Verizon: Spectrum Scarcity is Good

Posted by Sam Churchill on

Verizon’s CEO Ivan Seidenberg now says there’s plenty of spectrum after all. He thinks the FCC should butt out and let big business manage spectrum.

The National Broadband Plan recommended that the FCC make 300 megahertz available for mobile use within 5 years. That was in lockstep with industry demands (see Dailywireless: Battle of the Bands and Cellcos: One Thing – Bandwidth).

CTIA President Steve Largent told Congress just four months ago:

“With more than 276 million subscribers in the U.S., it is vital for our industry to secure at least 800 MHz of additional spectrum within the next six years. Without this additional spectrum, our industry will cease to provide U.S. consumers with the most innovative and most competitive wireless offerings in the world.”

Broadcasting and Cable backs Seidenberg’s view that the government shouldn’t provide new spectrum:

Asked by an audience member how he thought the FCC’s effort to get broadcasters to give up 120MHz of spectrum would shake out, he said the answer would probably come as a surprise.

“If I took the self-serving approach,” he said, “it would be: ‘Okay, screw the broadcasters. Let’s get their spectrum and we can put it to use in our wireless and cellular business or broadband business.'” But he said his reaction was, instead, that the FCC should let the marketplace work it out without intervention. “I don’t think the FCC should tinker with this,” he said. “I think the market’s going to settle this. So in the long term, if we can’t show that we have applications and services to utilize that spectrum better than the broadcasters, then the broadcasters will keep the spectrum.”

The FCC, in a blog post, notes that Verizon often complained about lack of spectrum:

Many have noted recent comments by the CEO of Verizon Ivan Seidenberg casting doubt on the need to allocate additional spectrum for mobile broadband, a key recommendation in the National Broadband Plan. The fact is, Verizon played a major role in building an overwhelming record in support of more mobile broadband spectrum, consistently expressing its official view that the country faces a looming spectrum crisis that could undermine the country’s global competitiveness.

  • In Verizon’s June 9, 2009, filing:
    “Verizon Wireless believes that a more important goal of any spectrum inventory should be to identify any underused spectrum that can be repurposed to auction for broadband use. The government has the responsibility to identify and license spectrum to serve the public interest.”
  • In Verizon’s September 30, 2009 filing:
    “The Commission has identified only 50 megahertz of additional spectrum for next generation wireless growth. This total lags behind both the United States’ competitor nations as well as the ever increasing demand for mobile broadband services. Verizon Wireless therefore urges the Commission to undertake a targeted examination of spectrum to identify additional bands.”

Verizon’s goal is probably spectrum scarcity. To further that end, Ivan Seidenberg and AT&T Wireless CEO, Randall Stephenson were nudging the Feds to take some kind of action against Sprint’s spectrum advantage. If they got Sprint’s spectrum, it would reduce competition. Their plan backfired.

Another 300 MHz just increases competition. That’s the last thing Verizon wants.

Seidenberg had one beef with the feds that seems legit:

“Cable companies have bought spectrum over the last 10 or 15 years that’s been lying fallow,” he said. “So, here the FCC is out running around looking for new sources of spectrum, and we’ve got probably 150 megahertz of spectrum sitting out there that people own that aren’t being built on. I don’t get that. This annoys me.”

SpectrumCo, an AWS bidding consortium with Cox, Comcast and Time Warner Cable, picked up 137 licenses in 2006’s Advanced Wireless Services auction (at 1.7/2.1 GHz). SpectrumCo won a total of 137 AWS licenses for $2.37 billion. Comcast’s share was $1.29 billion, followed by Time Warner Cable’s $632.2 million, and Cox’s $248.3 million. (See SpectrumCo Gets Licenses). Cox paid $248.3 million for AWS licenses in 2006, and transfered those licenses out of SpectrumCo and directly to Cox.

Cable operators are sitting on their 19 MHz (not “150 megahertz”). Instead of AWS, Comcast and Time Warner are using Clear’s Mobile WiMAX which won’t require them to build voice infrastructure and delivers better mobile video performance.

Perhaps the FCC should tell cable operators to “use it or loose it.” And while they’re at it, the FCC could change their AWS-3 plan. Instead of selling that orphaned 20 MHz (at 2.1GHz) to Verizon or AT&T, they ought to make it “lightly licensed” – like the 3.65 GHz band – and make it available at no charge for municipal broadband.

By the way – what’s the deal with spectrum pairing?

Everyone knows data will dominate LTE/WiMAX networks. But the FCC persists on selling most spectrum using wasteful FDD pairs – because that’s where the money is — with voice-centric cellular operators. But cellular operators are now jumping on board TDD-LTE for voice and data. One channel isn’t wasted “listening”. The FCC seems unresponsive to this approach. It’s bad policy.

Related Dailywireless articles include; The National Broadband Plan, Cellcos: One Thing – Bandwidth, T-Mobile Eyeing Clear Spectrum, FCC Considers Auctioning Off TV Frequencies, FCC Okays Terrestrial LTE for SkyTerra, Battle of the Bands Goes to Congress, D-Block: It’s Done; Congress Pays, LTE: Cox Cable Calling , White Spaces Trialed in North Carolina, FCC: Change for Broadcasting & USF, FCC Moves Forward with White Space Databases, Comcast Goes Mobile with WiMAX, Time-Warner Adding Mobile WiMAX Service,Free Internet Access Proposed by FCC, National Broadband Plan Previewed, D-Block: It’s Done; Congress Pays, FCC “Finds” 500MHz?, FCC Floats “100 Squared” Initiative, FCC to Auction TV Airwaves?, Google: Fiber to the Home?, Smart Grids, Spectrum in Budget, White Spaces Heating Up

Posted by Sam Churchill on Friday, April 9th, 2010 at 7:59 am .

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