Globalstar warns against path to 'Google-ized' spectrum

After Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) blasted the approach Globalstar wants to take with wireless operations on channel 14, Globalstar shot back with a missive warning that if Google gets its way, its position would have severe negative implications for competition in the wireless industry as all spectrum would become "Google-ized," including emerging Wi-Fi First service offerings.

"In addition to establishing harmful precedent, Google's 'one-size-fits-all' approach would, at a minimum, significantly delay the dramatic consumer benefits that are otherwise achievable in this proceeding, potentially create harm to Globalstar's licensed satellite services and contravene the Commission's sound policies promoting license flexibility and an 'all-of-the-above' approach to spectrum use," Globalstar General Counsel and VP of regulatory affairs Barbee Ponder IV wrote in a filing with the FCC.

Globalstar is urging the FCC to adopt rules proposed in November 2013 that would allow it to provide terrestrial low power service (TLPS) in its own licensed spectrum and in adjacent, unlicensed spectrum. The company says by doing so, it can help relieve some of the congestion that Wi-Fi services are experiencing.

Groups like the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) are fighting the proposal because they're not convinced it will not interfere with existing Bluetooth devices, including hearing aids.

In its filing, Google said Globalstar's pending request seeks exclusive Wi-Fi use of channel 14, and, at most, a tiny fraction of the potential users of channel 14 would have access to it, and they would need to pay Globalstar for the privilege.  

"Globalstar's submission thus highlights how much value is being foregone by preventing public use of Wi-Fi channel 14 (as well as channels 12 and 13) on account of Globalstar's satellite operations above 2483.5 MHz," said Google Communications Law Director Austin Schlick in the filing. "It begs the question whether it is possible to allow general unlicensed use of channel 14 while still protecting Globalstar's satellite services."

In the years since Globalstar first proposed its proprietary TLPS, spectrum-sharing technologies have made Part 15's wholesale preclusion of Wi-Fi-type operations near and above 2483.5 MHz obsolete, Schlick said. The commission now has tools that could put the entirety of the 2.4 GHz unlicensed band to use on a non-interfering basis and allow sharing of the channel 14 spectrum above 2483.5 MHz -- all with full protection for Globalstar's satellite operations as well as any ancillary terrestrial operations within Globalstar's licensed spectrum, he said.

Google suggests it might be possible for Globalstar's network operating system, which it recently proposed, could interoperate with a Spectrum Access System (SAS) and protect Globalstar's licensed services against interference from unaffiliated channel 14 users and Globalstar's own terrestrial operations. Such approaches should be considered before the commission concludes that limiting channel 14 exclusively to a small number of Globalstar users best serves the public interest, according to the filing.

Globalstar said it appreciates Google's review of its recent ex parte filing, but it's not buying Google's argument for forcing a sharing regime upon Globalstar "similar to the one the U.S. government voluntarily adopted for its own spectrum" in the 3.5 GHz proceeding.

"TLPS will generate enormous public benefits with widespread industry acceptance and consumer adoption, and Globalstar's belief in the potential of this service has compelled its efforts over the past three years, even in the face of industry opposition largely fueled by companies that offer competing services," Ponder wrote. "Of equal importance (and seemingly lost on Google) is that the relief Globalstar seeks is in direct response to the Commission's request that licensed operators look for new and innovative uses of their spectrum which have the potential for public benefit. Our petition is in complete alignment with the Commission's bedrock policy of providing licensed spectrum operators flexibility that will increase spectrum efficiency by utilizing their frequencies in ways that make possible innovative new service offerings."

"Google claims -- with absolutely no empirical support -- that it is 'likely' possible to allow general unlicensed use of Channel 14 while still protecting Globalstar's satellite services from harmful interference," he said. "Google could likely make the same unsupported claim with respect to any licensed operator's spectrum and even to the proprietary networks of any unlicensed operator. Taken to its logical extreme, Google's new policy position would have severe negative implications for competition in the wireless industry as all spectrum could become 'Google-ized' under its administration," including emerging Wi-Fi First service offerings.

Globalstar reiterated that it has no plans to charge consumers directly for TLPS. It plans to enter into one or more partnerships with other companies to leverage both their existing investment in infrastructure and their customer base.

For more:
- see this Globalstar filing
- see this Google filing

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