WASHINGTON, Oct. 11, 2016 —
Teams from nearly every federal agency, including the Defense Department, are working on strategies and technologies to make the most agile use of the radio frequency spectrum -- where smartphones, wireless, TV and an exploding number of other devices vie for bandwidth.
Driving the work accomplished over the past several years by DoD and other federal members of the DoD Spectrum Team was a June 2010 memorandum by President Barack Obama.
The memo, titled “Unleashing the Wireless Broadband Revolution,” directed that all executive departments, agencies and offices collaborate with the Federal Communications Commission to make available 500 megahertz of federal and nonfederal spectrum over 10 years.
The spectrum, Obama said, must be suitable for mobile and fixed wireless broadband use and must be available to be licensed by the FCC for exclusive use or made available for shared access by commercial and government users to let licensed or unlicensed wireless broadband technologies be deployed.
National Intelligence Award
As a result of years of the DoD Spectrum Team’s work so far, last month Director of National Intelligence James Clapper presented two members of the team with the National Intelligence Meritorious Unit Citation for contributions to the U.S. intelligence community.
The award cited the protection of critical ongoing operations while carrying out the president’s directive.
During a recent interview with DoD News, Frederick D. Moorefield Jr., director of spectrum policy and international engagement in the office of the DoD chief information officer, said the president wanted the 500 MHz to increase economic opportunities in the United States.
Since 2010 the federal agencies have made 245 MHz available to private-sector smartphone and Wi-Fi companies, he said, and the agency teams have until 2020 to deliver the remaining 255 MHz, Moorefield said.
“Industry lets us know what frequency bands or spectrum they are interested in,” Moorefield said, “and then we assess the list and based on what systems we have operating in the frequency ranges and lots of other criteria … we come up with a prioritized list of bandwidth that we think makes sense to study to determine what it would cost and how long it would take for us to move or share.”
He noted that the airwaves are so crowded that the department is having trouble finding new places in the spectrum to move.
“We've come down to a point where we can only share, we can't move,” Moorefield said.
Also in the memo, the president directed the commerce secretary, working through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, or NTIA, and in consultation with DoD, NASA, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, or NIST, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Justice and other agencies to facilitate research, development, experimentation and testing by researchers to explore new spectrum-sharing technologies.
National Spectrum Consortium
To work in this area, Moorefield said, CIO and AT&L collaborated to establish the National Spectrum Consortium in partnership with industry, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the DoD service laboratories, and academia.
The work of the consortium members focuses on maturing technologies to facilitate better spectrum sharing, he said, adding, “Industry and the federal government are recognizing that it's not getting any easier and it behooves us to work together to find technology solutions that are going to help facilitate sharing the airwaves.”
Additionally, to test technology that comes out of the consortium, National Institute of Standards and Technology and National Telecommunications and Information Administration from the Commerce Department and DoD in 2015 established the National Advanced Spectrum Communication Test Network (NASCTN) in Boulder, Colorado.
The NASCTN is a “one stop shop” of national network of federal, academic and commercial test facilities for the testing, modeling and analysis needed to provide a “trust but verify” engineering approach for validating spectrum-sharing technologies that support future spectrum policy and regulations decisions.
DARPA also is working to develop novel spectrum-sharing approaches. Its Spectrum Collaboration Challenge, or SC2, is working to ensure that the exponentially growing number of military and civilian wireless devices will have full access to the electromagnetic spectrum.
Competitors, according to the SC2 challenge website, will reimagine spectrum access strategies and develop a new wireless paradigm in which radio networks will autonomously collaborate and reason about how to share the radio-frequency spectrum, avoiding interference and jointly exploiting opportunities to achieve the most efficient use of available spectrum.
SC2 teams will develop breakthrough capabilities by taking advantage of recent advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning, and the expanding capacities of software-defined radios.
Ultimately, DARPA says, the competition aims to challenge innovators in academia and business to produce breakthroughs in collaborative AI and to catalyze a new spectrum paradigm that can help usher in an era of spectrum abundance.
(Follow Cheryl Pellerin on Twitter: @PellerinDoDNews)