The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is working on finalizing a new policy that will let the federal government share wireless spectrum with various telecoms entities. One direct result of this new policy is that new airwaves will be made available for use to smartphone users.
The new set of guidelines were voted unanimously just recently by the FCC, effectively approving the sharing of spectrum, specifically the 3.5 GigaHertz band. For those not in the know, this particular section of the airwaves have been previously used by the United States military forces for radar.
The new policy now sets up certain exclusion zones in areas of the spectrum, to be used by the government for radar purposes. Then the FCC will auction off "priority" licenses in small geographic locations to wireless carriers and other telecoms-related companies. These licenses, however, will only be good for a period of three years, unlike regular spectrum licenses that cover a much bigger area and do not expire. The priority licenses will also be sharing airwaves with unlicensed users. Interference should be minimized by maintaining a database of license users and through the use of spectrum-sensing technology.
The overall aim of the FCC’s new policy is to free up airwaves in order to help the wireless industry meet the ever increasing demand for mobile data services. Wireless data has been rapidly growing in the last five years, and some industry forecasts even state that by 2018, it could grow 650 percent.
Since the Radio Act of 1912, the federal government has allocated wireless spectrum into specific licenses made exclusive to minimize interference among users, and to make sure compatible devices have airwaves they can use. But as the demand for more spectrum grew, especially in the last half decade in the age of social media and live video streaming, the FCC realized that it needed to provide more airwave space for the public.
Apart from making additional spectrum available, the new policy will also create licenses for smaller sections of the airwaves, and for a limited period of time. This would allow smaller companies to buy these smaller licenses, and make use of the airwaves they bought for their own specific needs.
In the past, the FCC used to work with government, or other spectrum owners like broadcasters, in order to clear or recycle spectrum. But clearing spectrum takes time (sometimes even a decade). Instead of clearing, sharing spectrum appears to be the most feasible option and the most quick to accomplish.
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