After a remarkably fast interagency review, the White House today announced a massive transfer of electromagnetic spectrum from military use to commercial 5G. It will be the “fastest transfer of federal spectrum to commercial use in history,” US Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios told reporters proudly this afternoon. But, Kratsios and Pentagon CIO Dana Deasy assured reporters ahead of the announcement, the rush won’t compromise military readiness or operations.
The 100 megahertz of spectrum runs from 3450 MHz to 3550, so-called mid-band frequencies prized by 5G developers because they allow longer-ranged transmissions than the millimeter-wave spectrum that makes up most of what’s been available in the US so far. Kratsios and other officials told reporters shortly before this afternoon’s announcement that the move would dramatically expand 5G access for all Americans – fulling a congressional mandate in the 2018 MOBILE NOW Act – and strengthen potential competitors to Chinese giant Huawei in the global market.
Currently, Deasy said, “the 3450-3550 mHZ band supports critical DoD radar operations, including high-powered defense radar systems on fixed, mobile, shipboard, and airborne platforms, [including] air defense, missile and gun fire control, counter mortar, bomb scoring [during training exercises], battlefield weapon locations, air traffic control, and range safety.”
That’s a wide range of military functions, many with life-or-death significance for either training safety or outright combat. Deasy and other officials didn’t detail how the Defense Department would work this massive transfer. Their remarks, however, suggested a mix of migrating military radars to other frequencies – a complex and costly process typically funded from a share of the FCC auction – and sharing frequencies with commercial users in specific times and places.