The FCC this week adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that would change rules governing wireless licenses in the 698MHz to746MHz, 747MHz to 762MHz and 777MHz to792MHz spectrum bands, which could be used for WiMAX and other so-called 4G technologies down the road.
These portions of the 700MHz band are set aside for commercial fixed, mobile and broadcast services (they do not include the portions allocated for public safety and other government uses). The spectrum was originally occupied by UHF TV channels 52 through 69 (698MHz – 806MHz), but was reallocated for use by other communications services by the 1996 amendments to the Communications Act.
The agency is seeking comments on the changes; it did not say when input is due:
The NPRM seeks comment on the possibility of modifying the size of the geographic service areas and spectrum blocks, and on revising the performance requirements for the portions of the 700MHz band that have not yet been auctioned.
The FCC also wants opinions on issues related to auctioned and unauctioned spectrum in the 700MHz band, including changing the rules for license renewal, license terms and power limits.
It further wants to know how it can better facilitate the provisioning of wireless services on tribal lands.
A first auction round in the 700MHz saw Aloha Partners and Qualcomm Inc. emerge as the major license holders. The FCC is required to auction off the remaining unsold spectrum in the band by Jan. 28, 2008, under the Digital Television and Public Safety Act of 2005.
Aloha Partners intends to provide fixed and mobile wireless broadband Internet access services; Qualcomm plans to establish and market a mobile video service under the MediaFLO brand name to cellular and PCS operators. MediaFLO will support real-time video streaming to mobile handsets.
The 700MHz spectrum is attractive for wireless broadband operators because of the cost dynamics: the lower the frequency of operation, the farther signals propagate (in the 700MHz signals can easily penetrate indoors). A rule of thumb: a doubling of frequency equals a doubling of deployment costs, and at least a doubling of cell sites.
Thus, digital video broadcast and mobile broadband services can be made very cost effective.
“I expect that wireless services will continue to be an increasing part of broadband service deployment,” said FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin. “Consumers are increasingly demanding access to broadband services any time they want it, wherever they want it. This spectrum will help bring consumers everywhere more opportunities to use these services both at home and on the go.”
Leaders for the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association agreed.
“This is very valuable spectrum with the potential for rural applications,” said Jill Canfield, senior regulatory counsel for the organization. “We are pleased that the FCC is taking another look at their rules, particularly those involving the size of the geographic service areas.”