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Scoop: DOD spectrum report bleak for industry

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Sep 27, 2023
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Rounds on May 19, 2022. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

The Pentagon has found, in a long-anticipated study of its spectrum use, that sharing the lower 3 GHz band with telecom companies can't be done at this time, Sen. Mike Rounds told Axios on Wednesday.

Why it matters: Companies are eager to get their hands on the band because they say it is crucial to meet a surge in 5G technology use.

  • DOD uses the band for military technologies.

What's happening: Rounds said he has not seen the report but has been briefed on it, and the report confirms his concerns that commercial use of the band could jeopardize national security.

  • "DOD has the report completed. I did have a chance to speak with some officials from DOD about what's in the report, and it would make it extremely challenging for them to move forward at this time with any type of a shared activity."
  • "I think right now it is virtually impossible to share at all. Over an extended period of time with some additional technologies, that may be possible on a limited basis to share in the future, but not in the near future."

State of play: The report, which was mandated under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, needs to be transferred to the Commerce Department.

  • If it had opened up to sharing, the Federal Communications Commission would then have had to do a public rulemaking on how to commercialize the spectrum, asking questions about license size and power levels.
  • But Rounds said the government is not at the point where that process can begin.
  • "I don't think we're there yet," Rounds said. "And once again, I haven't seen the report."
  • "I've only had informal discussions with officials, some of whom had not been in favor of my position to begin with, but are now indicating full support for my position because of what they found in the report."
  • DOD and Commerce did not respond to requests for comment.

Meanwhile, Congress has still not reauthorized the FCC's spectrum authority.

  • Rounds has opposed bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the agency's power because it includes language that could lead to auctioning the lower 3 GHz band.
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