Equal Access Happy Talk

Posted by Sam Churchill on

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin is proposing “open access” rules for some 700 MHz frequencies, reports USA Today. But Martin’s proposal will not include another provision sought by Google and some others that would require the winning bidder to resell wireless services on their network, reports Reuters.

Under Martin’s proposal, to be circulated in the agency as early as Tuesday, mobile services in these airwaves would have to allow consumer choice.

“Whoever wins this spectrum has to provide … truly open broadband network — one that will open the door to a lot of innovative services for consumers,” Martin said in an interview Monday.

“You can use any wireless device and download any mobile broadband application, with no restrictions,” Martin explained. The only exceptions would be software that is illegal or could harm a network.

The FCC chairman said he has grown increasingly concerned that the current practices “hamper innovations” dreamed up by outside developers.

Some handset makers strip out Wi-Fi features at the request of U.S.-based carriers loath to allow any feature that could let users sidestep their fee-based services and applications. “I am concerned that we are seeing some innovations being rolled out more slowly here than we are in other parts of the world,” Martin said

Groups like Public Knowledge, Consumers Union, and Free Press want the FCC to require winners of part of the spectrum to provide wholesale access to any wireless or broadband provider, says InfoWorld.

According to CNN, an FCC official who has seen the rules, says 22 megahertz out of the total of 60 megahertz, will have conditions attached to it. That may pave the way for Frontline, Google and others to acquire spectrum. Perhaps that would enable Frontline (10Mhz + 12MHz public safety) along with one other competitor, perhaps Google, (with 2×11 MHz) on the upper 700 Mhz band along with a 2 MHz guard band.

Google’s Public Policy Blog says the winning bidders should be required to adhere to four types of “open” platforms:

  • Open applications: consumers should be able to download and utilize any software applications, content, or services they desire;
  • Open devices: consumers should be able to utilize a handheld communications device with whatever wireless network they prefer;
  • Open services: third parties (resellers) should be able to acquire wireless services from a 700 MHz licensee on a wholesale basis, based on reasonably nondiscriminatory commercial terms; and
  • Open networks: third parties (like internet service providers) should be able to interconnect at a technically feasible point in a 700 MHz licensee’s wireless network.

Crafting special rules for a company with a market cap of $170 billion to address problems that don’t exist in our competitive market makes absolutely no sense whatsoever,” said Steve Largent, president of cellphone industry association CTIA, referring to Google, in today’s RCR News.

But 10 MHz isn’t an urban solution. With a 20 mile coverage diameter, each 700 MHz tower would be overwhelmed unless someone comes up with some fancy beamforming. A neat trick in the duplex allocation, mandated by the FCC auction. Simplex-based OMDFA is one solution — the secret sauce of Mobile WiMAX in the 2.5 GHz band.

USA Today says Martin’s proposal, if adopted by the FCC, could reverberate through a U.S. wireless industry that has tightly controlled access to devices and services.

Or maybe not.

Let’s look at what we’ve got:

  • Frontline Wireless would add 10 MHz for first responders (on their “E” block) by changing the “D” Block from a 10 MHz pair to a 5 MHz pair of frequencies. It would be available for both commercial and public safety users.
  • That would also leave two blocks (of 5 MHz x 2) for other competitors — along with a 2 MHz guard band.
  • One block of 10 MHz might be restricted to “open access” while the remaining 10 MHz block would be available for “walled prison” rules favored by Verizon.

Martin may be giving a bone to Frontline for 10 Mhz (+12Mhz of public safety spectrum) for a shared public/private partnerships. But let’s be realistic — more than half the valuable real estate is not addressed by this proposal. It enables Verizon to buy into the Upper 700 MHz while leaving the lower 700 Mz band (with 30 MHz) largely unregulated and unrestricted.

What’s going to happen to it?

Some 60 Mhz of 700 MHz will be auctioned off early in 2008. Cellular companies may get the lion’s share, anyway. That’s because the lower 700 MHz band is also home to Qualcomm’s proprietary MediaFLO. It blasts out a 50,000 watt broadcast signal to mobile phones. A 100 mW two-way radio on an adjoining frequency is going to be drown out. It’s no good for two-way communications.

Block “E” (Channel 56) adjoins MediaFLO (on Channel 55). Verizon may pick that up. Block “A” and Block “C”, although they are composed of two, 6 MHz channels, ajoin the powerful broadcast blocks of channel 55 and 56. That makes them less than ideal for two-way communications. Robert Townsend’s Aloha Partners has already picked up most of the spectrum on block “C”, buying up hundreds of regional licenses. What does that leave for effective two-way communications? Block “B”.

Could 2×6 MHz (on Block “B”), using 6 regional licenses to create a nation-wide wireless broadband network, be a competitive threat to Verizon? I don’t think so. It’s a rural play. A 700 MHz urban tower would be swamped. Verizon might get RUS funding to supply “closed” access on that piece of spectrum – with their own mobile television channel on Channel 56.

Treasury’s happy. Martin looks good. Same-o, same-o.

Cellular companies like Verizon seem likely to pave over the lower 700 MHz space and put up a parking lot. Happy talk not withstanding.

Related 700MHz articles include; Adelstein: Open Access for 700MHz, Supernova Shout Match, June Hearings on 700MHz, NXTcomm 2007, Broadcasters: Portable Devices Kill DTV, FCC: Beltway Vs Valley, 700Mz Support for “Open Access” Grows, Apple Developers Conference, 700MHz Battle Begins, AT&T “Open” to 700MHz — Not, General Dynamics Wins IWN Contract, Martin: Sharing is Good, Harold Feld on 700MHz, FCC Indecisive on 700MHz, FCC Decides on 700MHz Rules Today, Small Ops Squeezed Out of 700MHz?, General Dynamics Wins IWN Contract, AT&T, Verizon & Qwest Share $50B Contract, Networx: $50B Phone Contract Due, Consumers to FCC: 700MHz Democracy Now!, Civil War in 4G, Nextwave Buys IP-Wireless, FCC Firming Up 700MHz Rules?, Verizon’s $6B Smackdown, 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, Nextwave Buys IP-Wireless, Consumers to FCC: 700MHz Democracy Now!, Frontline Files 700MHz Plan with FCC, 700MHz in 10 Steps, National Broadband: Fee & Free, FCC to Rural Users: 700MHz is the Ticket and Oregon’s $500 Million Statewide Wireless Network.

Posted by Sam Churchill on Tuesday, July 10th, 2007 at 10:14 am .

One thought on “Equal Access Happy Talk

  1. Hey, I was sure wrong on my conclusions, wasn’t I. History has proven that Martin was prescient and correct. Verizon, AT&T and the CTIA were wrong. Smartphones running applications developed by independent developers have transformed the world.

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