One of the primary concerns for passive sensing systems is the explosive growth in industrial, commercial, and consumer devices. This growth is fueled by user demand, investment capital, and the reallocation of underutilized spectral bands. The need for mitigation and the appropriate mitigation technique will vary depending on the type of equipment that will be permitted by the regulatory agencies, the technology being deployed, the time line for the deployment of systems, and the intensity of spectrum usage. This section and the next present a review of current spectrum usage and of the drivers for future spectrum usage, which provides the requisite basis for the development of the appropriate technical and regulatory mitigation strategies.

Current Allocations

Access to spectrum in the United States is assigned by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). The process is described in useful detail in Chapter 1 of the National Research Council’s 2007 report Handbook of Frequency Allocations and Spectrum Protection for Scientific Uses.1 To summarize, spectrum is typically assigned to services (classes of users) on a primary basis or a secondary basis, and allocations include details on permitted transmission power levels and operation times. The difference between a primary allocation and a secondary allocation is essentially that the users of a secondary allocation must accept interference from the users of a primary allocation and conversely must not interfere with the users of the primary service. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU), an agency of the United Nations, periodically updates its allocation table to coordinate international spectrum usage and prevent problems due to interference. The ITU Radio Regulations (ITU-RR) are not binding on the United States in toto—the real treaty obligation of the U.S. government is that it will not assign transmitter licenses in such a way that will cause interference to stations licensed by other governments that are in accordance with the ITU-RR. Within this framework, national governments create and enforce additional regulations, typically to include additional details and to elaborate on permitted uses of the spectrum. In the United States, federal use of spectrum is managed by the NTIA, whereas nonfederal (i.e., commercial, amateur, and passive scientific) use of spectrum is managed by the FCC. The authority of the FCC and NTIA are parallel in this respect. FCC regulations


National Research Council, Handbook of Frequency Allocations and Spectrum Protection for Scientific Uses, Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press, 2007.

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