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Military radio can co-exist with commercial wireless services

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Military radio and other government systems can share their airwaves allocations with companies that want to offer new wireless services, but the potential for interference still must be overcome, a federal study said Wednesday.

By order of the president, federal agencies are looking to free up space on overcrowded airwaves so that private business can offer the next breed of mobile services. These so-called third-generation, or 3G, systems, enable companies to send large amounts of information to cell phones or handheld devices and transform them into mobile computers that can surf the Internet, display video and provide constant e-mail access.

What's more, countries are working together to designate the same slices of airwaves so that people could roam the globe and access wireless services on their phones anywhere.

Some frequencies eyed for the new wireless technology already are used by the Pentagon, however, for vital military operations such as tracking and controlling satellites, military radio relay and air combat training systems. Still other frequencies currently belong to companies offering wireless video programming and other services.

The United States is keen to determine if the Pentagon or private businesses can be relocated to another range of frequencies or if they can co-exist with the new services.

If the United States doesn't move aggressively, ``then we stand to lose our leadership in Internet access and wireless services,'' said Greg Rohde, head of the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration. The NTIA oversees government use of the nation's airwaves.

Some countries in Europe already have begun auctioning off licenses so companies can provide these new generations of wireless services. The United States hopes to hold its auction in September 2002.

The Defense Department and NTIA have been examining whether airwaves space used by military operations could be split with new commercial services. The report raised the greatest concern about potential interference to systems that control and direct military satellites.

Government officials will now examine more closely whether they can create a buffer to protect military operations while allowing other companies to use nearby frequencies for wireless Internet applications.

``We believe this is a good first step,'' said Linton Wells, principal deputy assistant secretary of Defense. The Pentagon ``recognizes this is a nationally important issue.''

Another range of frequencies ideal for the new 3G mobile technology is already being used for educational video programming and by companies like WorldCom and Sprint to provide high-speed Internet to home computers.

The Federal Communications Commission, which manages commercial use of the airwaves, determined that it would be difficult for the existing services and any new wireless applications to share space because of interference problems. But the agency will also consider whether existing services can be moved to other frequencies.

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