The U.S. government could put more wireless airwaves on the market as early as a year from now if lawmakers give the country's telecom regulator authority to give broadcasters part of the proceeds.
Federal Communications Chairman Julius Genachowski is looking for broadcasters such as CBS Corp to voluntarily give up airwaves they don't need in exchange for a portion of revenue from selling the spectrum.
The idea is to make more airwaves available for wireless broadband services to prevent network congestion amid exploding demand for services such as mobile Web surfing. But in order to go ahead with the plan Genachowski needs approval from Congress.
We could be in a position, if Congress acts, to put the spectrum up for auction in the next year or two, Genachowski said at an event at the Consumer Electronics Show on Friday.
We'd be prepared to move quickly if Congress passes the law, the regulator said.
Aside from meeting expanding demand for such services, Genachowski also said he is worried about the United States losing its leadership role in the development of wireless technologies and services.
Global leadership is not a given in the 21st century, he said.
The Obama administration in June endorsed a target of making 500 megahertz of spectrum available over the next 10 years to meet the growing demand for wireless services on laptops and smartphones such as Apple Inc's iPhone.
The FCC, which manages commercial spectrum licenses, and the Commerce Department, which oversees government spectrum, have been working together to locate unused spectrum.
The Commerce Department in November identified 115 megahertz of spectrum that could be reallocated to wireless broadband, and the FCC hopes to repurpose 120 megahertz of spectrum from television stations through voluntary incentive auctions.
(Reporting by Sinead Carew in Las Vegas and Jasmin Melvin in Washington, editing by Matthew Lewis)