FCC proposal would free satellite spectrum for mobile broadband

The FCC voted 5-0 to consider a proposal to ease restrictions on satellite spectrum, a move that could free 90 MHz of spectrum for mobile broadband use. 

Specifically, the FCC issued a Notice of Inquiry seeking comment on its proposal to change the rules for how satellite companies are allowed to use their mobile satellite services spectrum. The companies could, for example, lease the spectrum for mobile broadband services. In addition, the agency proposed allowing satellite firms to give up their MSS spectrum in exchange for part of the proceeds gleaned from the auction of that spectrum.

The FCC action could have a huge impact on New York private equity firm Harbinger Capital Partners (a Fierce 15 company), which plans to deploy a nationwide LTE network using satellite spectrum. The company in March merged with satellite operator SkyTerra and plans to use both terrestrial and MSS spectrum for its network, which could cost as much as $6 billion to build. Harbinger is facing opposition from AT&T (NYSE:T) and Verizon (NYSE:VZ), which regard some of the proposed network's terms discriminatory.

Other companies with MSS spectrum holdings include Inmarsat, Iridium and GlobalStar. 

In response to the FCC actions, the CTIA said it commends the agency for taking the first step. "The adoption of today's NPRM advances the effort to make the spectrum promises of the National Broadband Plan a reality. CTIA looks forward to continuing to work with the commission to find ways to bring this underutilized, and at times unutilized, spectrum quickly to market." 

For more:
- see this BusinessWeek article
- see this PCWorld article
- see this CTIA release

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