CTIA, NAB battle over freeing BAS band for mobile broadband

The CTIA and the National Association of Broadcasters are at it again--this time the groups are clashing over the Broadcast Auxiliary Service (BAS) band.

In a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and the other four FCC commissioners, CTIA noted that the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation on Act of 2012 mandated that the FCC identify 15 MHz of contiguous spectrum for reallocation to commercial mobile broadband. CTIA President Steve Largent said the trade group had identified the upper edge of the BAS spectrum located at 2095-2110 MHz as offering up the most likely frequencies that could be reallocated. CTIA would like to see those frequencies paired with the 1695-1710 MHz spectrum that the National Telecommunications and Information Administration has proposed to reallocate from federal to commercial use.

However, the NAB contends that going after BAS spectrum, which is currently used for electronic newsgathering, would harm public safety.

"If CTIA's request were not such a serious threat to public safety, it would be amusing," NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton told Broadcasting & Cable. "Every day, local TV stations use broadcast auxiliary spectrum (BAS) to provide breaking coverage of devastating storms, tornadoes, hurricanes and wildfires. If Superstorm Sandy demonstrated anything, it is that broadcast television serves as a lifeline in times of emergency, where cell phone/wireless architecture has failed."

"Just a few years after broadcasters returned 108 MHz and one-third of our BAS spectrum for wireless purposes--and just one day after comments were filed on incentive auctions to repurpose more TV airwaves to wireless--CTIA is demanding even more spectrum from broadcasters," Wharton added. "NAB will work with the FCC to identify appropriate spectrum that meets the requirements of the statute without jeopardizing the safety of the American public."

As for CTIA, Largent noted that the airwaves are below 3 GHz, contiguous and adjacent to spectrum currently used for wireless service. "CTIA is not aware of any other spectrum bands as well-positioned as this band to meet all the key principles for mobile broadband spectrum that could be paired with the specific 15 MHz identified by NTIA," he wrote.

An FCC spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The CTIA and NAB have already been at loggerheads over the broadcast incentive auctions. Under the FCC's proposed rules for the auctions, broadcasters will submit bids to relinquish their 6 MHz pieces of spectrum in a reverse auction where the FCC will pay them. The process is voluntary for broadcasters, but many worry that broadcasters might not give up their spectrum based to their previous resistance to the auctions.

After broadcasters give up their spectrum, it will be "repacked" so that broadcasters that do not give up their spectrum can stay on the air. Then the FCC will conduct a traditional "forward" auction in which wireless carriers will bid for the freed spectrum.

For more:
- see this CTIA letter (PDF)
- see this Broadcasting and Cable article

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