Spectrum continues to be a key focus of FCC broadband effort
More airwaves necessary to carry wireless broadband communications within the United States need to be identified during the next year, FCC staffers told the commission in updating the progress of the national broadband plan during its regular open meeting yesterday.
Ruth Milkman, chief of the FCC’s wireless telecommunications bureau, said the FCC would like to see more productive use of existing spectrum bands, more spectrum for broadband uses and development, and deployment of new technologies.
“As part of the broadband plan, we’re currently reviewing all spectrum allocations and practices, and we see benefits to similar reviews in the future,” Milkman said during the FCC meeting, which was Webcast.
In terms of spectrum being targeted for licensed uses, Milkman said the FCC is reviewing potential uses of the 700 MHz D Block and two advanced wireless services blocks, as well as terrestrial applications utilizing spectrum held by satellite providers. Unlicensed use has been the focus of TV white spaces spectrum, she said.
Recently, CTIA — the trade association for commercial wireless carriers — projected its sector needing an additional 800 MHz of spectrum below 3 GHz to meet the rapidly growing popularity of mobile broadband applications.
“We need to focus on spectrum, one of our country’s most important assets,” FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said during the meeting. “The record does contain powerful evidence that the demand on our commercial mobile spectrum is on a course to outstrip the supply.”
This sentiment is echoed by Blair Levin, who is heading the FCC broadband-plan effort.
“I think it’s pretty easy to know that the demand for spectrum is going up — there are lots of different forecasts that would tell you that,” Levin said during a teleconference with press after the meeting. “If we don’t get more spectrum to wireless carriers, the level at which we’ll be able to compete with wireline broadband are diminished. It’s that simple.”
In terms of the 700 MHz D Block—spectrum public-safety organizations have asked be reallocated by Congress for first-responder use — Levin said the FCC hopes to have a recommendation about the spectrum by the time the national broadband plan is released in mid-February. Levin said the FCC would not be limited in its recommendation by the fact that current law mandates the commission to auction the D Block.
“To the extent that we have a recommendation that requires a change of law, we’ll make that recommendation,” Levin said. “But I would say that generically and not just about the D Block.”
In addition, the FCC is exploring whether the broadband report should include a recommendation that funding mechanisms be considered to facilitate the buildout of a nationwide broadband network for first responders and next-generation 911 systems, said Jennifer Manner, deputy chief of the FCC’s public safety and homeland security bureau.