Listen up—Morgan O’Brien tosses out his latest fantastical notion
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Private radio should turn to broadband
Ideally, the enterprise wireless sector would secure 30 MHz of contiguous spectrum for this purpose, O’Brien said. But he conceded that would be a very tough order, as there is no spectrum to be found from 300 MHz to 1 GHz.
“It would be virtually impossible to achieve that—I know that,” O’Brien said.
Fortunately, LTE is fast-evolving. According to O’Brien, LTE-Advanced is “just around the corner” —in fact, it already is online in Korea, he said—and that iteration could make it possible to operate such a network on much less than 30 MHz.
“LTE-Advanced allows you to say, ‘While I don’t have a nice, [totally] clean contiguous block of spectrum, I have some contiguous there, some contiguous there, and some contiguous there—and if I put it all together, it gives me what I want.’ … You can do LTE on as little as 1.4 MHz x 1.4 MHz, as long as you have contiguous spectrum,” he said.
So, the amount of spectrum is not as important as it being contiguous, according to O’Brien.
“Non-contiguous spectrum, in my view, equals death,” he said.
O’Brien further suggested that spectrum bands that would not come to mind immediately for provisioning of LTE service eventually could be in play.
“In Brazil, they’re using 450-470 [MHz] for LTE,” he said.
At the essence of O’Brien’s vision is the leveraging of the “spectrum commons” approach to spectrum management. In this case, the enterprise wireless sector would “rearrange the deck chairs” by forming a consortium that would seek to repurpose the spectrum the sector already possesses—in part by sharing spectrum and selling excess capacity.
“There are unprecedented opportunities for big-time alliances to get this done,” O’Brien said.
However, he stressed that he is not suggesting another Nextel situation.
“I’m not envisioning a for-profit spectrum vacuum cleaner that runs around and scoops everything up,” O’Brien said.
There are some parallels between what he is suggesting for the enterprise wireless sector and what FirstNet is trying to accomplish, O’Brien said.
“In a way, what I’m suggesting is that this industry kind of needs to mimic what’s happening in public safety—but hopefully, without government intervention,” he said. “It’s an important thing, to build the foundation, to say, ‘Create the spectrum opportunity, let the industry self-regulate like it always has, and stay out of it, FCC—you don’t need to be involved. … We can operate our own board of directors, our own technology groups … [and] we’ll achieve the balance [that’s needed].’”
To hammer home his message, O’Brien quoted the first-century Roman philosopher Seneca.
“He said, ‘It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare to do them—it is because we do not dare to do things that they are difficult,’” O’Brien said. “So I’m really hoping that we can summon the will to dare to do these things.
‘I’m not saying it will be easy—but I can’t escape the logic.”