Reed Hundt Talks

Former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt formed Frontline Wireless to build a nationwide emergency communications network using 700 MHz spectrum. Frontline bailed out of the auction just before it began, but is widely regarded as a visionary.

Reed spoke with Telephony Magazine in an exclusive interview this week.

On a national emergency communications network:

First the FCC has to declare the [700 MHz spectrum] auction to be over. Second we have to find out whether or not anybody bought the D block. I think we’ll know both these things—what’s today? Wednesday? I think we’ll know by Friday or Monday. Third the FCC has to announce who won the auction, and actually their rules say they won’t necessarily do that. They have to be realistic; they have to tell everybody. So the smoke has to clear.

On changing the Universal Service Fund:

I think the FCC is paying attention to something minor while something major is going unaddressed. What’s major is the U.S. is the only developed country in the world without a broadband policy. We’ve not had a real broadband policy in eight years. The FCC and the White House have collaborated in trying to convince the media and the people that everything is peachy whereas global travelers all know that Japan and England and France and Germany are way ahead of the U.S. in terms of broadband.

On municipal broadband:

There just aren’t very many [muni broadband providers]. The reason [the muni broadband model] is not viable is because there’s not enough money in municipalities to pay for it. Period. End of story. And there never is going to be.

On P2P throttling:

This issue of what Comcast and others are doing–that is just a reflection of the lack of a broadband policy. The problem with Comcast, the problem with the telephone companies is that they’re not delivering 100 Mb/s. The problem is not that they’re throttling P2P. Here’s what we ought to say: We want 100 Mb/s. We want it to be at the world’s lowest price. If we had 100 Mb/s, we’re not going to talk about throttling because there will be plenty of bandwidth.

On the U.S. wireless market:

[The U.S.] is the last market in the world that people choose to bring a new wireless product to. Not second or third–the absolute last. Right now the policy of the FCC has been to encourage AT&T and Verizon to become the twin Bells that dominate the wireless business. They’re allowed to buy all the spectrum they can find. The antitrust laws are waived and ignored every time they appear to be a problem. The FCC is the only spectrum auction entity in the world that does not carve out spectrum for new entrants.

Sprint-Nextel: Deal from Hell

Sprint has written down nearly $30 billion related to their 2005 merger with Nextel. That’s “B” as in Boy. Which is pretty much what they paid for Nextel. According to The Wall Street Journal, it’s the ‘Deal From Hell

The company reported a net loss of $29.45 billion, which is more than its market capitalization. It also suspended its dividend and wrote down an additional $29.7 billion related to the 2005 acquisition of Nextel.

Each side had a market capitalization near $33 billion when they first agreed to merge — now the whole company’s market cap is $25 billion. Sprint’s shares fell today to $7.75, the lowest level since October 2002.

In the years after the acquisition, there was a lot of finger-pointing among the Sprint and Nextel. In the end, it was Sprint’s board that approved the merger.

Nextel started out as simplex (push to talk service) for taxis and other dispatch services, using one or two hill-top, community towers. Then the FCC authorized Nextel to enter commercial cellular service, using multiple neighborhood antennas. But Nextel frequencies adjoin public service frequencies, unlike cellular frequencies.

The Nextel interference problem started when Nextel was allowed to expand into cellular service. As Nextel built out cell towers, nearby, low-power police radios were drown out. The FCC said it wouldn’t be a problem.

They were wrong.

Under the Consensus Plan agreed to in 2004, public service agencies will gain use of the 700 and 800 Mhz bands currently operated by Nextel that were causing interference:

  • Nextel would exchange 16 megahertz of spectrum spread around the 700 MHz, 800 MHz and 900 MHz bands for 6 megahertz in the 800 MHz band and 10 megahertz in the 1.9 GHz band.
  • Nextel will then have 16 megahertz of contiguous spectrum in the 800 MHz band, on which the carrier could continue to offer its voice service, and 10 megahertz in the 1.9 GHz (PCS) band to offer “3G” services in the future.
  • Nextel would then have a total of 26MHz, about what it had before the move, but allocated differently to avoid interference and consolidate their spectrum bands in 800 Mhz and 1.9Mhz.

