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Remarks of Acting Assistant Secretary Sopko on release of the technical study on accommodation of third generation wireless systems in the U.S.

March 30, 2001

WASHINGTON--Today we are releasing a technical analysis on the potential for accommodating third generation commercial mobile radio systems within frequency bands used by the Defense Department and other federal government agencies.

The domestic and global expansion of wireless communications has been phenomenal, and its projected future growth is even more amazing. The expected further growth of the Internet in the United States and globally makes third generation wireless systems important to economies and consumers. Domestic users of the Internet are expected to grow from 107 million to 210 million in the next four years, while globally the number of Internet users is expected to be 1 billion within the next five years and the number of domestic wireless subscribers, currently at 112 million, is expected to grow to 237 million in the same five year period. The number of global wireless subscribers is projected to go from 530 million to 1.4 billion within the next seven years.

In today's marketplace, wireless systems operators desire additional spectrum to maintain the United States' position as a leader in mobile telecommunications services. Third generation wireless has the potential to bring together two of the most advanced telecommunications technologies in modern times-Wireless and the Internet. Third generation mobile wireless systems with their ability to carry large amounts of data would bring the Internet to the palm of a user's hand. The U.S. market must keep pace with, and perhaps exceed other developing markets to provide higher speed data services without detrimental effects to critical radio services currently operating.

Wireless carriers want global spectrum harmonization for better regional and global roaming opportunities. The International Telecommunication Union's World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC) 2000 identified multiple frequency bands on which 3G could operate. Governments around the world are now in the process of determining in which of these spectrum bands they can place new wireless mobile communications.

The report on the 1710-1850 MHZ band we are releasing today follows a plan based on the Clinton Administration presidential directive issued last October. The FCC is releasing separately a companion report on the 2500-2690 MHZ band which is under its jurisdiction.

This report is the culmination of many months of extensive study, research and analysis. It reflects the difficult balancing of national security and public safety concerns with those of economic wealth and well-being.

In November of last year both NTIA and the FCC issued interim reports on these bands. Today's NTIA report looks at current spectrum use, the potential for sharing in the band, and cost estimates for relocating government users if relocation were needed. The study, which includes an analysis by the Department of Defense, sets forth three options for sharing, segmentation or relocation in the government band. It finds that limited sharing and band segmentation between commercial and government users may be possible under certain conditions.

We consider today's report as only the beginning of our work to address the spectrum needed for 3G service. Our report will be made a part of the FCC record, on which the public may comment. We at NTIA are committed to continuing to work with industry, the Defense Department and other federal agencies to examine the feasibility of not only the specific options that we present today, but also solutions to the difficulties we have identified. We also believe that what we do is the foundation for long term spectrum planning. All of our work will be directed to long term solutions to this and other spectrum matters, so that there is sufficient spectrum to meet the needs of new services, including 3G, while not compromising national security or the safety of our citizens.