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March 17, 2000

Separate Statement of Commissioner Susan Ness

Re: Inquiry Regarding Software Defined Radios

I am bullish about the prospect of "software defined radio" (SDR), a new generation of technology that potentially will allow communications equipment to adapt to multiple standards and add service features without changes to the equipment's hardware. The Notice of Inquiry we release today is both a culmination of efforts and the beginning of a new initiative. While work still lies ahead, SDR holds the potential to enhance our participation in the global economy, to access new services, and to utilize the spectrum more efficiently.

The Notice is the outgrowth of efforts by the Department of Defense (DOD), members of the SDR Forum, and the FCC's Technical Advisory Council (TAC). DOD and members of the SDR Forum have pioneered the first generation of SDR, seeking to generate equipment that can be programmed to transmit and receive on any frequency within a wide range using a variety of transmission formats. The FCC has held several forums on new technologies and spectrum use, at which the potential benefits of SDR technology have been demonstrated. The TAC has reviewed SDR technology over the past year, studying the ways in which this technology may assist us in managing our precious resource - spectrum. This Notice is the result of such study. Hopefully, it will launch us in the direction of new products that better serve consumers; these products can be governed by streamlined rules that place the products in the marketplace more rapidly.

As a consumer, I am excited about SDR because it has the potential to add new meaning to the words "anywhere, anytime." As envisioned, SDR devices can be adapted to work anywhere on the planet through software changes or upgrades that can be installed or downloaded from remote locations. Such devices also could download new service applications as they are developed and made available.

As a spectrum manager, I am excited about SDR because it augments the tools we have to more efficiently manage spectrum. Today, we struggle to squeeze multiple services into spectrum, or to mandate specific standards to permit communications devices to work seamlessly. With SDR, the software could make such decisions, not the FCC. The availability of such software also might make it easier for different users to share crowded spectrum. Of course, protection of other spectrum licensees from interference resulting from SDR devices is paramount.

Given the promise of SDR, it is my hope that industry participants will help us address the complex issues raised in the Notice, so that we can move quickly to make any necessary changes in our rules. I am particularly interested in ways that we might revamp or streamline our equipment approval process to accommodate SDR. Any rules that would enable new and innovative products to reach the marketplace more quickly without compromising safety and interference protection for existing services would most certainly serve the public interest.

- FCC -