The aerospace and defense sectors are heavily dependent on spectrum. Pressure from other users (e.g., commercial wireless operators) and regulators seeking to reallocate spectrum and impose other measures pose significant regulatory issues for these industries.

Spectrum management — an essential element for aerospace and defense

From aircraft operational safety to radar, and from weapons guidance systems to communications networks, the aviation and defense industries are heavily dependent on spectrum resources. Spectrum issues arise at the earliest stage of concept development, and extend to actual operations and frequency management in the air and on the battlefield. Accordingly, spectrum regulatory matters, including frequency allocation and development of technical standards, have a significant impact on spectrum-dependent aerospace and defense systems.

Relevant spectrum initiatives

There are a number of spectrum-related proceedings underway internationally that have significant implications for aerospace and defense. These include:

  • United Kingdom Ministry of Defence spectrum examination process, administrative incentive pricing (AIP), plans for release of spectrum to other users, and separate proceedings on applying AIP to aeronautical bands – These and other Office of Communications (Ofcom) proceedings have potential impact on NATO and the EU, as well as Eastern Europe spectrum realignment/harmonization efforts.
  • US Spectrum Inventory Legislation – Review of spectrum use between 225 MHz and 3.7 GHz or 10 GHz to identify spectrum for commercial wireless broadband services may increase pressure to reallocate spectrum from government to commercial use.
  • World Radiocommunication Conference 2012 (WRC-12) agenda items – Agenda Item 1.3 – Spectrum for Unmanned Aerial Systems; Agenda Items 1.4, 1.7 and 1.24 – Spectrum for aeronautical radio navigation service (ARNS) and aeronautical mobile-satellite (route) service (AMS(R)S); Agenda Item 1.19 – Software defines radios; Agenda Item 1.22 – Protection from unlicensed short-range devices (SRDs); Agenda Item 1.25 – Spectrum for MSS in 4-16 GHz. These and related agenda items directly affect aerospace and defense spectrum allocations and technical standards.

Spectrum Access

In addition to the development of spectrum allocations and technical standards to support aerospace and defense operations, ensuring appropriate access to available spectrum is essential for mission success.

Commercial access to military/government spectrum. Separate licensing processes and potential policy concerns can undermine access to government spectrum by commercial operators seeking to satisfy military demand. Issues such as access to X-band spectrum and hosted satellite payloads in military bands can raise complex legal and policy issues.

Military/government access to commercial spectrum. Regulatory issues associated with broadband mobile satcom, including aeronautical, maritime and land mobile services, have been addressed in various international fora but significant uncertainties remain. Complex international licensing procedures and potential liability issues can undermine the provision of these and other communications services.

Spectrum Refarming. Close attention must be paid to spectrum refarming efforts. There is high demand for commercial spectrum for fixed and mobile broadband access, and regulators continue to examine spectrum dedicated to government/military use to help satisfy this demand.