January 11, 2001, 11:49 AM — President Clinton has mobilized a number of federal agencies to jump-start their assignment of the radio frequency spectrum that will be needed to support advanced wideband wireless services.
Clinton has directed the U.S. Department of Commerce and the Federal Communications Commission to develop a plan to select so-called third-generation (3G) wireless frequencies. He asked the two agencies to submit an interim report by Nov. 15 on current spectrum use and the potential for moving users away from the frequency bands.
Clinton said he wants to see 3G broadband wireless licenses auctioned by the FCC no later than Sept. 30, 2002.
The mobile wireless industry hailed Clinton's move. 3G spectrum "is a prerequisite for innovation to continue" in the wireless industry, said Tom Wheeler, president of the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association, a Washington-based association of wireless carriers and suppliers.
But fixed wireless carriers, educators and the U.S. Department of Defense, all of which currently occupy frequencies targeted for potential mobile use, emphasized the economic, educational and national security importance to their uses of the frequencies.
Currently, the U.S. has 189 MHz of bandwidth allocated to mobile services. The country needs another 160 MHz to support new broadband wireless services, said Greg Rhode, assistant secretary of commerce for communications and information.
Making the situation more difficult, a key block of frequencies identified for potential 3G use is already being used extensively by WorldCom Inc. in Jackson, Miss., and Sprint Corp. in Kansas City, Mo., to provide fixed wireless services.
"I don't want to move" off the existing Instructional Television Fixed Services frequencies, said Dennis Haarsager, associate vice president and general manager for educational technology at Washington State University in Pullman, Wash.