The FCC has qualified 70 companies (pdf) to bid on AWS-3 spectrum (pdf). The auction starts Nov. 13 and will be the country’s largest spectrum auction since the $19 billion 700 MHz auction in 2008. That auction was before Apple’s iPhone became a huge hit and the extraordinary growth of data-hungry smartphones. The FCC has set a total reserve price of $10.587 billion for the AWS-3 auction.
The Report and Order sets flexible-use regulatory, licensing, and technical rules for 65 megahertz of spectrum in the AWS-3 band, which includes the 1695-1710 MHz, 1755-1780 MHz, and 2155-2180 MHz bands.
The FCC adopted rules to allocate and license the 1695-1710 MHz band for uplink/mobile operations on an unpaired shared basis with incumbent Federal meteorological-satellite (MetSat) data users.
The other 40 MHz block is more traditional. They will assign AWS-3 licenses by competitive bidding, offering 5 megahertz and 10 megahertz blocks that can be aggregated using Economic Areas (EAs). The FCC’s decision to license only one paired 5×5 MHz block in smaller Cellular Market Areas (CMAs) was disappointing for most competitive carriers. The FCC also left it up to carriers to voluntarily have AWS-3 be interoperable with AWS-4 (MSS) spectrum, which Dish Network controls.
The Order will make 40 megahertz (of the total 65 megahertz) of the AWS-3 spectrum available for commercial use. The 15 MHz chunk will be available on a shared basis with federal incumbents. The 1695-1710 MHz band will be unpaired spectrum used for low-power uplink operations. The 1755-1780 MHz band will be licensed for low-power uplink operations and will be paired with the 2155-2180 MHz band, which is unencumbered by federal users, for downlink operations.
Steve Berry, president of the Competitive Carriers Association was not impressed. “The use of the larger Economic Areas (EAs) will likely curtail participation among smaller carriers, who have neither the resources nor the scale to bid on license areas of that size.”
Congress has mandated the AWS-3 spectrum be auctioned by February 2015.
The FCC also chose to require that AWS-3 spectrum be interoperable with AWS-1 spectrum, which many carriers already use for LTE services. AWS-1 runs from 1710-1755 MHz and 2110-2155 MHz, notes Fierce Wireless, but left it up to carriers to voluntarily have AWS-3 be interoperable with AWS-4 (MSS) spectrum, which Dish Network controls. That will likely mean phone sold by the big carriers will shut out Dish.
The FCC also recently announced they will delay the start of the 600 MHz broadcast TV auction from mid-2015 to early 2016, due to broadcasters’ court action. The 600 MHz auction will be the big one, with lots of valuable spectrum likely to be available between TV channels 52-69. Unlike cellular carriers, broadcasters do not pay the government for use of spectrum. That’s because they’re still considered a “public service” by the federal government even though only 5-10% of the population still depend on over the air broadcast television. Broadcasters hope to get paid off (by taxpayers) to move off the public airwaves in the 600 MHz band. A sweet deal for billionaire group owners.
Mobile proximity payments have to date proven lacklustre despite the hundreds of millions spent on developing these platforms. But loyalty rewards and benefits of the digital wallet is now seen by many as potentially the killer app that will help to finally ignite the long simmering mobile proximity payment market.
Ovum’s research indicates that 53% of consumers globally report they’ve either used or are interested in redeeming offers and coupons with their handsets, while 44% have used or are interested using their mobile device to pay for things in store and restaurants, explains Gilles Ubaghs, Senior Analyst, Financial Services Technology at Ovum.
FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said that AT&T wanted to retain longtime customers and so allowed them to buy unlimited data plans, in some cases after new customers were no longer offered unlimited plans. Then they unilaterally changed the terms, she said.
“They stopped providing the service that customers understood they had purchased when they entered into their contract,” she said. “Customers would be subject to an early termination fee if they wanted to get out of their existing contract.”
