The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines collaboration as “to work jointly with others or together especially in an intellectual endeavor.” The Department of the Navy (DON) is doing just that in a feasibility study for sharing the 3450-3550 MHz frequency band. Specifically, in cooperation with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and other federal agencies, the DON is examining whether this frequency band can be shared between commercial entities and federal radar systems without impact to current capabilities. Other agencies included in the decision-making on sharing the band include the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
The way ahead for future spectrum reallocations requires collaboration. The department will participate in line with the philosophy of the DON Chief Information Officer (CIO), Mr. Aaron Weiss, which is to operate with a “We” approach — never ”Us” and “Them.”
For studies, such as this, each federal agency typically completes the necessary analyses internally prior to presenting a consolidated agency position. However, a new paradigm is being used for the 3450-3550MHz analyses. The NTIA is leading the analyses and conducting it in a collaborative and iterative process with impacted federal agencies, including the DON. This new paradigm presents opportunities and challenges for the DON. One challenge is the unique complexity of how the Navy and Marine Corps test, train, and deploy both physical assets and personnel. For example, as described in the following paragraphs, DON Test and Training Ranges are very complex entities that support multiple missions.
In the early phases of this feasibility study, we are reviewing the traditional elements of data analyses, including available data, analyses processes, and the equipment that operates in the frequency band. Analyses are becoming more standardized to serve multiple studies by utilizing common International Telecommunication Union Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R) recommendations, such as propagation prediction methods (P.528 and P.617) and clutter loss prediction (P.2108).
As we started the process of sharing data, which included technical system specifications, the complexity and broad mission of a DON Test and Training Range became apparent, such as the interrelationships of systems; the need for telemetering and instrumentation; safety of life issues; frequency of equipment usage; and the interconnectivity between the actual ranges. Considering only traditional elements of spectrum data analyses would omit larger operational issues such as safety of life associated with testing.
To provide valuable insight into the mission of DON Test and Training ranges, the DON CIO and Atlantic Test Range (ATR), located at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, conducted a full-day field trip for those involved in this feasibility study. In addition to a range tour, the visit included discussion and demonstrations of the multiple missions, capabilities, spectrum needs, and current efforts that the ATR supports. By the end of the day, attendees had been given a thorough presentation of the criticality and complexity of the systems on a Test and Training Range.
Key takeaways from the range tour include the need for access to a wide variety of bands within the spectrum; the ongoing requirement for open-air testing and training; and how a Test and Training Range supports all aspects of the acquisition lifecycle of spectrum-dependent systems. Finally, we learned that a test range cannot be viewed as a series of systems; but is a system in itself. This sharing of information regarding the unique needs of DON spectrum-dependent systems is an example of the opportunities this new paradigm offers.