The radio spectrum, a limited and valuable resource, is used for all forms of wireless communications including cellular telephony, paging, personal communications service, radio and television broadcast, telephone radio relay, aeronautical and maritime radio navigation, and satellite command and control.
The federal government manages the spectrum to maximize efficiency in its use and to prevent interference among spectrum users. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) manages all spectrum used by the federal government and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) manages all non-federal spectrum (used by state and local governments and the commercial sector).
For several years, the FCC has been using auctions to assign certain commercial spectrum licenses, instead of providing the licenses for free, raising over $31 billion in actual and expected cash receipts. Although some auctions have been criticized, by most assessments, auctions are considered more effective than previous methods, both in terms of the speed with which the licenses are distributed and the revenue that can be raised. As radio technology improves, higher frequencies may become available, and spectrum may be utilized more efficiently, contributing to the already increasing demand for wireless services.