Charter to FCC: PEA-Sized Licenses Would Discourage 3.5 GHz Bid

Charter execs were talking up 3.5 GHz at the FCC this week as key to its mobile wireless strategy, including smaller than PEA-sized license areas for that spectrum. If the licenses are too large, says Charter, it would likely not bid in a 3.5 GHz auction.

Charter signaled that stance in talks with FCC staffers, according to an FCC filing on the meetings. The FCC is opening up new spectrum bands for auction to help feed the growing appetite for wireless broadband, and the coming demands of 5G.

Next year, Charter is launching mobile wireless service to its customers as a Wi-Fi first offering in conjunction with Verizon Wireless.

Assuming the FCC applies flexible use rules when freeing up spectrum in the 3.5 GHz band, Charter says it could employ that spectrum along with its Wi-Fi network.

Charter execs told commissioner aides and Wireless Telecomm cations Bureau staffers that 3.5 GHz would be key to its goal of transitioning from a nomadic Wi-Fi network to one supporting multiple 4G and 5G technologies and "seamless" connectivity.

Charter will focus on in-home (and business) applications before really eventually expanding to the great outdoors.

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Charter is arguing against PEA-sized (that is as in "partial economic areas" rather than little green vegetables).

But it does not want them too small either, either. Charter's suggestion for license areas is bigger than census tracts, but no bigger than counties.

It says small cell tech is ill suited to large-scale geographic area licenses and would discourage its participation in an auction of the spectrum.

"Charter has expressed that, under the right rules, it could be interested in acquiring licenses in the 3.5 GHz Band, but if the rules were changed to adopt PEA-size license areas, it is less likely that Charter would do so."

The company also suggested that would lead to an uneven distribution of service. "Indeed, such large license sizes would limit access of the band to the country’s largest wireless carriers and would likely result in deployment only to the most densely populated areas within each PEA."

The FCC is looking to close the divide between rural and urban deployment.

Back in 2016, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler signaled the FCC would be opening up a "trifecta" of low-band (the broadcast spectrum auction), mid-band (3.5 GHz) and high-band spectrum spectrum for shared and licensed and unlicensed use to boost 5G wireless broadband.

The FCC voted back in April 2015 to make shared 3.5GHZ spectrum available for flexible wireless broadband use.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.