Spectrum for sale
Over the past several years, the limited availability of licensed radio spectrum has posed a critical challenge for emergency responders, utilities and government institutions. Spectrum is a finite resource, with applications and use restrictions assigned by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Frequency coordinators usually allocate spectrum to local agencies from a designated pool of frequencies. However, the quality and quantity of those pools of spectrum are often insufficient to meet new application demands. As a result, some agencies are purchasing or leasing commercial channels on an open secondary market and repurposing them for first responder, mobile workforce or critical infrastructure use.
Before the secondary market was created, “new” or repurposed spectrum was available only through FCC auctions, and consequently, many organizations hoarded the spectrum, buying more than they needed. That resulted in a great deal of unused or idle spectrum. In 2002, the FCC began encouraging the growth of a secondary spectrum market that allows entities to buy, sell and lease unused spectrum licenses. Public agencies can use the alternative market-based paging and narrowband licenses without having to purchase new equipment.
In 2007, Tillamook County, Ore., contracted with Danver, Mass.-based Data Radio Management Co. Inc. to acquire several channels to relieve congestion in its radio network that is shared by public safety and other county agencies. “By purchasing commercial spectrum, we were able to solve our public safety capacity issues, while still meeting our interoperability needs with other service agencies,” says Michael Soots, the county’s information services director.
More information about the secondary spectrum market is available online at wireless.fcc.gov under the “Secondary Markets Initiative” and “Spectrum Leasing” links.
Rick Rotondo is chief marketing officer for Lake Mary, Fla.-based Spectrum Bridge.