CTIA, CEA cheer FCC move to release more TV spectrum

Representatives for the wireless and consumer electronics industries are heralding the FCC's move to permit TV channel sharing by broadcasters, a move designed to foster the repurposing of broadcast spectrum for wireless broadband.  

The commission's Innovation in the Television Bands Report and Order was released last Friday in anticipation of a future incentive auction and establishes a framework for how two or more television licensees may voluntarily share a single 6 MHz channel.

The FCC's promotion of channel-sharing is part of an effort to encourage TV broadcasters to release their frequencies for wireless broadband use in an incentive spectrum auction. Lawmakers expect to generate as much as $16 billion from the auction of TV broadcasters' spectrum, which was authorized via the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act enacted in February.

"To be sure, this is only the first of several orders the commission must issue before it can conduct voluntary incentive auctions. But moving quickly to adopt these ground rules reinforces to all how urgent it is to find more spectrum for mobile broadband services," said FCC Commissioner Mignon L. Clyburn.

"By allowing broadcasters to share channels, the FCC is making TV spectrum license holders more efficient users of this finite resource. In turn, consumers will benefit as wireless providers will have an opportunity to purchase the repacked spectrum for billions at auction," said CTIA President and CEO Steve Largent.

Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association, chimed in as well, saying, "The nation's spectrum crisis is real, and it is here. The FCC's action today is a key step toward ensuring that additional spectrum for wireless broadband is available so that all Americans can enjoy the robust mobile broadband networks that our nation so desperately needs."

The commission also said it is days away from releasing details about the reverse auction planned for September that will target a mobile broadband wasteland in rural and remote parts of the United States. The commission intends to use reverse competitive bidding to award a total of $300 million to companies willing to build 3G or better networks in unserved wireless markets. Winning bidders will be required to establish 3G service within two years, or 4G service within three years, of receiving funding.

Also last Friday, the FCC issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding possible reforms to the way it gathers fees each year for the Universal Service Fund. The commission could expand the base of contributors to the USF program, although it is unclear which types of companies might be required to contribute. "Program costs are projected to be approximately $9 billion this year alone, so it's important the burden of paying for it is distributed fairly. Right now, roughly 44 percent of the contribution burden falls on wireless providers and their customers," commented Scott Bergmann, CTIA vice president of regulatory affairs.

In separate spectrum-related news, the House Energy and Commerce Committee last week initiated the Federal Spectrum Working Group, a bipartisan task force aimed at finding ways to improve spectrum use.

"Spectrum is the key ingredient for faster, more ubiquitous wireless broadband, spurring unprecedented growth in new online applications and services," said Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., and ranking member of the Communications and Technology Subcommittee. "We need a comprehensive approach to spectrum policy, including an examination of how the federal government uses it."

For more:
- see this FCC release and this document
- see this CEA release
- see this CTIA release
- see this TMCnet article
- see this Telecompetitor article
- see this AT&T blog post
- see this National Journal article

Related articles:
Furchtgott-Roth: Is there a spectrum shortage?
The merits of open and competitive spectrum auctions
Verizon, AT&T cheer spectrum auctions; $7B earmarked for public safety network
$300 million reverse auction targets mobile broadband wasteland
Seybold's Take: Spectrum auctions locked in Congress