Nextel is now consolidating everything into one block of 800 MHz and one block of 1.9GHz frequencies. Nextel agreed to give the Treasury $4.8 billion (for no additional spectrum), less $2.5 billion for their estimated moving costs. Nextel is now shifting their current interfering frequencies to clear contiguous blocks at 800MHz and 1.9 GHz.

But 1.9GHz is currently used by television broadcasters for live microwave links. So Nextel agreed to pay all costs associated with corporate media’s “rebanding of 2 GHz“. Broadcasters pay nothing for their new gear or microwave frequencies.

The frequency move has not gone well, says the Wall Street Journal. All sides acknowledge they hadn’t anticipated just how difficult making changes would be. Nextel was obligated to pay at least $2.8 billion in cash to fund the frequency transition and have already have spent $1.1 billion. Now, according Sprint Nextel’s 10-K report, the best-case scenario is that rebanding will cost the carrier between $2.7 billion and $3.4 billion.

As if that weren’t bad enough, Qwest could take its 824,000 wireless subscribers from Sprint to rival Verizon Wireless next year when its current mobile virtual network operator agreement expires, reports RCR News.

Related DailyWireless articles include; Sprint-Nextel to Merge, Sprint-tel: Done Deal?, Sprint Forces Forsee Out, The OTHER Public Safety Band, Nextel Accepts Consensus Swap.

Satellite Fallout

C/Net says last week’s spy satellite shootdown left some questions hanging in the air.

Was the mission really necessary? Was it worth the cost? How much of a threat was the hydrazine fuel, really? Did we escalate a space weapons race? Here are some opinions:

DailyWireless has more here and here. Wired’s Danger Room had the best coverage. Noah Shachtman has a passion for the subject. Blog Runner has more.

I know nothing about rocket science.

But I can search the internet and read The Washington Post, The New York Times, Center for Defense Information, and Aviation Week — just like everyone else.

Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for the National Security Council, noted that 328 satellites had come down in the past five years without injury to anyone.

Skeptics say the administration had other reasons to shoot down the satellite — to destroy secret equipment onboard or to test ASAT defenses. Those seem like legitimate reasons.

I understand there has to be a judgment call. There are often serious, negative political repercussions to being honest. Sometimes a “cover story” simply has to be concocted.

But it could have been handled better, with less dismissiveness to the general public.

It made NASA look stupid. Why should we believe anything they say. The agency now seems more like an arm of the military. Billion dollar projects like the James Webb Space Telescope, a case in point. Soon a disaffected contractor may expose NASA for what it actually is.

That story will now have more credibility. NASA did it to themselves.

WiMAX Deployment Maps has a global map of WiMAX deployments from Maravedis, which operates the WiMAXCounts site.

More than 250 trials and deployments of WiMAX technologies exist today, according to Intel and the WiMAX Forum.

The WiMAXCounts online subscription service tracks over 250 broadband wireless access (BWA) operators around the world. Each operator profile includes the company’s spectrum holdings, deployment cities, service offerings, and pricing.

Worldwide Telescope Demoed

Science educator Roy Gould and Microsoft’s Curtis Wong give an astonishing sneak preview of Microsoft’s new WorldWide Telescope. Yes, it’s the demo that made Robert Scoble cry.

WWT combines feeds from satellites and telescopes all over the world and the heavens, and weaves them together holistically to build a comprehensive view of our universe. Blog Runner has more.

Of course, had SDSS, IRAS, and H-Alpha surveys integrated into their Web-based system long before Google Sky. Sky-Map has 100s of millions of objects mapped.

Sprint Joins $99/month Club

Sprint has joined the $99/month club, for unlimited mobile connectivity. But it’s not just unlimited voice — like AT&T and Verizon, or voice + SMS — like T-Mobile, it’s everything — voice, data, text, Sprint TV, GPS and more.

Simply Everything” is available today to both CDMA and iDEN customers, and is open to existing and new subscribers.

According to Dan Hesse, president and CEO, Sprint Nextel, “Wireless today is about much more than just voice. It is about data services – texting, email, video, pictures, music, navigation, surfing the Web and more. Customers want these applications, but without complexity and without having to worry about their bill”.

DailyWireless has more on the Unlimited War.