A US telecom official tipped spectrum sharing to play a key role in the government’s plan to alleviate a shortage of available commercial airwaves in the country.

In comments delivered at an industry conference, David Redl, administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), said the agency is looking at a shared access scheme being developed for the nation’s 3.5GHz band as an example of what’s possible, but added it is carefully studying other models as well.

One such approach is bi-directional spectrum sharing, which would allow federal and non-federal users to access one another’s spectrum.

NTIA is the agency charged with advising the US president on telecommunications and information policy.

The increased focus on sharing comes as operators lobby for more airwaves to meet 5G data demands, even as it becomes more difficult and costly for federal incumbents to relocate their spectrum assignments to free up space for commercial users. Redl noted that, if continued, the “make room” approach could “lead to significantly constrained access for federal agencies with missions that are critical to the health and safety of the American people”.

He added the agency is also looking into the concept of leasing fallow federal spectrum for commercial use as another means to open more airwaves for commercial operators.

“The administration is in the midst of building a strategic approach toward our spectrum goals that will engage government, the private sector and all stakeholders…Our plan for the future is based on acknowledgement that the days of redeploying spectrum from one use to another are over for the most part. There are no more easy and relatively painless relocations we can do.”