All may not go well in the aftermath of Auction 66.
The $13.9 billion auction that concluded in September saw T-Mobile win the bulk of licenses, bidding $4.2 billion for 120 licenses that are vital for its third-generation competitive position against rivals. It's looking to build out a WCDMA/HSDPA network quickly and have services up and running in mid-2007. But the operator and others on a fast-track to deploy services may run into radio interference they weren't banking on.
ISCO International has been conducting tests in the country's major markets and says some of these cities are rife with RF interference. Yes, ISCO is a maker of equipment that eliminates interference in CDMA2000 and W-CDMA networks but it has validated these results with independent parties.
What's the problem? Operators are relying on information from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the Federal Communications Commission database, which consists of all of the known 1.7 and 2.1 GHz incumbent transmitters. The 1.7 GHz incumbents are all government users like the military, the FBI and the Department of Forestry and the 2.1 GHz band consists of about 5,700 licensed microwave links, according to Comsearch. The government database is basically a cross-reference and plot of all of the known transmitter sites, and carriers are using this information to relocate incumbents.
ISCO has been tabulating a significant amount of narrowband RF interference, primarily in the 1.7 GHz band, in some major markets. For instance, it's thought that there isn't a need to relocate incumbents in the Chicago market, but ISCO tests have picked up a hefty amount of RF interference. New York is a problem too.
"We don't know what is crowding these bands, but it doesn't show up on these public databases," said Neal Campbell, executive vice president of strategic marketing with ISCO. It could be that the paperwork never caught up with a lot of government operators. Now that's a shocker.
There's also another interesting twist to Auction 66. My friend Tammy Parker, editor and principal analyst at Informa, pointed out in a recent column that the FCC never set a deadline for service deployment in these bands, meaning some operators don't have to deploy services until they want to. Who might that be? The SpectrumCo consortium, consisting of Time Warner Cable, Comcast, Cox Communications and Bright House Networks, bid some $2.4 billion for 137 licenses but its owners have said they are quite content with simply holding on to the spectrum for the time being--probably until their joint venture with Sprint Nextel goes bad. It doesn't appear that Verizon Wireless and Cingular Wireless are in a hurry to deploy services in those bands either. -Lynnette