IWCE: Frontline seeks flexibility in public-safety partnership
LAS VEGAS–A commercial wholesale provider and a national public-safety licensee should be given as much flexibility as possible to reach a mutually beneficial arrangement when establishing a partnership to build a nationwide broadband network in the 700 MHz band, a Frontline Wireless official said.
This week, Frontline submitted its proposed service rules for the upcoming 700 MHz auction to the FCC that would enable the company to pursue its business plan. Frontline has proposed that the FCC auction a 10 MHz “E” block of spectrum to a wholesale provider that would be expected to build a broadband wireless network utilizing this spectrum and the 12 MHz of adjacent public-safety spectrum.
Under the Frontline proposal, the winning commercial bidder would enter “good faith” negotiations with a national public-safety licensee on a network sharing agreement that would provide the commercial operator with secondary access to the public-safety spectrum and public safety preemption rights to the commercial spectrum in cases of emergency.
If an agreement is reached, the commercial operator would have to provide coverage serving 70% of the continental U.S. population within four years, 95% coverage in seven years and 98% coverage in 10 years. All cities in Alaska with a population exceeding 10,000 people would be covered during the first four years, and the operator would work with the Alaska Land Mobile Radio project to provide further coverage in the state.
“The buildout requirements for coverage is quite explicit,” Stagg Newman, chief technologist for Frontline Wireless, said during an interview with MRT.
However, most other details of such a network sharing agreement—for instance, what constitutes an emergency that would give public safety access to the commercial spectrum, and whether public safety would get any compensation for the commercial operator accessing its spectrum—would be negotiated after the auction, Newman said.
“Our view is that it is an uncertainty, but that is preferred to establishing rules early that may be wrong,” Newman said.
With the exception of the fact that Frontline supports the auctioning of spectrum and an agreement between two licensee on a joint network, there are a lot of similarities between the proposals of Frontline and the Cyren Call Communications plan that has been endorsed by national public-safety organizations.
“To their credit, Morgan [O’Brien, chairman of Cyren Call] and his group have done their homework,” Newman said. “I look at their filings and agree with most of they’ve said. They showed an awful lot of vision.”
Frontline’s proposal would not alter the scheduled auction timetable, so the only official change necessary is for the FCC to include the company’s proposal in its auction rules. As a result, Frontline’s proposal does not require an act of Congress—something that is needed for the Cyren Call proposal to be pursued. Politically, however, the FCC almost certainly will want a signal from Congress before service rules for anything other than an open auction, Newman said.
“Before the FCC can act, the leaders in Congress need to say, ‘Yes, we’re OK with this,’” Newman said. From a timing perspective, the window for having this happen may be closing quickly. Newman said he believes the FCC wants to begin the 700 MHz auction in October, meaning service rules would be released in late April or May.