FCC revamps MDS, ITFS rules
The Federal Communications Commission yesterday adopted a Report and Order to restructure the 2495-2690 MHz band used by Multipoint Distribution Service and Instructional Television Fixed Service operators.
Specifically, the new rules eliminate the use of interleaved channels by MDS and ITFS licensees and create distinct band segments for high-power and low-power operations. The FCC hopes to eliminate the interference that has plagued the band and create incentives for the development for low-power cellular broadband operations, such as two-way mobile broadband applications, that were inhibited by the prior band plan.
The order also calls for the addition of 5 MHz of spectrum to the band—to be taken from below 2500 MHz—which brings to total size of the band to 194 MHz. This will provide room for the future relocation of MDS Channels 1 and 2, which currently are located in the 2.1 MHz band, the FCC said.
FCC Chairman Michael Powel said in a statement that the order eliminates “the heavy-handed rules” that had governed the MDS/ITFS band. He also noted the band now has “double the spectrum that sparked the Wi-Fi explosion” at 2.4 GHz, and called the order “another milestone” in the effort to expand advanced broadband services nationwide.
“Until now, 2.5 GHz has failed to emulate the successes experienced by the other bands,” Powell said.
However, one MDS licensee doesn’t think the FCC went far enough with the order. The NY3G Partnership has been in a battle with the Diocese of Brooklyn over interference issues for several years. NY3G has been trying to deploy a wireless broadband service in metropolitan New York City, but claims it has been blocked by the Diocese—which uses its ITFS license to broadcast educational programming to its schools in the borough—despite repeated attempts to negotiate a solution.
The order calls for a three-year period during which MDS and ITFS licensees may propose transitions plans for relocating existing facilities of all other licenses within the same Major Economic Area to new spectrum assignments in the reconfigured band. Once filed, licensees would have 90 days to negotiate a plan and coordinate the transition, which would have to be completed within 18 months of the conclusion of negotiations.
However, the FCC hasn’t said what would happen should the parties fail to come to an agreement. In fact, the commission issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in conjunction with the order to seek comment on what steps it should take in the event of an impasse between affected parties. Given its unsuccessful negotiations with the Diocese of Brooklyn, NY3G found the lack of direction troubling.
“It’s not clear to us yet whether the order has any enforcement mechanism—a hammer, mandate or deadline,” said an NY3G spokesman.
FCC Wireless Telecommunications Bureau Chief John Muleta expressed confidence in a press conference that followed yesterday’s commission meeting that market-based principles would lead to an orderly transition and amicable resolution of disputes.
“What we’re looking for in the transition plan is for people to work cooperatively and have the incentives to resolve these kinds of issues,” Muleta said.
He added that the order seeks to address a broader set of issues than those contained in this particular case. “We have a lot of incumbencies in spectrum, and when we have these incumbencies, how do we move them, how do we work cooperatively,” Muleta said.