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FCC Chief: Keep Spectrum Open for Smaller Carriers

Dan Jones

FCC head Tom Wheeler wants to keep spectrum open for smaller operators in the upcoming "Incentive Auction" in 2015.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman described spectrum as "a finite public resource" in a blog post Friday. "Getting the Incentive Auction right will revolutionize how spectrum is allocated," Wheeler wrote. (See Wheeler Writes Regulatory Rubric .)

Suggesting that not all spectrum is created equal, Wheeler writes that the type of low-band sub-1 GHz spectrum that could be auctioned off is beneficial for both rural and urban deployments. Low-band spectrum has better propagation capabilities, which means fewer sites are needed to deploy a network and the spectrum penetrates buildings better. (See T-Mobile: Going Bananas for Low-Band .)

Wheeler appears to favor allowing smaller operators to get some of that spectrum without simply being outbid by the Big 2, particularly for rural networks.

"A legacy of earlier spectrum assignments, however, is that two national carriers control the vast majority of low-band spectrum," Wheeler writes. "As a result, rural consumers are denied the competition and choice that would be available if more wireless competitors also had access to low-band spectrum."

AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Verizon Wireless grabbed nationwide blocks of low-band 700 MHz in the last major US spectrum auction.

Wheeler has now provided the other commissioners with a draft policy on the auction. This auction is different because the FCC hopes that US TV broadcasters will give up chunks of 600 MHz spectrum in return for a slice of the profits of the auction. The auction is expected in mid-2015.

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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User Rank: Light Beer
5/5/2014 | 7:42:27 AM
unlimited bandwidth
To briandnewby's question:

The "finite" source becomes infinite when the FCC says so. This is cynical on my part, but there is already technology that could alleviate this "crunch". However, that would stop the monopoly and remove the reason to auction, remove a cash infusion to the FCC and really flow against the tide, politically. 
User Rank: Light Sabre
4/21/2014 | 4:04:31 PM
Re: Will it survive?
You have that right. Hoping that U.S. broadcasters will give up spectrum won't make it happen. Money talks. But as the price of spectrum keeps ging up, the question is who would come up with the money if not the big companies that already control the spectrum.
User Rank: Light Sabre
4/21/2014 | 3:22:04 PM
Re: Will it survive?
When we run out of usable radio spectrum for services, "peak spectrum" if you will. I would think that there will actually be a lot of reuse of existing spectrum in the coming years. But as Wheeler notes, some spectrum is better for wireless services than other spectrum.
User Rank: Blogger
4/21/2014 | 11:23:58 AM
Re: Will it survive?
The reverse auction for the broadcasters to figure out who is giving up spectrum and how much means it isn't going to be clear for a while what is available. The whole thing is pretty complicated, even with more than a year left to figure it out.
User Rank: Light Sabre
4/21/2014 | 10:58:42 AM
Re: Will it survive?
A mid-2015 auction and "hoping" are the clue that this is not a done deal. It's unlikely that broadcasters are going to give up spectrum unless there's a pretty nice chunk of change to be pocketed. It would seem the FCC could just put some pressure here and there to get what they want, but the political realities won't allow that of course.
User Rank: Light Sabre
4/21/2014 | 3:58:37 AM
Re: Will it survive?
..and to add to your comments, I was amused to see how the FCC is "hoping" that US Broadcasters will give up some of their spectrum--What incentive do they have as they clamour ever more for it all?


User Rank: Light Sabre
4/20/2014 | 7:37:18 PM
Re: Will it survive?
The only thing I feel compelled to point out is that the auctions have continued for more than 15 years.  When does the "finite resource" actually become finite?
User Rank: Light Sabre
4/20/2014 | 6:02:02 PM
Will it survive?
Will be very, very curious to see if this survives running the lobbying gauntlet over the next few months. AT&T's certainly very, very busy trying to kill anything that could potentially restricting them from owning as much spectrum as possible.
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