FCC Moves to Repurpose Yet More Spectrum for Wireless

The FCC Wednesday opened a proceeding on how to
open up satellite spectrum in the 2 GHz band for mobile terrestrial use, one of
the proposals in the National Broadband Plan and yet another element of the
FCC's multipart strategy to free up spectrum from broadcasters and others for
mobile broadband.

is the rulemaking proposal it signaled it would tee up when earlier this month
it denied Dish's request for a waiver to use its satellite spectrum for mobile
broadband, saying it would consider the issue more generally in the rulemaking.

FCC has been trying to adopt a more flexible use policy for spectrum that could
be repurposed to help meet the growing demands of all those smart phones and
tablets and apps. It was the motivation behind granting a waiver to
LightSquared to use its satellite spectrum for terrestrial service, though that
waiver ran into what the FCC has called unresolveable interference issues with GPS, at least in the short

move would free up an additional 40 MHz of spectrum, with another 15 MHz in
government spectrum added to that by the National Telecommunications &
Information Administration.

Bureau Chief Rick Kaplan said the proposal demonstrated the commitment of the
commission to free up more spectrum, or as he put it, "leave no megahertz

Robert McDowell said that appetite for spectrum appeared to be insatiable and
that the FCC was taking "a small but important step to satisfy that

Chairman Julius Genachowski pointed out that that 40 MHz, and potentially 15
more from NTIA, was more than half of the spectrum cleared in
the DTV transition repacking of broadcasters (70 MHz). Proposed incentive
auctions will reclaim another 80 MHZ or so from broadcasters as well, if they
agree to give it up.

said the FCC had been pushing "relentlessly" to free up spectrum for
the past three years, including through promoting flexible use, allowing
unlicensed use in the "white spaces" between TV channels and pushing
for incentive auctions

item was voted unanimous at a wireless broadband-centric public meeting
Wednesday at which the commission also teed up a proposal for increasing
interoperability -- being able to use a variety of different devices -- in the
lower 700 MHz band, spectrum reclaimed from broadcasters as part of the DTV
transition. While the FCC put interoperability conditions on the upper C block
of that spectrum, it did not do so on the lower block, and now is seeking input
on the impact of doing that, including potential interference issues.

who opposed the conditions on the C block, voted for the NPRM, but noted that
there were no draft rules in it and that the NPRM also talked about an
industry, rather than government-mandated regime, and a "generous"
time frame for comment. In introducing the item, the Wireless Bureau made it
clear that voluntary industry efforts were preferable.

are encouraged by the Commission's action today to facilitate mobile internet
use in the 2 GHz band," said AT&T in a statement. "The events of the last
two years have made clear that the challenges associated with finding
additional spectrum for commercial use are significant.  Yet there is no
goal more important to the millions of customers who depend on the mobile

commends the FCC for taking steps to bring the 2 GHz Mobile Satellite Spectrum
to market for mobile wireless broadband services," said the association in a statement.
"While we have not yet had an opportunity to review the details of the FCC's
proposal, CTIA has long called for the FCC to open a rulemaking as the next
step in determining how the 2 GHz spectrum should be most effectively
deployed. CTIA and our members look forward to working with the Commission
to find ways to harness this underutilized spectrum to benefit the nation's
wireless consumers."

Knowledge was pleased that the FCC was teeing up interoperability, and that the
FCC might be clearing the way for DISH to compete with
incumbent wireless carriers. "The Commission is encouraging broadband
competition by opening up terrestrial satellite spectrum for another potential
competitor to help consumers," said the group.

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.