FCC to hold workshop on incentive auction spectrum band plan

The FCC said it will hold a workshop on May 3 to discuss the technical details of the proposed spectrum band plan that will result from its planned incentive auctions of 600 MHz broadcast TV spectrum, which are scheduled to start next year.

The commission said it will release more details about the workshop at a later date. The auctions depend on TV broadcasters giving up chunks of their spectrum, but so far many broadcasters have remained wary. As Broadcasting & Cable notes, the FCC's original proposed band plan, released last October, drew criticism from carriers and broadcasters because it would mix together spectrum holders and potentially give carriers and broadcasters rights to the same channels in difference markets.

"NAB is delighted that the FCC appears open to input on the 600 MHz band plan and is looking forward to participating in the workshop," the National Association of Broadcasters said in a statement, according to Broadcasting & Cable. "It is critical that the resulting band plan is based on sound engineering so that we avoid some of the thorny technical challenges of the past."

The shape and scope of the band plan is also something wireless carriers are fighting over. For example, Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) noted in a recent FCC filing that its executives, including CTO Stephen Bye, met with FCC staff on March 28 to discuss its vision for the band plan. Sprint is pushing for a plan that relies on Time-Division Duplexing (TDD) technology for unpaired spectrum.

"The use of TDD technology would promote a range of commission goals in developing this band plan, including maximizing flexibility and efficient spectrum use, facilitating intra-band interoperability and global ecosystem scale, and furthering the commission's goal of repurposing 600 MHz spectrum for mobile broadband use and promoting competition," Sprint said in its filing.

Meanwhile, Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) noted in a recent filing that it has expressed support for the commission's "down from Channel 51" band plan proposal, which separates wireless operations from broadcast services.

"This approach has a number of advantages over the commission's lead proposal, which intersperses broadcast and wireless operations," Verizon stated. "The 'down from Channel 51' band plan avoids harmful interference between the two services and, by placing mobile uplink and downlink operations in relative proximity to one another, allows for the development of cost-effective handsets that would not have to span a wide bandwidth. In addition, this plan maximizes the amount of paired generic spectrum available for auction on a nationwide basis."

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 on 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 FCC page
- see this Broadcasting & Cable article

Related Articles:
CTIA, NAB battle over freeing BAS band for mobile broadband
CTIA's grab at BAS frequencies raises public-safety questions
NAB endorses T-Mobile/MetroPCS deal, points to healthy market for spectrum
Broadcasters form coalition to support FCC's incentive spectrum auctions
FCC's Genachowski: We're on track to free up 300 MHz of spectrum by 2015
FCC gives details for 2014 auction of broadcast spectrum for mobile broadband