Obama moves to free spectrum for wireless revolution
The White House said the plan would nearly double the amount of commercial spectrum currently available.
Mon, Jun 28, 2010 at 01:36 PM
CONNECTED: The amount of information flowing over some networks has grown by more than 250 percent per year through increased use of smartphones, netbooks and other wireless devices. (Photo: ZUMA Press)
President Barack Obama moved on Monday to free up more wireless communications spectrum to cope with the explosion in the use of mobile devices.
Obama signed a presidential memorandum that would make 500 megahertz of federal government and commercial wireless spectrum available for commercial use over the next 10 years.
"We are now beginning the next transformation in information technology: the wireless broadband revolution," Obama said in the memorandum to government departments and agencies.
"America's future competitiveness and global technology leadership depend, in part, upon the availability of additional spectrum," he said. "The world is going wireless, and we must not fall behind.
"This new era in global technology leadership will only happen if there is adequate spectrum available to support the forthcoming myriad of wireless devices, networks, and applications that can drive the new economy," he added.
The White House said the plan would "nearly double the amount of commercial spectrum currently available for everything from smartphones to wireless broadband connectivity for laptops."
Obama's move sets the stage for a potential clash with broadcast television stations which currently own the rights to some 120 megahertz of the wireless spectrum which is to be auctioned off.
"Expanding broadband is important, and broadcasters will work constructively with policymakers to help them attain that objective," said Dennis Wharton, executive vice president of the National Association of Broadcasters.
"We appreciate (Federal Communications Commission) assurances that further reclamation of broadcast television spectrum will be completely voluntary," he said in a statement.
"We're convinced that America can have both the finest broadband and broadcasting system in the world without jeopardizing the future of free and local TV service to tens of millions of viewers," Wharton added.
Gary Shapiro, president and chief executive of the Consumer Electronics Association, welcomed Obama's plan.
"In calling for doubling the amount of available spectrum, the president has issued a clear call to all stakeholders to stop protecting legacy businesses and embrace new technology as our best path forward," Shapiro said.
The White House said the auction could potentially raise tens of billions of dollars that would be invested in "public safety, additional job-creating infrastructure investments and deficit reduction."
"This initiative will catalyze private sector investment, contribute to economic growth, and help to create hundreds of thousands of jobs," said Lawrence Summers, director of the National Economic Council.
The White House said the amount of information flowing over some wireless networks has grown by more than 250 percent per year through increased use of smartphones, netbooks — small mini-laptops — and other wireless devices.
"As the revolution in mobile broadband and related technologies unfolds, the demand for spectrum will continue to increase — leading to increasing fears of a 'spectrum crunch,'" it said. "As consumers use wireless-enabled devices to access video and other high-bandwidth content, the demand for data over wireless networks is expected to grow exponentially."
The presidential memorandum calls for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and Federal Communications Commission to identify and plan for the release of 500 MHz of spectrum over the next 10 years.
The majority of the spectrum would be auctioned off for voice, data, and video applications for licensed mobile broadband.
Some would be made available for free to technology startups and small businesses and some would be used for a public safety wireless network.
Copyright 2010 AFP Global Edition