communications by all the military
services, Price told UPI. Also affected will be frequencies
for airborne testing, training, video and telemetry.
Tactical radio users also may be shifted Price said. "In
some cases they will stay in the band and in some cases they
will tune to other frequencies."
Gallagher confirmed that assessment. "Certainly some of
their systems were aging and were going to be replaced," he
said, adding that DOD planners already had been avoiding the
bands they knew the civilian government wanted to redeploy.
Therefore, he said, their concessions didn't hamper their
"DOD's mission is, without question, expanded with regard
to spectrum use," Gallagher said. "We have a military
advantage today that we intend to expand, but not at the
expense of our domestic economy."
(Reported by Evan Schuman, UPI Technology News, in
Whippany, N.J., with additional reporting by Dee Ann Divis,
UPI Science & Technology Editor, in Washington)
Copyright © 2002 United Press