Spectrum relocation adds $548M in moving costs to agencies

The Department of Defense and other agencies will surrender parts of their allotted airwaves for auction to commercial providers of Third Generation, or 3G, cellular telephone services, the Commerce Department announced July 23. The cost of upgrading affected government radio systems to other frequencies is estimated to be $548 million.

The agency also submitted draft legislation to Congress requiring spectrum auction winners to pay government relocation costs into a central fund.

These announcements came as part of a July 23 viability assessment released by the Commerce Department that stated 90 MHz of radio spectrum now held by government may made available for 3G service. Included in that estimate was the 1710-1755 MHz range of frequencies now used exclusively by federal government agencies, such as the Department of Defense.

As a result of the assessment, the Defense Department will relocate its radio systems to other bands no later than December 2008, with the costs being paid for by winning bidders of that spectrum. Other agencies required to submit relocation planning assignments to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration include the departments of Justice, Treasury, Transportation and the U.S. Postal Service.

The report estimates that costs to move the frequencies of nonmilitary systems now using bands in the 1710-1755 MHz range to be $410 million, and the cost to relocate the military ones is between $38 million to $138 million, though the Defense Department is planning to reassess that figure.

Defense Department operations affected by the move include mobile systems, tactical radio relay, aeronautical telemetry, guided munitions, air combat training systems and wireless local area network "land warrior" systems.

NTIA's proposed legislation, a draft of which was submitted to Congress July 23, directs agencies to seek reimbursement from a central account funded by auction receipts, rather than to negotiate directly with the winning bidders as the law mandates. Federal agencies would be required to return any funds in excess of actual relocation costs to the spectrum relocation fund, according to NTIA.

The assessment, entitled "3G Viability Assessment," is available at www.ntia.doc.gov/ntiahome/threeg/va7222002/3Gva072202web.htm.

NTIA's proposed legislation is available at www.ntia.doc.gov/ntiahome/congress/2002/legistransmittal7232002.htm.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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