National Broadband: Fee & Free

Posted by Sam Churchill on

Crazy Ernie: If nobody comes down here and buys a car in the next hour, I’m gonna club this baby seal. That’s right! I’m gonna club this seal to make a better deal. You know I’ll do it, too, cause I’m crazy. – UHF

Steve Stroh’s Broadband Wireless Internet Access News (a great source of broadband/WiMAX news), notes the Wireless Communications Association (WCAI) formally opposed M2Z Networks plan to provide a free, nationwide, broadband wireless network that would be deployed nationally at the top of the AWS (cellular) band at 2155-2175 MHz band.

The WCA’s primary backers are now in the throes of trying to deploy Broadband Wireless Internet Access networks with conventional business models similar to the wireless telephony industry – sell monthly-fee (plus whatever ancillary charges they can sneak in) Broadband Wireless Internet Access to individuals and groups.

WCA’s document asks the question (to the FCC):

Is this is the highest and best use of the 2155-2175 MHz band (notwithstanding the Commission’s prior assignment of the band to AWS)? Under M2Z’s proposal, the Commission would never know. By pressing for an immediate license grant without an evaluation of its business model against competing proposals in the crucible of a rulemaking proceeding, M2Z would preclude the Commission from even considering the possibility that other potential users of the band might have a better idea or, alternatively, that others might be willing to pay the Treasury more for the right to do what M2Z is proposing to do.

It seems as this point was answered yesterday with the announcement of NetfreeUS’ proposal for the same portion of spectrum with a different business model, but the same goal of providing free, nationwide Broadband Wireless Internet Access.

There seems to be no end of “free” broadband wireless plans. Let’s review:

  • M2Z Networks: M2Z hopes to use the 2155-1275 MHz spectrum band to offer free broadband, nation-wide. M2Z would ensure coverage for 95% of the American population within 10 years and with intermediate milestones of 33% coverage within 3 years, 66% coverage within 5 years. They will filter indecent content at the network level and commit to serve any federal, state, or municipal public safety organization with free broadband service. M2Z will pay 5% of the gross revenues derived from M2Z’s premium and wholesale subscription services to the U.S. Treasury, in exchange for “free” access to the spectrum (no auction).
  • Speedus: Speedus would also use the 2155-1275 MHz band with their free Wireless Public Broadband (“WPB”) service. NetfreeUS will coordinate third-party lessees who would own and operate wireless access points (“WAPs”). Initially, no lessee would be authorized to operate more than fifty (50) WAPs. WPB will promote localism and the provision of advertising and public service messages targeted to local interests and communities, provided by small-footprint networks.
  • Microsoft, Google, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Intel and Philips plan to use unlicensed 700 MHz devices. The wireless devices would use “white spaces” (unused television channels), and the technology of IEEE 802.22 (which makes sure the channel is “open”). The DTV Coalition, composed of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, says the television band can be utilized for both voice and data. Yahoo and Google are into 700MHz but the devices have to be cleared by the FCC. “These devices have the potential to take the success of the WiFi phenomenon to another level,” said FCC commissioner Jonathan S. Adelstein.
  • Frontline’s 700MHz Pitch: Sharing is Good: Frontline would use licensed 700 MHz frequencies. Frontline put together an investor group to bid on 700 MHz spectrum at an auction scheduled for later this year, and wants the FCC to designate a portion of commercial 700 MHz spectrum — perhaps 13 megahertz — adjacent to public-safety frequencies in the band for a national first-responder broadband network. They would offer “dual-use” public/commercial broadband wireless services.
  • Cyren Call wants 30 MHz of the licensed (upper) 700 MHz band to create a broadband trust that would raise roughly $5 billion from private investors. Cyren Call proposes to pay the cost of deploying the equipment to build the networks for both commercial and public service users, with public service getting priority access. Congress or local governments would not have to foot the bill to turn this spectrum into a network. Critics say the spectrum is worth billions more than what Cyren Call plans to pay and they would leave rural areas with little coverage.
  • Verizon May Make its Move for Universal Service Fund: Verizon called on the U.S. Congress to make changes the Universal Service Fund program, a $4 billion program that subsidizes telephone access in rural and poor areas. Instead of providing USF funds to multiple carriers, the U.S. government should cap USF at its current funding levels, and require carriers to bid to provide service in areas where subsidies are needed. Verizon may bid on commercial 700 MHz frequencies nationwide, later this year, utilizing Qualcomm’s Flarion system or the 700 MHz EVDO system developed by Alcatel. Then they could leverage their commercial system into the federal government’s radio network, also at 700 MHz.
  • Aloha Partners currently owns 12MHz of spectrum (Ch 54 & 59) in the lower 700 MHz band, covering 60% of the United States – including all of the top 10 markets and 84% of the population in the top 40 markets. Aloha says they’ll use it for mobile television — but — at the same time talks up two-way communications. Qualcomm’s MediaFLO uses 6 MHz (on Ch 55). So that’s three of the eight commercial 6 MHz channels in the lower 700 MHz band (between Ch 52 – Ch 59) already auctioned off. Which begs the question – what kind of competitive, national broadband service could you run on 24-30 MHz of spectrum?

