The executive team at pdvWireless is optimistic about their prospects of seeing some action on the 900 MHz band, which they want to see repurposed so that utilities and others can use it for their own private broadband networks.
The company was founded in 2004 and is led by senior managers who have experience in spectrum matters. Chairman Brian McAuley and CEO Morgan O’Brien were the co-founders of Nextel Communications. In 2014, PDV acquired Sprint’s 900 MHz spectrum, which had been used for Nextel’s iDEN network.
In 2014, in hopes of modernizing the 900 MHz band, PDV and the Enterprise Wireless Alliance (EWA) filed a petition for rulemaking with the FCC and in August of last year, the FCC issued a Notice of Inquiry. Now PDV executives believe there’s enough in the record for the FCC to move relatively quickly to the next step, a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), and they’re encouraged by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s recent statements on the matter.
During a July 25 House of Representatives subcommittee hearing that dealt with FCC oversight, Pai said he and his team at the FCC are in the process of drafting an NPRM. It’s unknown when an NPRM will be ready, but it’s possible the commission will take it up on circulation, meaning it wouldn’t necessarily have to be an item for an open meeting agenda.
“We’re excited to be working alongside the industry and with the FCC to solve the growing need for private broadband spectrum by modernizing the 900 MHz band,” said Rob Schwartz, president and COO, in an interview with Fierce. “And based on Chairman Pai’s recent comments we believe that we’ll see action forthcoming shortly.”
PDV points to recent news about the real and growing cyber threats to the nation’s grid that threaten security. Dedicated private spectrum is seen as a key ingredient to guard against those threats.
The 900 MHz band, which is considered by PDV to be the most underused sub-1 GHz band, was originally allocated more than 30 years ago for narrowband purposes, like Land Mobile Radio (LMR). Fast forward and it’s clear that the future is all about broadband. PDV says it wants to protect incumbents, and current technology allows the band to be modernized to allow coexistence of the remaining narrowband users in 4 MHz of the band and have 6 MHz megahertz available for private LTE networks.
The 900 MHz band is what everybody used to refer to as prime beachfront property, providing ample coverage for utilities that need to cover large swaths of land and with decent penetration to get inside buildings and basements where meters are located.
The utility industry is the main customer segment PDV is going after, but other industries like oil and gas, railroads and enterprise represent opportunities as well.
Southern Company is a prime example of a utility that got into the game early. It uses Narrowband PCS spectrum in a band adjacent to the 900 MHz band for an Advanced Meter Infrastructure system. It has launched more than 960 sites for both data and mission-critical voice services.
Interestingly, PDV is experimenting with Citizens Broadband Radio Services (CBRS). If customers want more capacity in an urban core, for example, they could tap into CBRS at 3.5 GHz as a complementary band. “It’s a logical bolt-on,” if they need it, for additional capacity in key areas, but the 900 MHz band has the required propagation and penetration to cost-effectively build statewide networks, and should provide plenty of capacity for a private network user for the foreseeable future, Schwartz said.