To hear some of members of the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA) tell it, they’re tired of seeing mobile operators consistently get spectrum while the rural broadband community gets the short end of the stick.
They said as much during WISPAPALOOZA in Las Vegas this week, where Chuck Hogg, president and chairman of WISPA's board, gave a “State of the Industry” address marking the many accomplishments the association has made in terms of advocacy for fixed wireless. He also highlighted a new report by The Carmel Group where for the first time a third-party analyst firm has issued forecasts for the U.S. fixed wireless broadband industry, which is projected to double from more than 4 million at the end of 2016 to 8 million by 2021.
WISPA is a cosponsor of the Broadband Access Coalition’s petition for rulemaking to allow shared use of the 3700-4200 MHz band for high-throughput point-to-multipoint service under Part 101 of the FCC’s rules. WISPA is participating in the FCC’s Notice of Inquiry (NOI) on midband spectrum, but it is concerned the NOI will slow down the deployment of broadband in rural America. The 3700-4200 MHz band, or 3.7-4.2 GHz, is underused by fixed satellite services, according to WISPA and others.
Last week, FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly acknowledged during an appearance at a 5G Americas event that the first round of comments were just filed in the midband spectrum proceeding and many commenters seemed to agree that it is possible to share the 3.7-4.2 GHz space with incumbents or even repack or clear the band for flexible use, including mobile services. “Another group of entities has proposed a plan that would favor fixed operations in the band, but this is counter to flexible use policies and is not appropriate,” he said.
Asked about those comments, Mark Radabaugh, chairman of WISPA’s FCC Committee, told FierceWirelessTech that the Broadband Access Coalition’s proposal can be done quickly—far faster than the band can be cleared and auctioned to the four usual suspects, those being U.S. mobile operators.
“If the FCC moves, this can make great inroads in solving rural broadband very quickly,” he said on Wednesday. “Manufacturers could have equipment out in this band within a year. The only thing holding up using this spectrum for very high performance rural broadband is the FCC’s decision-making.”
According to the Carmel Group report, the U.S. Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) industry is composed of more than 2,000 mostly small- and medium-sized businesses, with an average of 1,200 customers each.
WISPA, which has more than 800 members, also has found itself literally on the same page as Google in some of the FCC’s recent proceedings on midband spectrum. Google is also advocating that spectrum be put to use for fixed wireless/unlicensed use because that’s the faster option and given the amount of spectrum in the band, fixed wireless doesn’t preclude mobile use when satellite interests can be relocated.
WISPA has also been fighting to keep the FCC’s 2015 framework for Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) intact; a proposal will be considered by the commission later this year that will set into motion a series of changes, some of which were advocated by T-Mobile and CTIA.