Proposed legislation could put white-space plans in jeopardy

A new spectrum bill making its way through Congress proposes that any spectrum made available for commercial use--including unlicensed spectrum--be auctioned.

In addition, the draft bill, proposed by Republican lawmakers, covers directives for the FCC to auction a variety of spectrum bands--including portions of the AWS-2 band, the AWS-3 band and others occupied by government users today--within 10 years, establishes the FCC authority to conduct incentive auctions and reallocate TV broadcast spectrum with the broadcaster's agreement, and gives 24 megahertz of spectrum to public safety for a nationwide interoperable LTE public-safety network.

The proposal to require unlicensed spectrum to be auctioned is drawing fire from the tech community. In essence, companies that might be interested in building products to work on unlicensed spectrum would be required to pay for the spectrum despite the fact that they wouldn't receive any exclusive rights to it. Confusingly, if the total value of all bids for such spectrum were to exceed the highest single bidder, the spectrum would then become unlicensed. If, however, a single bidder sought exclusive use of the spectrum and outbid other bidders wanting the spectrum to be unlicensed, the spectrum would then go to the single bidder.

"It's like saying ‘We've got some land, it's in Central Park, we're going to allow a developer to bid on it or you can bid on it if you want to keep it as a park,'" Rick Rotondo, vice president of marketing for vendor xG Technology, told Telecompetitor.

White-space advocates are concerned since the legislation would shut down their vision of services for TV white spaces--the slivers of 700 MHz spectrum freed by the transition of TV channels from analog to digital. Last September, the FCC voted 5-0 to approve rules for white-space devices touting the service as "super Wi-Fi." The FCC has subsequently approved several database administrators.

For more:
- see this Telecompetitor article
- see a copy of the draft legislation here

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