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Annie: Hey, what if the Voice calls while you’re gone?
Ray: Take a message.
Field of Dreams

The prospect of a national, free, but low-bandwidth wireless broadband network, promoted by M2Z Networks, has been killed by the FCC, reports Wireless Week.

The main objection was that signals in the AWS-3 spectrum (2155-2175 MHz) that M2Z proposed to use, would interfere with signals in the AWS-1 band (2110 to 2155 MHz). The FCC conducted interference tests and said interference was unlikely, but T-Mobile and its allies argued the testing did not support the conclusion.

According to the National Broadband Plan the isolated AWS-3 spectrum might be paired with a portion of the 1755–1850 MHz band, currently used by the government (pdf). The NTIA would develop reports on the potential for such pairings by October 1. If that pairing isn’t recommended, then the FCC is expected to adopt final rules for how to use the spectrum this year, with the idea of auctioning the spectrum next year.

M2Z, whose backers include Charles River Ventures, Kleiner Perkins and Redpoint Ventures, had petitioned the FCC back in 2006 to create a free, nation-wide broadband service.

M2Z planned a free nationwide broadband wireless system, paid in large part by advertising. Ad revenue would support the free service, using local geo-tagging. M2Z would charge for a premium (unfiltered) service at speeds of 6 mbps. It would use a WiMAX system to deliver the service.

“The FCC’s decision to delay the use of this valuable spectrum forgoes the consumer welfare and economic stimulus that would result from putting new spectrum into the marketplace,” said John Muleta, CEO of M2Z Networks, in a statement.

“A new nationwide broadband entrant that provided a free broadband service would have created tens of thousands of direct and indirect jobs throughout the country while giving all Americans an equal opportunity to participate in the digital economy. Despite the spectrum crisis facing the U.S. as documented by the FCC’s National Broadband Plan, the AWS-3 spectrum will continue to lie fallow, providing no economic value to American consumers.”

In its national broadband plan, the FCC is proposing to auction the AWS-3 spectrum auction as part of an effort to free up 500 Mhz of spectrum for commercial wireless broadband. If the FCC was serious about providing broadband for every American, they could auction the spectrum off with a provision for free service.

Ad supported city-wide WiFi never penciled out. WiMax is different. City-wide WiMAX infrastructure costs less than WiFi because one antenna has 10 times the range. Free broadband is what newspapers and magazines NEED. Mobile advertising will explode in the next few years, say industry analysts. The FCC may not get a suitcase of cash from AWS-3 — but they could at least appear to deliver on their promise of universal broadband if free broadband wireless was a requirement of the band.

The CTIA boasted, “We were pleased to learn that the FCC is closing the AWS-3 proceeding and will continue to focus on finding a proper pairing for the spectrum”.

According to Declan Byrne, marketing director for the WiMax Forum, “We don’t think it would be detrimental if Clearwire decided to run both WiMax and LTE.” Clearwire will test TD-LTE and FD-LTE adjoining their WiMAX frequencies this year in Phoenix.

It’s okay if Clearwire does it.

The United States and Canada have a good model in the 3.65 GHz band, which uses light licensing (registering your radio frequency). This allows smaller operators to enter the service market without the outlay of substantial costs for spectrum licenses that only a few, nationwide carriers can afford.

Solectek was granted approval to operate its WiMAX products in the full 50 MHz channel allocated for WiMAX operations in the US and Canada, in the 3.65 GHz band. Operation in the upper 25 MHz channels require compliance with stringent protocol specifications that cannot be addressed with standard WiMAX solutions.

That same approach might be applied to the 20 MHz of AWS-3 spectrum (at 2155-2175 MHz). It might be restricted for use with smart grid applications or municipal city networks. WiMAX in the AWS-3 band would be far more reliable than the congested unlicensed WiFi band, go further than 3.65 GHz, and cost less than the millimeter band.

Cellular companies and cable companies can offer the government a suitcase of cash. M2Z, and other companies with similar “free” propositions, probably can’t match that payoff. One might argue that frequency pairs for 4G are inefficient in a data-centric world. So what. Spectrum Scarcity is Good.

Cellco’s run the show. Consumers have no choice. The FCC might argue that “white spaces” will provide choice. How is that possible? White spaces are limited to 100mW. Toy walkie talkies have more power.

It’s a sell-out.

Related DailyWireless stories include; Free Spectrum for Cities: Fergetaboutit, Verizon: Spectrum Scarcity is Good, The National Broadband Plan, Battle of the Bands, Cellcos: One Thing – Bandwidth, AT&T Can’t Give Away Their Muni WiFi Net, FCC: Free Broadband at 2155-2180 MHz, Free Internet Access Proposed by FCC, FCC: 2150 MHz, No Problem, CellCos to Martin: Sit Down and Shut Up, FCC: Free Broadband at 2155-2180 MHz, MXtv Makes Its Move, Free 2155-2175 MHz!, The Free Triple Play, How to Fix Muni Wi-Fi, D-Block: It’s Done, Congress Pays, and AWS: It’s Done.

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