Of course both Clearwire and Sprint have national WiMAX plans. Mobile WiMax will provide faster, cheaper broadband at 2.5 GHz than its cellular competitors. While Mobile WiMAX at 700MHz would be cheaper still (with as few as 1/10th the required towers), the narrowband, 700 MHz service could easily get overloaded in high-density urban environments, with thousands trying to access a tower.

Cellular providers are also increasing speeds (at a cost). AT&T’s HSDPA technology, the first widely available HSDPA deployment in the world, is available in more than 160 markets, including most of the top 100 major cities in the country.Sprint’s EVDO Rev. A coverage now reaches more than 95 million people and 4,092 cities and Verizon Wireless has virtually completed their EV-DO Rev A upgrade, covering more than 135 million people in 242 metropolitan areas and two-thirds of the U.S. population.

Additional alternatives include satellite phone repeater networks promoted by ICO and SkyTerra.

There are probably other “free” or low-cost, nationwide broadband wireless plans. Pitching a plan for presidential candidates may be the next move. Broadband wireless in every pot.

John C. Dvorak says cellular companies are going to do whatever they can to kill Wi-Fi. “After all, it is a huge long-term threat to them. You can be sure that the local politicians will cave on this, and we can forget free municipal Wi-Fi and Skype phones.”

Media Matters.

Related DailyWireless articles include; Microsoft’s “Free” Phone?, Yahoo/Google Into 700MHz?, Zune Phone Goes WiMAX?, White Space Redux, McCain Rethinks 700MHz Legislation, Alcatel Does EVDO in DC 700 MHz Net, Frontline’s 700MHz Pitch: Sharing is Good, Tom Ridge: Answer Cyren Call, Verizon Makes its Move for Universal Service Fund, Qualcomm: MediaFLO US-Centric, Mobile TV: Six Flavors, AWS Auction: Does it Suck?, Fight for the Right (of 3.5GHz), John Malone in Space, Clearwire’s $900M Payday, Senate Testimony on 700MHz Sharing, FCC to Rural Users: 700MHz is the Ticket, McCain Wants Commercial 700 MHz for Police, Oregon’s $500 Million Statewide Wireless Network, State-wide Wireless Broadband Access, Interoperability Scorecard, Satellite Repeaters: Grounded in Reality?, MSS: AWS Alternative?, 700MHZ Goes Live, The 700 Mhz Club, 700 Mhz Worth $28B, 700MHz: A Sweet Deal?, FCC’s 8th Report and Order, Joint Commecial/Muni Proposed for 700Mhz and Unlicensed Spectrum: The Sum of All Fears.

Posted by Sam Churchill on Tuesday, March 13th, 2007 at 11:03 am .

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