FCC seeks comments on spectrum shortfall

The FCC is seeking comment on whether more spectrum is needed for wireless broadband services as it continues to craft a national broadband plan. The issue is a contentious one in the industry, with many players--including AT&T and T-Mobile USA--clamoring for more licensed spectrum.

In its notice seeking comment, the FCC said that several entities that have commented on its national broadband plan have "raised the issue that the United States will not have sufficient spectrum available to meet demands for wireless broadband in the near future." Therefore, the FCC said it would seek "additional comment on the fundamental question of whether current spectrum allocations, including but not limited to the prime bands below 3.7 GHz, are adequate to support near- and longer-term demands of wireless broadband."

The FCC noted that several industry players, including T-Mobile and Motorola, have noted the explosion of mobile data traffic, and the resulting need for more spectrum. The commission also said that at a broadband policy workshop in August, several panelists, including ones from AT&T, Ericsson and Clearwire, pressed the commission on the need for more spectrum, and others highlighted the need to more efficiently use current licensed spectrum.

Given all of this, here are several questions the FCC said it wants to get comments on by Oct. 23:

  • What is the ability of current spectrum allocations to support next-generation buildouts and the anticipated surge in demand and throughput requirements?
  • What spectrum bands are best positioned to support mobile or fixed wireless broadband?
  • What are the key issues in moving spectrum allocations toward their highest and best use in the public interest?
  • What is the ability of current spectrum allocations to support both the fixed and mobile wireless backhaul market?

The issue has long simmered among policy wonks. T-Mobile, along with several other carriers, is pushing for a re-auction of the D Block in the 700 MHz band for commercial uses. And Blair Levin, who is running the FCC's broadband program, recently acknowledged that there is not enough spectrum.  

For more:
- see this WSJ blog post (sub. req.)
- see this Washington Post blog post
- see this FCC filing

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