They’re calling it a moonshot – akin to sending men to the moon in the 1960s. It’s all about developing a dynamic spectrum sharing (DSS) framework to share spectrum between the Department of Defense (DoD) and commercial wireless users.

Will it be tough? You bet. Impossible? Not according to the folks who participated in an event at CTIA headquarters on Monday – at the same time many people were putting their glasses on to watch the sun, moon and earth align.

Establishing a secure, nationwide DSS system that operates at light speed will be challenging and require some super brainy people, but DoD Chief Information Officer John Sherman said he’s motivated by it all.

“I don’t know about you all but what gets me out of bed in the morning is doing hard things,” he told an audience online and at CTIA headquarters in Washington, D.C. “Easy stuff – let somebody else do that. Let’s put our heads together and get after this and do this right.”

(The less ambitious among us will get out of bed for a strong cup of coffee – plus the threat of missing daily deadlines. But that’s just us.)

And what’s a DoD event without a bunch of acronyms?

The moonshot will be focused initially on the 3.1-3.45 GHz band, led by the DoD and National Information and Telecommunications Administration (NTIA) with participation from academia and industry. It follows on the Biden Administration’s National Spectrum Strategy and implementation plan for it, as well as the Emerging Mid-Band Radar Spectrum Sharing, or EMBRSS effort, and the Partnering on Advanced and Holistic Spectrum Solution, or PATHSS.

Today, U.S. military ships in the Red Sea are using the 3.1-3.45 GHz band for radars to make sure drones and missiles aren’t striking their vessels or commercial ships coming through the waterway. The military uses this band in Ukraine to thwart Russian missiles aimed at Kyiv and elsewhere. In the domestic U.S., service members use the spectrum to train for overseas deployment, Sherman said.

Suffice it to say, there’s no easy button for protecting the DoD and opening the band up for sharing with commercial users. Hence, it’s going to take 12-18 months to study all of this and come up with some answers.

“We’re all going to be a little bit uncomfortable with this,” Sherman said, adding that if anyone – the DoD or industry – starts feeling too “great” during this process, it’s probably not being done right. “We’re going to have to challenge each other. We’re going to have to push each other, and we’re going to have to focus in a way that we have not focused.”

One of the objectives of the government’s DSS effort is the development of a next-generation spectrum sharing prototype, according to Matthew Pearl, director of Emerging Technologies at the White House National Security Council (NSC).

They’re also talking about leveraging open Radio Access Network (RAN) and more specifically, the Radio Intelligent Controller (RIC) to ensure that sharing is quickly and efficiently implemented in commercial networks and that existing infrastructure is part of the process.

The idea is to improve on the spectrum sharing that’s already being done for Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS), which is the first truly dynamic regime the U.S. has implemented, Pearl said.

Changes are coming to the CBRS band, too. In the coming weeks, they expect to be able to expand the size of the CBRS dynamic protection areas to increase commercial access while continuing to protect the DoD users, he said.

CTIA: Moon shots take a long time

Holding the event at CTIA headquarters was an interesting choice given CTIA has not been a fan of DSS and has called CBRS a failure. It’s consistently fought for more higher power, licensed spectrum for mobile carriers, especially when it comes to mid-band spectrum for 5G, rather than a sharing regime.

But hey, CTIA probably would rather host the event on its turf rather than go to, say, Google’s, right?

CTIA President and CEO Meredith Attwell Baker reminded everyone via X that the original moon shot took a long time and freeing up spectrum in the short term is important. “I am happy to host today’s session on how we can … work together on spectrum policies that will ensure national and economic security for our nation,” she said.

Hopefully the DSS plan comes together before the next total solar eclipse in 2044.

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