Why is the U.S. government concerned about the spectrum crunch?
Posted on: October 29, 2018

Government agencies that once enjoyed seemingly limitless (and free) spectrum access must now learn to share bandwidth with industry and consumers, and the challenges of sharing spectrum aren’t trivial—especially when radio frequency (RF) spectrum interference can very easily negatively impact an agency’s mission.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), National Telecommunications Industry and Information Administration (NTIA), and other regulatory bodies are outlining spectrum sharing opportunities between government, industry, and consumers. Increasingly, these and other government agencies are working with industry partners to establish mutually beneficial partnerships. As one example, LGS Innovations is supporting the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to develop its Radio Frequency Interference Monitoring System (RFIMS) to mitigate the risk of potential interference by commercial wireless carriers sharing the spectrum with NOAA satellite operations.

Our work with NOAA follows years of helping our defense clients with spectrum management and operational issues. For our military customers, compliance with U.S. spectrum allocations is only a small part of the problem. Military radars, communications, sensors, and weapon systems must maneuver within and around spectrum, which is allocated differently around the world.

For example, a Navy ship training off the U.S. coast must comply with U.S. spectrum allocations, but must also adapt to different allocations, laws, and policies (or their absence) when operating in other parts of the world. A ship may operate in dozens of international spectrum-regulated areas on a single deployment, and may be limited or restricted in its use of sensors and systems that are essential for their missions and self-defense. Adversaries knowing our spectrum allocations or limitations can target their use of specific bands to detect, jam, spoof, or otherwise disable our defense systems.

It’s increasingly clear that new systems and technologies are needed to allow safe and effective spectrum sharing. As government agencies look to work with industry and consumers to create win-win-win spectrum management solutions, they need to first develop a deep understanding of how new types and levels of RF interference might impact their systems: How can they identify, monitor, and manage interference with their allocated spectrum bands? They then need to ensure that their industry partners share an understanding of the agency’s mission, and how to protect themselves if this isn’t the case.

Based on LGS CEO Kevin Kelly interview with ‘Microwaves & RF’ magazine, Jan. 2017.

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