DOD wants help figuring out spectrum sharing ahead of commercial 5G auction

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As the Department of Defense prepares to free up some of its operational spectrum to support the development of commercial 5G wireless, it is looking to industry for potential alternatives to traditional dynamic spectrum sharing agreements.

The Pentagon issued a request for information on innovative spectrum-sharing solutions “to understand both the art of the possible, as well as current industry trends in spectrum utilization.”

“The intent is to ensure the greatest effective and efficient use of the Department of Defense’s spectrum for training, readiness, and lethality,” says the solicitation. “This RFI is seeking information regarding all methods and approaches, and feasibility, to best develop and deploy [dynamic spectrum sharing] across a broad range of capabilities and for future understanding of how spectrum may be utilized in both 5G and innovative technologies.”

Last month, the DOD announced that in December 2021 it will work with the FCC to auction off shared spectrum in the 3450-3550 MHz range to commercial industry as it builds out American-owned 5G infrastructure. The military currently uses that 100 MHz of spectrum for high-powered defense radar systems for air defense, missile and gunfire control, counter mortar, bomb scoring, battlefield weapon location, air traffic control, and range safety.

With both the DOD and, eventually, commercial companies using that range of spectrum, the two will need to come to an agreement on how to prioritize its use. Senior administration officials suggested the parties will follow the spectrum sharing rules of AWS-3, based on the auctioning of spectrum for sharing in the 1695-1710 MHz, 1755-1780 MHz, and 2155-2180 MHz bands in 2015.

But with this RFI, DOD suggests maybe it’s open to another way of sharing. It asks questions on the feasibility of things like DOD owning and operating 5G networks for its domestic operations, whether there are “new technologies or innovative methods as to how additional mid-band spectrum currently allocated to DOD can be made available for 5G faster” and generally if there are better, “innovative ideas” for sharing its spectrum — or maybe leasing the spectrum rather than reallocating it.

The Defense Information Systems Agency is leading this outreach effort on behalf of the DOD. Responses are due by Oct. 19.

Meanwhile, the DOD has been bullish on experimenting with 5G in recent years for its own uses. Late last year it launched four pilots at bases across the country, and earlier this summer, it announced a second wave of testbeds. During those experiments, the department will test 5G -enabled technologies like the aforementioned dynamic spectrum sharing, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality combat training, and smart warehouses. Those pilots are open to members of the National Spectrum Consortium.

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5G, Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), Department of Defense (DOD), spectrum
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