AT&T shreds PCAST's shared spectrum vision

AT&T (NYSE:T) continues to blast last month's core recommendations from the President's Council of Advisors on Policy and Technology, which wants the new norm for U.S. spectrum use to be based on sharing rather than exclusive licensing.

On AT&T's Public Policy Blog, Joan Marsh, the operator's vice president of federal regulatory, cited three broad categories of concern that the company has with PCAST's vision: Investment, technology and spectrum efficiency.

PCAST's blueprint for the future was laid out in a nearly 200-page report released in July. Marsh said the report failed to show how or why PCAST's recommended model of shared, secondary, unlicensed access over a small cell network would attract capital for network rollouts. "A shared access system with limited licensing rights, no renewal expectancies and the prospect of service pre-emption by the primary government user creates a challenging environment for the commitment of investment dollars," she wrote.

She also noted that PCAST's report "invests a lot of faith" in spectrum-sharing technologies, few of which have been proven on a broad scale in the marketplace. The report cited developments in TV white space technology as proof that spectrum-sharing can work, but Marsh said "consumer products in that space have been long promised with limited actual delivery." She noted that at the FCC's July 19 open meeting, the agency's Office of Engineering & Technology acknowledged the first mobile white spaces devices are "at least several years away."

"My argument is not that an unlicensed spectrum sharing paradigm can't succeed, but the degree to which it can succeed is still largely unknown," said Marsh.

Marsh attacked PCAST's conclusion that the proposed creation of a so-called spectrum superhighway via the identification of 1,000 MHz of federal spectrum for sharing will increase data capacity by "1,000's of times." According to Marsh, the group's report "fails to consider that efficiency gains in heterogeneous networks come from the coordination of small cells with the macro networks, not from the deployment of small cells in isolation." Citing research from Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC), Marsh wrote, "Studies have demonstrated that tight integration of low power nodes with the macro network provides substantial gains over the uncoordinated approach inherent in an unlicensed system."

Marsh agreed with PCAST"s criticism regarding the current fragmentation of licensed spectrum bands, but she said the fragmentation problem "is not driven by the fact that the spectrum is licensed, but rather by the manner in which the bands were originally made available."

Some think tanks, consumer groups and education organizations as well as white-space players have come out in support of the PCAST report. Separately, new FCC commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Ajit Pai have each called for more investment in spectrum-sharing technologies, while FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said at the Cable Show in May that the government will need to look for ways to share spectrum with wireless carriers as a method of bringing new spectrum to market.

The PCAST advisory council's members include tech luminaries such as Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt and Craig Mundie, chief research and strategy officer at Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT). AT&T's Marsh noted the council's membership did not include a wireless carrier, equipment manufacturer or chipset maker.

For more:
- see this AT&T blog post.

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