The Right Way to 700

5:30 PM -- The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is still mucking about with what to do with the 700MHz band, which will be vacated by the broadcasters (formerly the most powerful lobby at the FCC) in early 2009. 700 is very important because of the great propagation characteristics at that spot in the spectrum. Coverage and in-building penetration should be wonderful. And advances in electronic antennas mean that we may not need to go back to pull-ups after all.

But, being such a valuable chunk o’ megahertz, everyone wants in. And the auction (still no date yet; my money is on it not occurring this year) will raise a ton o’ cash for the treasury. The job of the FCC at this point is really to figure out the optimal mix o’ chunks to maximize the number of bucks ultimately raised.

This, of course, precludes doing the right thing, which would be to have a few large blocks of spectrum that are 100 percent shared between commercial and government (public safety) interests. Let’s assume any technology deployed here will be 100 percent IP. This being the case, all we need to do is have strong authentication of users and subscriber units, and thus allow public safety priority access when required. Dividing the most valuable real-estate in wireless into small pieces just so powerful interests can say they’ve got theirs is so last decade. Priority-based demand allocations make a lot more sense.

What will the FCC ultimately do? Whatever raises the most cash, of course. And, while I still don’t think that the FCC even has the right to conduct these auctions -- read the 9th and 10th Amendments to the Constitution -- in the immortal words of Cyndi Lauper, money changes everything.

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

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