social, and political agendas and a mix of technical, economic, and social perspectives.

This report thus seeks to shine a spotlight, in ways the committee hopes will be useful to those setting future spectrum policy, on emerging technology trends and to outline policy directions that align with those trends. It aims to provide a cogent discussion of the overall rationale for changing policy, the opportunities afforded by new technologies for spectrum management, and some long-term directions for improvement in policy.

The Committee on Wireless Technology Trends and Policy Options was not in a position to examine the details of the numerous specific areas of contention that are the subject of frequent debate today regarding use of the spectrum, or to evaluate the merits of opposing claims. This report thus does not offer specific prescriptions for how particular frequency bands should be used or seek to resolve conflicting demands for spectrum for particular services. Instead, the committee intends that its discussion of the relevant technology trends and policy options should be helpful in addressing these conflicts, both today and in the future.


The development of technologies and the associated policy and regulatory regimes that govern their use are often closely coupled. For example, from the late 19th century until recently, the roadways for communication and transmission of information (e.g., the telephone system, broadcast television, and radio) were, like those for transporting people and physical goods, owned, managed, and regulated by a relatively small number of institutions. The concerns and assumptions underlying policies were grounded in the technical realities and economic and political imperatives of the time. The interplay between technology and policy was apparent as early as the 1910s. The growth of radio communications and the spectrum policy that emerged reflected a compromise on a framework for spectrum management.

When spectrum regulation began with the Radio Acts of 1912 and 1927 and the Communications Act of 1934, the primary obstacle to signal reception was noise. Because of the quality of components available at that time and the nature of the most popular frequency bands of the day (which were selected for their longer propagation distances), noise was a significant problem, and interference (i.e., human-generated noise from other transmissions) from other sources was regarded as intolerable and something to be avoided. Accordingly, a regulatory structure was set up that allocated frequencies with specific power levels and bandwidth masks uniquely to single broadcasters or services in a given geographic

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