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FCC plans to unleash additional spectrum for mobile broadband

June 21, 2010

The FCC says that the supply of mobile broadband is not keeping up with ballooning demand

The FCC says that the supply of mobile broadband is not keeping up with ballooning demand

The Federal Communications Commission Spectrum Task Force announced a plan to increase value, utilization and investment in mobile satellite service (MSS) bands with the goal of opening up more spectrum for mobile broadband.

One of the FCC’s oldest and most important responsibilities is to develop wireless spectrum policies that stimulate investment and keep pace with innovation, said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski in a statement. This Spectrum Task Force initiative, which will kick off with a Commission proceeding in July, will open the door to new opportunities in mobile—new networks, new devices, new competition and new technologies, per the FCC.

“The National Broadband Plan includes the goal of 500 megahertz of spectrum made newly available for mobile broadband within 10 years, with 300 megahertz of that within five years,” said Ruth Milkman, co-chair of the FCC’s Spectrum Task Force, Washington.

“This will promote better utilization of spectrum, all of this with a focus on spectrum for mobile broadband, because demand for mobile broadband is outstripping supply by a large margin,” she said. “We’re hoping this will enable the roll-out of a nationwide 4G network by 2015.

“We want to create opportunities for full use of the 2 gigahertz F band for terrestrial use, but ensure that a good proportion of it adheres to the public interest.”

Mobile broadband revolution
The FCC claims that it is committed to ensuring that America has the mobile broadband spectrum it needs to lead the world.

The National Broadband Plan, delivered to Congress in March, outlined a strategy for making 500 MHz of spectrum available for wireless broadband services by 2020, a strategy that Chairman Julius Genachowski charged the newly created Spectrum Task Force with overseeing. 

Ms. Milkman said that the Spectrum Task Force has already begun executing the Commission’s spectrum agenda, consistent with the spectrum plan outlined in the National Broadband Plan.

Job No. 1 is to make more spectrum available for flexible use, including terrestrial mobile broadband, per Ms. Milkman. 

The FCC claims that it has taken steps to put the spectrum strategy into action.

Shortly after the broadband plan’s release, the FCC approved the Harbinger-SkyTerra transaction, which will enable Harbinger to invest billions of dollars in building a 4G wireless network using spectrum that includes the MSS bands.

In April, the Commission adopted the WCS-SDARS Order, making 25 MHz of spectrum available for mobile broadband services. 

On Friday, the Spectrum Task Force announced a proceeding to unleash up to 90 MHz of additional spectrum for mobile broadband, consistent with the National Broadband Plan recommendation to accelerate terrestrial deployment in the mobile satellite service band.

By removing policies that are currently barriers to flexible use of terrestrial mobile wireless service, there is an opportunity to enable the deployment of mobile broadband, while retaining market-wide MSS capability, especially for public safety, rural services and the federal government. 

Julius Knapp, the other co-chair of the FCC’s Spectrum Task Force, said that this initiative is an opportunity to make additional spectrum available for mobile broadband by promoting greater spectrum efficiency and flexibility.

Mr. Knapp said that the Spectrum Task Force remains firmly committed to maintaining robust mobile satellite capability that serves important needs like disaster recovery and rural access.

“Mobile satellite services operate in three-band segments, and we’re contemplating proposing to the Commission a rule making for consideration in July that would do a few things,” Mr. Knapp said. “In one-band-only mobile satellite allocations, we will propose to add to that terrestrial allocations to expand opportunities for diversity of service in that spectrum.

“We will propose for this spectrum and other mobile satellite bands using our secondary market leasing rules, which were adopted seven years ago but were not extended to mobile satellite bands,” he said.

“Doing so would enable greater flexibility to offer innovative services and promote investment in and greater use of the mobile satellite spectrum.”

CTIA’s take 
In response to the FCC Spectrum Task Force announcement on unleashing additional spectrum for mobile broadband, Chris Guttman-McCabe, vice president of regulatory affairs at CTIA-The Wireless Association, Washington, issued the following statement:

CTIA is pleased with today’s announcement by the FCC’s Spectrum Task Force to bring 90 MHz of Mobile Satellite Spectrum to market for mobile wireless broadband services.

This is another concrete step in making the promises in the National Broadband Plan a reality. It makes sense from a spectrum management perspective, and is completely in the public interest, for the FCC to focus on ways to bring this under utilized and at times unutilized, spectrum to market.

CTIA looks forward to working with the Commission to ensure the use of this spectrum serves the nation’s wireless consumers.

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Dan Butcher is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily and Mobile Marketer. Reach him at

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