3G In Military Band Could Compromise U.S. Security, GAO Says

Staff On Sep 3 2001 - 6:00am

The General Accounting Office (GAO) cited national security concerns in supporting a recommendation by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Commerce Department to delay a reallocation of military spectrum for future 3G services.

Wireless carriers, many of which have foreign ownership interests, are eager to use the 1755-1850MHz military spectrum because it falls within one of the bands (1710-1855MHz) identified by the International Telecommunication Union as a worldwide 3G band.

A worldwide band would enable global roaming. Nonetheless, the Commerce Department doesn't believe overseas 3G deployment will occur first in the 1710-1885 band but in other bands recently auctioned in other countries, the GAO said.

In its recommendation, the GAO said, "If the [previously proposed] schedule to auction spectrum is maintained, the federal government will make decisions affecting national security without knowing the full extent of the risks it faces or steps available to reduce those risks."

The report continued, "Without the proper technical and operational analyses, [the Department of Defense] risks a reduction in military preparedness or a degradation of systems in the 1755MHz to 1850MHz band that supports mission capabilities. Specifically, DoD faces an unknown risk of operational degradation to its satellite operations that could include actual loss of control of its satellites and an undetermined risk to the warfighter."

The GAO analyzed wireless-industry and Defense Department studies on whether the spectrum should be reallocated for 3G or whether the military and wireless carriers could share the spectrum. The GAO concluded that "neither study contains adequate information to make reallocation decisions."

Some of the spectrum is also used for radio links between aircraft and precision-guided weapons during training programs.

The Defense Department report also doesn't describe the military's future spectrum needs, and the GAO said it is "highly likely that new defense requirements for this band and other military spectrum bands will arise."

The FCC is considering multiple bands for 3G services. Five new bands recently put on the table for consideration were 1910-1930MHz, 1990-2025MHz, 2150-2160MHz, 2165-2200MHz and 2390-2400MHz.

The bands previously proposed were 1755-1850MHz, 1710-1755MHz and 2500-2690MHz.

In another spectrum development, the FCC said it will go to the Supreme Court to appeal a lower court ruling that found that the FCC violated federal bankruptcy laws when it repossessed 1.9GHz spectrum from NextWave after the carrier failed to make payments on time to the FCC.

The repossessed spectrum was already reauctioned to other carriers that wanted to expand call capacity or their geographic footprints.

NextWave plans to wholesale its airtime to other companies that would market to end users. The company said it has rights to 95 PCS licenses covering geographic areas with a population of more than 168 million people coast to coast.

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