Seven questions going into 2014
I do not pretend to be a sage with any unique knowledge of future outcomes on wireless regulatory or spectrum allocation matters, but after more than 35 years in the business, I am entitled to have a few opinions. I know, I know, everybody has opinions, but I do routinely receive a lot of questions from EWA members, customers and industry colleagues regarding a plethora of wireless issues. The following is representative of the more critical inquiries I recently have received.
“How will private land mobile interests fair under FCC Chairman Wheeler’s leadership?” This is one of those tough questions where you have to be delicate with the answer so as not to offend anyone’s sensitivities, but I responded that “we have nowhere to go but up.” The good news is that Chairman Wheeler understands what is involved in running a business and has surrounded his office with very capable professionals. Maybe too there will be fewer FCC press releases reminding us how influential the agency is with respect to the “economic ecosystem.” Please.
“Do you think Morgan O’Brien’s vision to create a Private Land Mobile LTE-based broadband opportunity will ever generate sufficient momentum to succeed?” I certainly hope so. No doubt there are a lot of moving parts that need to align perfectly and this will take time, but there is no downside to aggressively exploring this potentially industry-changing notion. EWA is in.
“So when will the FCC require licensees in the VHF and UHF bands to migrate to 6.25 kHz narrowband technology in the lower bands?” Not anytime soon. There is no FCC proceeding underway that would engage this debate, and the dust is still settling from the 15-year narrowbanding mandate to 12.5 kHz bandwidths. There will be no FCC audit of non-compliant licenses due to lack of financial resources and there is no interest to rough up non-compliant licensees through a proactive enforcement initiative. Outdated licenses will be caught at renewal. When EWA encounters 25 kHz systems during its spectrum research processes that are necessary for frequency coordination, our software simply converts them to 12.5 kHz analog systems. The non-compliant are at risk, even assuming that they are still there in the first place. Let’s move on.
“Why is EWA so diligent in responding to waiver requests from public safety entities who seek access to Industrial/Business spectrum?” That’s easy. Industrial/Business licensees have not had an allocation of spectrum since 1985. Industrial/Business users don’t have the luxury of claiming the terrain is too tough to cover or that access to funds prohibits system deployments in bands that specifically have been established for their use. Industrial/Business entities do not have first dibs on Sprint’s vacated spectrum, nor do they have the expectation that the channels to which they are assigned may be used on an exclusive basis—notwithstanding the fact that the rules specify that channels are available on a shared basis only. Public safety spectrum always is available. Industrial/Business spectrum is not an extra cache of public safety spectrum.
“Will EWA continue to respond to public-safety waivers that seek access to Industrial/Business spectrum?” Absolutely, every one of them. Someone has to protect Industrial/Business sector’s spectrum interests, and no other Industrial/Business association seems willing to step up.
“Do you think that the FCC will permit non-public safety frequency advisory committees to coordinate 4.9 GHz spectrum set aside for CII applications?” Yes, as it makes imminent sense on numerous fronts, particularly to promote fairness and customer service despite fears expressed by some that Armageddon will result should the unwashed Industrial/Business coordinators be let in at 4.9 GHz. The arguments against non-public safety frequency advisory committee participation are amusing, actually.
“What is going to happen to those 800 MHz Expansion Band and Guard Band SMR applications that were filed by the hundreds earlier in 2013, in places like Fargo, N.D., Green Bay, Wis., Billings, Mont., and other emerging metropolises?” Good question, but one would hope that—after it dawns on these licensees that commercial carriers have no interest in their licenses—they will choose not to throw more money at the fantasy and let the authorizations terminate for failure to construct. Either way, EWA will continue to monitor this spectrum boondoggle.
As always, keep your questions coming.
Mark Crosby is president and CEO of the Enterprise Wireless Alliance.