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FCC Issues Public Notice to Seek Information, Comments on Current Use of 1675-1710 MHz


The National Broadband Plan (NBP) recommends that the FCC should make 500 MHz of spectrum available for broadband use within the next 10 years, including 300 MHz between 225 MHz-3.7 GHz for mobile use in the next five years. The FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology (OET) has engaged in discussions with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) Office of Spectrum Management to begin examining various frequency bands that may be suitable for mobile broadband use. NTIA has preliminarily identified the 1675-1710 MHz band for such use and is examining the impact on its incumbent federal users. As such, the FCC issued a Public Notice (ET Docket No 10-123) on June 4, 2010, seeking information to help better comprehend the current use of the 1675-1710 MHz band by non-federal entities and better understand its potential utility for broadband.

The 1675-1710 MHz band is allocated on a co-primary basis for federal and non-federal use for the Meteorological Aids Service and the Meteorological Satellite Service (Space-to-Earth); this band is used for downlinks from certain weather satellites and radiosondes (weather balloons) that are administered by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA provides these services for weather forecasting, tracking of hurricanes and other storms, prediction of flooding and drought conditions and warning against other hazards to life and property.

Many Amateur Radio operators -- such as members of ARES®, RACES and SKYWARN -- as well as emergency management agencies use frequencies in this range via the National Weather Service’s Emergency Managers Weather Information Network (EMWIN) system. EMWIN is a suite of data access methods which make available a live stream of weather and other critical emergency information. EMWIN was developed as the NWS recognized the need to provide the emergency management community with access to a set of NWS warnings, watches, forecasts and other products at no recurring cost. In partnership with the National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service (NESDIS) and other public and private organizations, EMWIN has evolved into a fully operational and supported NWS service.

In March 2010, the US set up an EMWIN system in Haiti. Abdoulaye Harou of the Meteorological Service of Canada called EMWIN a “simple, autonomous, reliable and rapid system that can supply information to the civil defense authorities.” EMWIN and the meteorological system will act independently in Haiti, although they will be coordinated by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Earlier this month, National Hurricane Center (NHC) Director Bill Read, KB5FYA, said that his biggest concern for the 2010 hurricane season is a storm striking Haiti, where hundreds of thousands of people have been living in makeshift camps since the January 12 earthquake struck the island nation. Heavy rains can trigger serious flooding and mudslides in the mountainous Caribbean country, but no evacuation plans exist for displaced communities.

The FCC said that it expects to find that “this band is relatively lightly used, both geographically and temporally, and thus could be shared by others.” As such, the Commission seeks comment on the utility of the 1675-1710 MHz band of spectrum for wireless broadband services, and approaches to making the band available for such uses: “It may be possible that reception of the weather satellite downlink transmissions could occur at a relatively small number of sites and be distributed via terrestrial services, such as over the Internet or other managed services. Thus, with regard to incumbent satellite receive-only stations, we seek comment on the extent to which and manner in which non-federal users directly access federally authorized Meteorological Satellite Service space station downlink transmissions. We also seek comment on the extent to which non-federal users directly access transmissions from radiosondes. Also, it may be feasible for radiosondes to operate using substantially less bandwidth than they currently do, freeing spectrum for other uses, or for them to use an alternative technology or relocate to other spectrum.”

Although the 1675-1710 MHz band is co-allocated for non-federal use, the Commission states in the Public Notice that its database shows no active licensees in the spectrum: “Non-federal entities such as universities, private sector weather forecasters and others are thought to employ receive-only stations for reception of Meteorological Satellite Service space station downlink transmissions, and in this case an FCC authorization for receive only Earth stations is not required. Therefore, the Commission has no information on the extent of such non-federal use in the band.”

In order to better understand the impact of any potential changes in the allocations for this spectrum, the FCC invites interested parties to provide the following information:

  • A description of the utility of the 1675-1710 MHz band for wireless broadband services, including any pairing, band plan, or other licensing approaches that would maximize this utility.
  • Identity of the non-federal entities accessing the services operating in the 1675–1710 MHz band.
  • A description of the purpose of such use (i.e., the equipment is used to support TV weather forecasting or for conducting university research).
  • Which portions of the 1675-1710 MHz band are used.
  • How often the service is used (e.g., every day, scheduled times of day, duration and such).
  • An estimate of the current investment in wireless equipment, including when it was obtained and put into use.
  • A description of whether and how the information and services currently accessed can be obtained from other means; and if so, the anticipated costs and timeframes for implementing any alternatives.
  • Confirmation that, if the information currently available from the meteorological satellite service were received at only a few receive sites and distributed via terrestrial services, this would be a functionally equivalent substitute for the direct reception of the satellite and radiosonde services.
  • Any other information interested parties would like to identify regarding use of the meteorological satellite and radiosonde services.

The deadline for comments is June 28, 2010. Information on how to reply to ET Docket No 10-123 can be found beginning on page 2 of the Public Notice.




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