Tag Archives: USAF

We’ve got to get moving: FCC commissioner vs. DoD on freeing up government spectrum

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FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai wants government agencies to clear spectrum and auction it off to the mobile telecoms industry. Now. That puts him on a collision course with federal agencies, particularly the Departments of Commerce and Defense.

In his MobileCon keynote, Robert Wheeler, a USAF major general and DoD information infrastructure honcho, said that the current goal of freeing up 300 MHz of government spectrum for civilian use by 2015 and 500 MHz by 2015 is “tougher than you think” and said the people working on it are shifting focus to sharing rather than just clearing spectrum and auctioning it.

Pai doesn’t completely rule out sharing, saying “it can be a useful tool,” but it’s not a solution that will address the spectrum shortage that’s holding back private sector wireless broadband deployment.

“For goals that incentivizes investments in mobile networks, nothing beats clearing,” he said.

He takes issue with the claim by the Department of Commerce that clearing off of the 1755 to 1780 MHz band will cost $18 billion, calling it “not verified.” Instead, he points to the potential of auctions generating revenue for the federal government, saying that auctioning that band could generate $20 billion or more.

Clearing will result in more competition, Pai believes, and calls sharing “untested.” Big carriers could handle the problem of coordinating with hundreds of federal users, but not newer and smaller entrants.

Goverment spectrum isn’t the only source of commercial broadband spectrum – Pai also sees potential in broadcast, AWS and WCS allocations. But it’s a prime target. “We should use every power we have” to reach the 500 MHz goal, he said. “We’ve got to get moving.”

Enterprise mobility defined by the guy who does it for the (real) USS Enterprise

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The clearest explanation of what enterprise mobility means did not come from the line-up of B-list industry speakers who have graced the MobileCon stage this week, but from an Air Force general.

Major General Robert Wheeler is the deputy CIO for C4 and information infrastructure capabilities at the U.S. Department of Defense (c4 stands for command, control, communications and computers), and he was the final speaker at this morning’s keynote session.

Instead of a marketing department-written and legal staff-vetted multimedia presentation, Wheeler treated us to a clear and quick military-style briefing on how the DOD views mobile communications and how they intend to work with the industry.

Don’t confuse a military briefing with what you see government spokescritters doing on TV. Officers are trained to deliver life and death information to troops who will literally live or die based on how well they understand. It’s a tough audience, one that has a low tolerance for BS and a high expectation of accuracy, clarity and efficiency. Wheeler’s keynote was a good example of that genre, light on production values but direct with the facts.

Start with what DOD wants to get out of mobile communications. The goal is “a highly mobile workforce equipped with secure access to information and computing power anywhere at anytime for mission effectiveness,” according to Wheeler. That’s what enterprise mobility is, period. Doesn’t matter if you’re the First Bank of Boston or the First Infantry Division.

Part of Wheeler’s job is trying to free up 500 MHz of government spectrum for civilian uses, particularly mobile broadband service. He was direct about setting expectations, saying that at least some of the bandwidth will be shared with the mobile industry, but not completely handed over. The problem is that DOD has some very expensive hardware with long lifetimes – satellites, for example – that can’t be simply retuned to another band.

Going forward, the solution is to develop satellites and other high ticket telecommunications assets that are more frequency agile and adaptable. For now, though, everyone will just have to get along.

Wheeler seemed deadly sincere about making the military’s side of this prospective partnership work, once again driving to the heart of the matter by declaring “the strength of our nation is our economy and that is the true defense of our country.”

Any questions?