Wireless Communications

DOD aims for a proactive spectrum strategy

The Defense Department’s new spectrum plan is a balancing act that looks to meet the growing demands for wireless communications in the military while freeing up spectrum for commercial use.

The Electromagnetic Spectrum Strategy, dated Sept. 11, 2013 but released Thursday, sets short- and long-term goals for developing more efficient wireless technologies while complying with President Obama’s 2010 order to make 500 MHz of spectrum available for commercial use by 2020.

DOD CIO Teri Takai, in a statement announcing the plan, said it will require a collaborative effort involving the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, Federal Communications Commission, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, other regulatory agencies, policymakers and industry.

“Together we must identify ways to make more spectrum available for commercial use, and find technologies that enhance spectrum sharing, all while improving how DOD accesses spectrum, where and when needed to ensure mission success,” Takai said.

The military, like every other organization and individual person, is becoming increasingly data-driven and increasingly wireless. DOD needs to accommodate everything from surveillance videos from unmanned vehicles and data from a variety of sensors to communications with soldiers in the field. That dependence of bandwidth is mirrored in the private sector not just with the explosion of smartphones and tablets but with IP-connected smart cars, water meters and refrigerators. The wireless spectrum is critical to both security and the economy.

The strategy sets forth three primary goals, starting with technologies that make more efficient use of the spectrum while at the same time decreasing the risk of interference. Takai said potential options include dynamic frequency sharing, more efficient data compression and time-based frequency sharing. The report also mentions technologies that would allow systems to access wider frequencies, use less-congested bands and adapt to changing electromagnetic environments.

The second goal is better flexibility in spectrum operations, with objectives that include managing spectrum-dependent systems (SDS) in near-real time, and improving DOD’s ability to predict, identify and mitigate interference. “Simply put, DOD spectrum-based operations must be able to move with and adjust to the spectrum environment as it changes,” Takai said.

The third goal is to get more involved with regulatory policy, assessing the impact of proposals more quickly, contributing to policy discussions and implementing regulatory and policy changes promptly.

DOD plans to spend the next six months developing an implementation plan for reallocating spectrum, while working with industry on developing a new generation of flexible, adaptable wireless technologies.

“The whole idea behind the spectrum strategy is to try to get ahead of this increasing demand so that they don't have to operate with radios that are either more difficult to use or that have to be re-calibrated,” Takai said.

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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