FCC Releases Adopted NOI on Measuring Spectrum Usage

On August 4, 2023, the FCC released a Notice of Inquiry (“NOI”) seeking comment on leveraging new data sources, technologies, and methodologies to advance the FCC’s understanding of non-Federal spectrum usage.  The NOI was adopted at the August Open Meeting.

The NOI is a technical inquiry on how to better obtain more sophisticated knowledge of non-Federal spectrum usage.  The FCC is not seeking comment on substantive changes to its spectrum policies or service rules, including eligibility criteria, buildout requirements, band allocations, technical limitations, sharing regimes, or licensing frameworks.  It also is not seeking comment on the economic or social value of operators’ spectrum-based services.  Specifically, the NOI seeks comment on:

  • Defining Spectrum Usage:  The FCC notes that spectrum usage has been defined in a number of different ways, including as the percentage of frequencies or channels in a particular band with a detected signal level, the probability that at a randomly selected moment a channel or band will be in use, and through discrete components such as geographic usage, frequency usage, and time usage.  The NOI seeks comment on the appropriate definition, what components should be considered and included in that definition, and whether certain metrics should be combined for a more holistic understanding of the RF landscape.
  • Band Specific Considerations:  The NOI seeks comment on whether different bands with differing service requirements, operational systems, or technical characteristics need to utilize different approaches to measure spectrum usage.  The NOI also seeks comment on whether usage can or should be studied through representative sampling and how to prioritize data collection when each issue and band has its own challenges.
  • Data Considerations:  The NOI seeks comment on the data sources that could facilitate greater understanding of spectrum usage, including through crowdsourcing techniques, external data sources such as wireless providers, research organizations or universities, spectrum consumption modeling, and direct observation.  The NOI also seeks comment on data-related challenges, including the costs and burdens of new data collections, standardization issues, and concerns over technical accuracy.
  • Other Concerns:  The NOI seeks comment on data protection, privacy, and security concerns, the FCC’s legal authority, and digital equity and inclusion issues.
  • Next Steps:  The NOI seeks comment on additional steps the FCC can take to further the inquiry, such as whether there are other means to better understand spectrum usage, if there are different techniques to study spectrum utilization, steps the FCC can take to encourage or incentivize data sharing, and whether the FCC’s data specifications match those maintained by other agencies, such as NTIA, among other things.  The NOI also seeks comment on near term and long term efforts, including prioritization of the data collection, and whether the FCC should adopt policy statements and best practices.

Comments are due on or before October 3, 2023.

Reply comments are due on or before November 2, 2023.

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