NTIA “Finds” 1.5 GHz of Federal Spectrum

Posted by Sam Churchill on

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration has issued its Second Interim Progress Report (pdf) on the 10-Year Plan and Timetable for coming up with 500 MHz of spectrum for the president’s National Broadband Plan. It has identified some 1,500 MHz of federal spectrum to further evaluate for wireless broadband.

Government agencies occupy several thousand MHz. The NTIA is in the process of figuring out what portion of federally occupied spectrum can be used for wireless broadband. In doing so, it must determine which agencies license the spectrum, for what purpose, and how feasible it is for them to move or share the airwaves.

Currently, in the bands below 3.7 GHz, 547 megahertz is currently licensed as flexible use spectrum. But some 194 MHz of that is EBS/BRS, the 2.6 GHz band controlled mostly by Sprint and Clearwire.

In the meantime, Congress’s so-called “super committee,” charged with trimming $1.5 trillion from the federal deficit, is expected to authorize the FCC to hold TV spectrum incentive auctions. The intent is to get broadcasters to give up spectrum in return for a split of the proceeds. Some broadcasters are expected to give up their dedicated 6 MHz channel and move into a competitors channel, co-habitating on one of the multiplexed channels. As an incentive, broadcasters would be given a cut of their channel’s auction price.

Spectrum incentive auctions and fees on the 120 MHz of television spectrum is estimated to yield about $15.8 billion for the Treasury, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The CBO estimates total spectrum revenues at $27.7 billion. But that figure would be offset by an estimated $11.9 billion to pay off and relocate broadcasters, according to Television Broadcast.

Several House and Senate leaders have recommended reallocation of the 700 MHz D Block spectrum to public safety in their letters advising the Super Committee to reduce the national deficit.

Some in Congress – and President Obama – want taxpayers to pay for the nation-wide, LTE first responder network. The $10-$12 billion cost would be funded by the broadcast auctions. The TV auctions are [estimated] to net some $27 billion, but with $12B coming out for the D Block and $12B dedicated for broadcaster, that leaves only $3-4 billion to pay the debt.

Cynics say cost overruns on the dedicated first responder network could run more than $4B, putting us even deeper in the hole.

In an alternative universe, commercial carriers would build out the D Block for shared public/private use and “white spaces” would be free.

Here’s a simple two step plan:

  1. Carriers build out D Block. Carriers – even content providers like Apple, Amazon, Google and Microsoft – may pay for the privileged of building out a shared 700 MHz D-block network — saving taxpayers perhaps $10 billion.
  2. White Space is free. Half the television spectrum might be reserved for “unlicensed” white space. That might save taxpayers billions in Universal Service Fees, now used to subsidize broadband to rural users. Large carriers, willing to pay big bucks for spectrum, will pass on that cost to consumers.

Shared D Block would enhance broadband for everyone. Carriers pay for it, saving $10 billion. With unlicensed “free” white space spectrum (like Wi-Fi), consumers wouldn’t need USF government subsidies – saving another $5 billion. Could $15 billion be saved to pay off the debt in this alternative approach?

Somebody ought to look into it.

The White House spectrum plan differs from the FCC plan in that the FCC hopes to auction the “D Block” and have commercial cellular operators build the infrastructure for a [shared] broadband wireless service reaching 98% of the country. First responders would get priority access to all the 700 MHz LTE spectrum.

Under the Administration plan, the government would fund a $10B first responder network. Incentive auctions would raise funds by selling television spectrum.

Large telecom companies want to eliminate “free” spectrum — like Wi-Fi. But “free” spectrum created one of the biggest economic booms in the history of personal computers. Which side do you want to be on?

The better angels are with “free”.

In the United States, unused “white space” television frequencies are primarily in the UHF band. The White Spaces Coalition consists of eight large technology companies that includes Microsoft, Google, Dell, HP, Intel, Philips, Earthlink, and Samsung. Various proposals, including IEEE 802.11af, IEEE 802.22 and those from the White Spaces Coalition, have advocated different standards for the United States.

Related stories on DailyWireless include; White Space Trialed, D-Block Legislation Stalled , Broadband Disability Act, Public Service Radio Convention, Public Safety Net Removed from Debt Ceiling Bill, D-Block Gets a Hearing, National Wireless Initiative, White House: D-Block to Police/Fire, State of the Spectrum, Mobile: Trillion Dollar Industry, White Space War, White Space To Go, White Spaces Get IEEE Standard, FCC Okays White Spaces , White Spaces: It’s The Law, NAB to FCC: White Spaces Illegal, Free White Space Mapping

Posted by Sam Churchill on Wednesday, October 19th, 2011 at 12:18 pm .

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