Open Access

5:50 PM -- With the 700 MHz auctions set to begin in the not-to-distant future, the debate of how to partition this spectrum continues. As I wrote in my last entry on this subject, priority-based access is the wave of the future, enabled by open-access networks based entirely on IP. It makes no sense to give public-safety interests their own spectrum just because that's the way it has always been done. (See The Right Way to 700.) I filed a Declaration with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on this matter. I don't do things like this very often, but I feel very strongly about this issue. Let's make the best use of the scare resource that the radio spectrum is. We can't do that if big chunks of valuable territory lie fallow whilst waiting for an emergency.

I got enough questions on this matter that I decided to expand upon it via a new Farpoint Group Tech Note, which you can find here. Let me know what you think. Even the cellular guys, still depreciating their 3G infrastructures, will eventually go the open-access route, if for no other reason than there's a lot more money to be made going open and all-IP than with Bell-System-era thinking. [Ed note: In fact, this seems to be happening faster than you might have thought.] Carriers, after all, need to get the most out of the billions that will go into the next and subsequent spectrum auctions, and open-access is the best way to maximize ROI.

— Craig Mathias is Principal Analyst at the Farpoint Group , an advisory firm specializing in wireless communications and mobile computing. Special to Unstrung

lrmobile_rusty 12/5/2012 | 3:04:55 PM
re: Open Access What you really mean is that you want the FCC to require "open access" networks by putting strict restrictions on how the 700 MHz spectrum is used. You don't want to let the auction winner decide what business model works best. You want to put restrictive rules on the use of the spectrum so that it fits the business model of Frontline Wireless (is Frontline a Farpoint Group client, Mr. Mathias?).

Nevermind that this "open access" policy would probably cost taxpayers billions of dollars when comparing the price of a truly unrestricted auction to the price of an auction that required the winner to provide your definition of "open access".

I think everyone realizes that not all spectrum can be truly unrestricted. Unfortunately, this blog entry shows that lots of people want to put money-draining restrictions on the upcoming 700 MHz auction without having a compelling reason. I understand why Google and Frontline want to put restrictions on the auction (it fits their business plan). I don't understand why they should be allowed to pay below market value to execute their business plan. If they want Mr. Mathias' definition of "open access", then let them pay for it without the FCC putting restrictions on the auction.
IPobserver 12/5/2012 | 3:04:54 PM
re: Open Access Hi Craig, I read your note. Good to see you sticking your neck out.

I'd like to see a tighter definition of what exactly you, and other people backing this idea, really mean by open access.

If you just mean ability to use an unlocked phone, can't you do that already on AT&T and T-Mob by swapping out the SIM card?

Where spectrum is licensed by auction, isn't winner-takes-all the best outcome? The point of an auction is to raise as much money as possible.

Otherwise, if you're allocating spectrum for the public good, wouldn't you better off with a beauty-contest?

Given how much an auction would likely raise for public finances you'd need some seriously good analysis to show the U.S. Nation would better off with an alternative approach. If anyone can point to some analysis like this, that'd be interesting.

This is also being discussed on Light Reading (and a zillion other places on the Web): http://www.lightreading.com/do...

I'm from the UK, so I'm merely a neutral observer.
joset01 12/5/2012 | 3:04:53 PM
re: Open Access "If you just mean ability to use an unlocked phone, can't you do that already on AT&T and T-Mob by swapping out the SIM card?"

No, they're locked to the network. Its not like in Europe. You can get someone to break the lock apparently but I'm not sure exactly what the legality of that situation is.

paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 3:04:46 PM
re: Open Access
You can get a US phone unlocked. They work hard to stop it.

joset01 12/5/2012 | 3:04:45 PM
re: Open Access Oh I know, I'd just rather not deal with phones off Ebay or feel like a petty criminal for doing it, you know?

paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 3:04:37 PM
re: Open Access
They can be forced to unlock it for you legally. It is a painful process.

joset01 12/5/2012 | 3:04:34 PM
re: Open Access Hah, yeah, I can imagine.

- DJ