Former Motorola exec backs D Block spectrum auction

A former executive at Motorola (NYSE:MOT) has thrown his support behind a re-auction of the D Block of the 700 MHz band, putting him at odds with his ex-employer.

Dennis Roberson, who served as Motorola CTO from 1998 to 2004, said there are no technical reasons preventing an auction of the D Block to a commercial carrier that would let public-safety agencies access the spectrum during emergencies. The FCC has been trying to make the D Block the basis for the creation of a nationwide, interoperable public-safety broadband network.

Many groups in the public-safety community want Congress to allocate the D Block directly to them rather than re-auctioning it; that proposal is supported by Motorola as well as AT&T (NYSE:T) and Verizon (NYSE:VZ), both of which are building LTE networks in the 700 MHz band. The FCC, along with T-Mobile USA and other carriers, wants to re-auction the spectrum, arguing auction proceeds would defray costs of the network by as much as $9 billion.

In a filing to the FCC dated Aug. 24, Roberson said a study he conducted--funded by T-Mobile--shows that an auction is the best way to go forward on the issue. "There are no technical impediments to providing public-safety users immediate access to commercial networks during periods when the network is at capacity," Roberson said, adding later that "with an appropriate FCC regulatory framework that would require sharing of spectrum during times of emergency, a robust system that serves both public safety and commercial users can be realized."

The FCC proposed re-auctioning the spectrum next year, but legislation that backs the approach favored by Motorola and the public-safety community may complicate that plan. In the meantime, the FCC has granted 21 conditional waivers to regional and local entities to begin building wireless broadband networks for first responders in the 700 MHz band.

Motorola announced in July it won a contract that is the first phase of a private 700 MHz LTE network buildout for first responders in the San Francisco Bay Area. The company received a $50.6 million federal broadband stimulus award to help build the network.

For more:
- see this Reuters article

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