WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama Monday issued a plan that aims to nearly double the amount of commercial spectrum during the next 10 years, potentially expanding access to wireless broadband technologies to an unprecedented level.
The president's plan to make available 500 megahertz of federal and commercial spectrum over the next decade comes in anticipation of an exploding wireless global economy.
"The Internet, as vital infrastructure, has become central to the daily economic life of almost every American by creating unprecedented opportunities for small businesses and individual entrepreneurs," the president wrote in a memorandum. "We are now beginning the next transformation in information technology: the wireless broadband revolution."
The plan, which will free up spectrum for licensed and unlicensed mobile broadband, as well as allow for reallocation and sharing of spectrum, could generate auction revenues in the tens of billions of dollars from interested commercial companies.
The added spectrum could be used for smartphones, laptops and other technological innovations that already have helped transform U.S. economic productivity.
Industry officials applauded Obama's plan as a platform to spurring innovation and investment in broadband.
"Expanding access to additional spectrum is essential to ensuring that America stays on the cutting edge of mobile broadband deployment and satisfies consumers' fast-growing demand for wireless data," said Tom Sugrue, vice president for government affairs at T-Mobile USA, in an e-mail.
According to a White House press release, analysts predict the mobile application store will become a $30 billion industry by 2013.
Tapping into this expanding technology could be crucial to American competitiveness and create hundreds of thousands of jobs, said Jason Furman, the deputy director of the National Economic Council.
"The President thinks this is important for the economy, for jobs and for the overall federal budget over the coming decade," Furman said.
Experts place the economic value of mobile wireless broadband at $28 billion per year. By some accounts, GDP could increase $7 to $10 for every dollar invested in such networks.
In addition to the immediate economic impact this freed-up spectrum could have on the mobile broadband industry, the plan could have important social benefits as well. Auction proceeds will be reinvested in creating an interoperable wireless public safety network and infrastructure.
One such social benefit could be the development of the Next Generation Air Transportation System, which seeks to transform the ground-based system of air traffic control into a satellite system.
"Getting GPS into planes is a central goal of NextGen," Furman said. "If we can find the funding to invest more in it, we think we could make it more effective."
The industry's robust productivity also has produced cause for concern, however. Over the next five years, analysts predict a 40-fold increase in mobile secure data use.
It is in light of this impending "spectrum crunch" with the increase in use of wireless data and high demand for smart technology, Furman said, that Obama launched the plan.
Specifically, Obama enlisted the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to collaborate with the Federal Communications Commission to complete a plan to create 500 MHz of federal and commercial spectrum by Oct. 1.
The memorandum further requires full cooperation from the departments of Defense, Treasury, State and other federal agencies.
The Obama administration also will work a legislative track, Furman said, to achieve the goals laid out in the memorandum. Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., has already announced his intentions to propose a bill to make the 500 MHz in spectrum available.
Although Obama didn't reach out to Congress Monday, Furman said, the president does expect legislative success.
"We're confident because of the social surplus that this will get done, but recognize it will take time to work with Congress and all the stakeholders," Furman said.
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