Defence spectrum – the new battleground? By Geoff Varrall, RTT Online


CW Technology and Engineering Conference


Technology shift in military radio systems prompts re assessment of military spectral value. Just one of the topics being discussed at this year’s CW TEC Conference in London on the 24th March 2015


The US DOD thought they had put a more than adequate price tag of $5 billion dollars to cover the cost of decommissioning military radio systems in the coordination zone between 1755 and 1780 MHz

But that was before the bidding for the AWS 3 spectrum, the super band extension of the Band IV AWS 1 1.7/2.1 GHz band, went north of $38 billion dollars.

This will inevitably prompt a reappraisal of defence spectrum value both in the US and rest of the world with compensation cost expectations likely to rocket in all target 5G bands including S band, C band, X band, the K bands and V and W bands – 100 GHZ of radio spectrum – a classic case of technology economics changing the value and cost of future 5G deployment.


On the one hand military procurement policy is moving towards the use of LTE base stations and smart phones to support battlefield communication systems.

This includes the use of tightly controlled stable latency to support military grade authentication.

The availability of ruggedized smart phones at low cost (the latest iPhone6 being an example) is helping as well.

While the <1 GHz and 1.8 GHz bands are presently preferred the big play could well be in the higher bands.

This includes the top end of S band (2-4 GHz), X band (8 to 12 GHz), the K bands (12 to 40 GHz), V and W band (40 to 110 GHz)


Getting gain efficiently and minimizing transistor noise at these frequencies is a significant challenge but defence agencies including DARPA in the US and the military vendor community are making startling progress with enabling component technologies.

The availability of these components at consumer price points will be crucial to the economic viability of 5 G mobile broadband, replicating the role that military component technologies had in enabling previous cellular technologies.

The consumer mobile broadband community and military defence sector therefore have closely coupled mutual technical interest which suggests that a collaborative rather than combative approach to working together will be needed. It will be important to foster this cooperation by avoiding an adversarial auction process.


Come and listen to technical subject experts from Avanti, EE, BSkyB, Radio Design, IRT Germany, BBC Research, u-blox AG, CSR and Samsung presenting their informed views on these changes, challenges and opportunities.

Join us to debate how new technologies are changing the delivery economics of our industry, the impact on coexistence management and associated implications for the regulatory and spectral allocation community and standards making community.

Check out the next blog about CW TEC ‘Ultra Sparse Networks- a new technology focus needed to deliver 5G economic viability?’.


About The Author

Geoff Varrall is Director at RTT Online
Follow on twitter at: @geoffvarrall


Keep the conversation going on Twitter: @CambWireless

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