Look Who's at Spectrum Confab

The World Radio Conference -- the quadrennial international meeting of 190 nations to slice and dice increasingly valuable and scarce radio spectrum -- kicked off Oct. 22.

And the Defense Department is interested.

How interested? Both John Grimes, assistant secretary of Defense for Networks and Information Integration, and Air Force Lt. Gen. Chares Croom, director of the Defense Information Systems Agency, showed up for the first week of the confab, which runs through Nov. 16.

Grimes, in a press briefing teleconference today from Geneva, said he is concerned about two key items on the conference’s agenda: protection of HF spectrum (4 to 10 megahertz), which has found a new life as a long-range data transmission medium, and a re-allocation of C-band frequencies (3.4 to 4.2 gigahertz), used by military radars and satellite communications systems such as the Navy.

Richard Russell, U.S. ambassador to the conference, said European nations at the conference represented by the 48-member European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrators advocate allocating portions of the HF band to digital shortwave broadcasting by stations such as the BBC in the UK and Westdeutscher Rundfunk in Germany. (That’s conference agenda item 1.13)

Grimes said the United States is “standing hard” on any incursions by broadcasters into the HF bands used by Defense and military forces in other countries, including some in Europe.

Russell said European countries are also pushing to use C-band frequencies for commercial, next-generation broadband mobile services. (That’s conference agenda item 1.4). Grimes said this was a critical issue for Defense, which cannot afford interference with military radars in the C-band.

Russell said the U.S. delegation, including Grimes and Croom, had lunch with the Mideast Gulf states today, and they are in line with the U.S. position to not use C-band for broadband mobile. Russell added that he did not expect the HF or C-band issues to be resolved until the last week of the conference.

A Defense spokesman told me Grimes and Croom will return home this Friday. Probably a smart fiscal move, as the price of hotel rooms in Geneva might require Congress to pass a Defense supplemental to pay the bill.

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