“We have been completely transparent with customers since the very beginning,” said Wayne Watts, AT&T’s general counsel. “This program has affected only about 3 percent of our customers, and before any customer is affected, they are also notified by text message.”
More than 3.5 million customers with legacy unlimited data plans had their Internet speeds slowed more than 25 million times by AT&T’s practice, which began in October 2011, the FTC said.
The mobile industry in the United States has commonly used the term “unlimited” to mean whatever they want. Today, “unlimited” often means LTE speed is limited to around 4GB/month, then throttled down to 3G speeds or below.
Prepaid data plans now offer LTE services and a broad range of plans — with no 2 year committment.
Verizon Wireless, a predominately postpaid company, offers a prepaid brand, AllSet, but offers only one smartphone plan, a couple of feature phone plans, and different tablet and mobile hotspot options, reports Fierce Wireless.
At the other end of the spectrum TracFone, a subsidiary of América Móvil, operates as an MVNO, buying wholesale voice and data from all four Tier 1 carriers. TracFone is 100 percent prepaid with over seven brands, including Telcel America, Simple Mobile, Page Plus, Net10, and Straight Talk, all with multiple plan levels.
While many short range M2N solutions are available, such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, ZigBee, Z-Wave and others, they cannot provide long-range coverage.
The IEEE standards group has developed a couple of White Space standards that promise better range. Those include the 802.11af standard, based on Wi-Fi like protocols, for ranges up to 5 km. Additionally, the 802.22 standard, based on WiMax chipsets which incorporate polling, are designed for wireless regional area networks with ranges up to 100 km. But both of those standards appear to be targeting broadband connections.
The Weightless standards, by contrast, delivers a slower, narrow-band solution that connects to more devices and requires very little power. It may even be used on licensed cellular frequencies.
The Weightless standard aims to connect sensors that require long range connections and is targeting applications like vehicles and asset tracking, healthcare and metering.
While improved coverage can be supplied by cellular technology using GPRS, 3G and LTE, cellular costs are high, using more power and bandwidth than desirable. The Weightless SIG uses television white spaces and the lower unlicensed ISM band (800-900 MHz) for improved range using a slower but error-resistant data scheme.
Weightless uses a spreading algorithm to create a longer data sequence when the signal levels are weak. It reduces the data rate and shifts to a simpler modulation scheme to reduce the error rate or increase range. It enables coverage up to 5km (3 miles) to indoor terminals.
The Weightless SIG announced the development of the Weightless-W standard, which uses TV white spaces, last year. This year the the Weightless-N standard, using the unlicensed 800/900 MHz ISM band was announced. It uses Ultra Narrow Band (UNB) technology and operates in ISM band – 868MHz in Europe and 915MHz in the US, and may also use cellular frequencies around 800 MHz.
Professor William Webb, CEO of the Weightless SIG said, “We are delighted to welcome NWave Technologies Limited to the Weightless SIG. NWave is a leader in IoT over ISM spectrum and the company’s deep technical experience in LPWAN connectivity will make a significant contribution to the rapid development of Weightless-N. Bringing proven capability from an existing technology provider to the SIG and merging it with the expertise already established within the group will accelerate the development of Weightless-N as the leading global open standard for machine connectivity over licence exempt spectrum.”
The Qualcomm Atheros QCA9377 chip extends the performance benefits of MU | EFX to notebooks, TVs, cameras, and other consumer electronics, while Qualcomm’s single-stream 11ac + Bluetooth 4.1 combination chip is designed to provide the best possible performance with reduced power consumption.
Qualcomm says AVM will introduce a new FRITZ! Box router based on the Qualcomm IPQ and 4-stream 802.11ac with MU-MIMO products, targeting both retail and carrier segments. Qualcomm Atheros has enabled mobile customers using its 802.11ac products (QCA6174A and WCN3680B) to include Qualcomm MU | EFX in forthcoming smartphones and tablets.