Vol. 15 : No. 4
ITFS and 3G: A Brief History
At the World Radio Communication Conference that was held in the year 2000 (WRC-2000), several radio frequency bands were identified for possible 3G (Third Generation Wireless) use throughout the world. One piece of identified spectrum is the 2.5-2.69 Gigahertz band called Instructional Television Fixed Service (ITFS) in the United States, an analog video microwave service which schools, colleges, universities and other educational institutions and organizations have used for decades to expand and enhance the learning experiences of millions of kindergarten through twelfth grade students, college and university undergraduate and graduate students, and postgraduate professionals such as teachers, medical doctors, nurses and engineers. Since fall 2000, ITFS operators have been able to modify their ITFS systems to operate digital two-way ITFS operations that add educational offerings like the Internet and other digital data, voice and video services, which are especially important to underserved students and professionals in rural and urban areas where wired media provision of such services is either unavailable or extremely expensive.
On October 13, 2000 President Clinton issued a Presidential Memorandum establishing guiding principles for federal Executive Agencies to use in selecting 3G systems spectrum to satisfy the United States' future needs for mobile voice, high speed data and wireless Internet services. These principles are that the federal government must cooperate with industry to identify 3G spectrum in a technology neutral manner, while treating incumbent spectrum users equitably, encouraging competition and harmonizing U. S. with regional and international spectrum allocations.
A November 15, 2000 interim report Spectrum Study of the 2500-2690 MHz Band: The Potential for Accommodating Third Generation Mobile Systems was issued by the Federal Communications Commission, using the October Memorandum principles to determine whether the spectrum currently being used by Instructional Television Fixed Service (ITFS) and Multipoint Distribution Service (MDS) could be shared with 3G services. The FCC interim report's SUMMARY OF FINDINGS states that there "is no global consensus as to how the frequency bands identified at WARC-92 and WRC-2000 will be used to implement 3G, or whether common global bands for use by 3G systems are achievable." The interim report also notes "The 2500-2690 MHz band is in a state of rapid evolution by incumbent ITFS and MDS licensees [and] used currently to provide video services for education and training in schools, health care centers and a wide variety of other institutions, as well as for the provision of a commercial video distribution service known as wireless cable." Not only is this spectrum heavily used for analog and digital video dissemination by educational institutions throughout the country, but the interim report says "Incumbent ITFS and MDS use of the 2500-2690 MHz band varies from one geographic area to another. This lack of uniformity presents serious challenges to developing band sharing or segmentation options that could be used across the country without severely disrupting ITFS and MDS use [and] large co-channel separation distances would be needed between 3G systems and incumbent ITFS and MDS systems." The interim report concludes, "Segmenting the 2500-2690 MHz band to enable third generation mobile wireless systems access to this spectrum would raise technical and economic difficulties for incumbents [and] could affect the economics of current and planned ITFS and MDS systems and their ability to provide service to rural areas."
December 29, 2000, the Federal Communications Commission issued a Notice of Proposed Rule Making and Order ET Docket Number 00-258 (FCC 00-455) to explore the possible use of frequency bands below 3 GHz, including the ITFS 2.5-2.69 GHz spectrum, to support 3G services. Through March 9, 2001, interested parties have submitted comments and reply comments to the Commission on this issue. The Commission is expected to conclude the 3G Notice of Proposed Rule Making and issue recommendations on 3G spectrum allocations by late Spring 2001.
About the Author:
Willi Bokenkamp is Senior Communication Analyst, University of California, Office of the President. She is a strong advocate of Distance Learning and technology supported education. She is an expert in distance learning legislation. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org