Hill enters wireless spectrum fray

Hill enters wireless spectrum fray

BY DAWN S. ONLEY | GCN STAFF

The Defense Department is finding itself up against competition for the radio frequency spectrum it uses for wireless communications.

At a hearing last week of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, the department was on the defensive against wireless industry executives. Companies covet the spectrum'from 1,755 MHz to 1,850 MHz'for next-generation wireless applications.

'Imagine you're a pilot in the cockpit of an airplane,' and your job is to field intelligence reports, said Linton Wells II, Defense's acting chief information officer.

The information comes from military and intelligence satellites that operate within the band. To compromise the frequency would jeopardize critical operations, Wells said.

For decades, DOD has used the spectrum to run more than 100 of its most sophisticated electronic systems. But wireless industry officials said they need it to keep pace with foreign companies that have received allocations in the 1,755-MHz-to-1,850-MHz band from other governments.

The United States has had a home-field advantage in Internet technologies, said Thomas E. Wheeler, president and chief executive officer of the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association. 'Our international economic competitors, however, have learned from that experience and are seeking to build their own home-field advantage for the next generation of the Internet'the wireless Internet.'

Now Congress is taking aim.

Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the subcommittee, said he is considering legislation to establish a spectrum policy. And Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) said he has introduced a bill to repeal the spectrum cap established by the Federal Communications Commission. The cap limits companies' spectrum use in geographic areas.

FCC and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, a division of the Commerce Department, are working to accommodate everyone's needs, said William T. Hatch, acting assistant secretary of Commerce for communications and information.

Hatch said FCC and Commerce are trying to decide which of several frequency bands is best suited to implement wireless Internet services.

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