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Wireless carriers looking to tap government spectrum

The industry is looking for more spectrum, as some carriers face shortages down the road.

In their most direct plea yet, U.S. wireless carriers sent a letter to President Obama asking him to clear some government-controlled spectrum for commercial use.


The CTIA Wireless trade association said yesterday that it had sent the letter, asking President Obama to direct the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Association to clear unused and underused spectrum held by various government agencies. More specifically, the trade group is asking for spectrum in the bands below 3GHz, which are optimal for cellular use.

The letter represents the latest action taken by the wireless industry as it looks to free up more spectrum. Some of the wireless providers are facing impending spectrum shortages, and AT&T's primary justification for its acquisition of T-Mobile USA is the ability to pool the companies' spectrum resources.

The CTIA said the letter was signed by many of its carrier members, including the heads of all four major wireless carriers.

The group is also looking for spectrum to be paired (which means that communications can go both ways) and that the bands be compatible with international standards.

The wireless industry has felt the opening to press for more spectrum because President Obama has made it a priority to get broadband access to more people in the U.S. The Federal Communications Commission also has a national broadband plan with the same goals.