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White House Supports DOD Spectrum Research

White House support for military research into spectrum sharing furthers White House efforts to open spectrum for commercial use.

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As part of its push to make more spectrum available for use, the White House is lending support to a new military research effort that aims to improve sharing of "cramped radio spectrum."

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's Shared Spectrum Access for Radar and Communications (SSPARC) program, announced last month, seeks research proposals to develop "revolutionary" advances in spectrum sharing.

High-speed wireless Internet access and other wireless technologies are widely available around the United States, and mobile services contribute billions to the American economy, but airwaves are increasingly crowded by services offered by an array of private sector stakeholders and by government, from transportation systems to law enforcement.

[ How are other countries dealing with shrinking spectrum? Read U.K. Attempts To Solve Looming Spectrum Crunch. ]

"Building on U.S. leadership and promoting even greater economic growth requires that the Nation make ever more efficient use of spectrum," White House deputy CTO for telecommunications Tom Power and assistant secretary of commerce for communications and information Lawrence Strickling wrote in a blog post. "Ensuring adequate spectrum to support the expected growth in commercial and non-commercial uses poses technical challenges."

To that end, SSPARC seeks to support spectrum sharing between military radars and military and commercial communications systems. To share spectrum with commercial systems, SSPARC is focusing on low-power wireless access points, known as "small cells," that can extend cellular coverage.

SSSPARC looks to "improve performance or reduce interference when sharing spectrum" at an "acceptable cost" by, for example, identifying devices causing interference and changing how they are transmitting information to help prevent that interference or by developing hardware and methodology to improve separation of the radar and other data.

The Obama White House has been a vocal supporter of freeing up spectrum for use and has said that American leadership in developing wireless services is "an important part" of the Obama administration's job creation and growth strategy.

The government under the Obama administration has taken a number of steps to free up wireless spectrum. President Obama in 2010 issued a memorandum instructing the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to identify federal and commercial spectrum that could be reused for wireless broadband, and the NTIA uncovered a number of bands that could be made available.

The FCC under Obama has catalogued and freed up so-called "white space" spectrum between TV channels for unlicensed use, has begun to reform the Universal Service Fund to help extend broadband Internet connections, and has removed barriers to the use of certain other spectrum.

However, the efforts of the last few years have not come without criticism. The 2012 Republican Party platform criticized President Obama for making "no progress" toward universal broadband coverage since the end of the Bush Administration, for example. SSPARC and the White House support for it and similar programs might not end Republican criticism, but it could help spark better ways to use and free up spectrum.

InformationWeek's 2013 Government IT Innovators program will feature the most innovative government IT organizations in the 2013 InformationWeek 500 issue and on InformationWeek.com. Does your organization have what it takes? The nomination period for 2013 Government IT Innovators closes April 12.

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