T-Mobile Files 600 MHz Proposal – Eliminating “Free” Spectrum

Posted by Sam Churchill on

FierceBroadband explains some of the carrier involvement in the FCC’s plan to reallocate and reassign 600 MHz spectrum from broadcast TV to mobile broadband. A recent Washington Post article hinted at a new carrier push to minimize any “unlicensed” (read “free”) spectrum in the 600 MHz band, but was short on details

T-Mobile USA outlined it 600 MHz position this week; minimizing any “unlicensed” use of the spectrum, lobbying for 600 MHz interoperability, and pushing for spectrum caps so one or two carriers couldn’t dominate.


T-Mobile’s plan would basically create 35 x 35 MHz of paired spectrum and seven paired 5 MHz blocks, limiting what the company contends are wasteful guard bands. Supplimental blocks could add to the downstream bandwidth, through carrier aggregation.

Here are some highlights of T-Mobile’s position:

  • The Commission should work to maximize the amount of paired spectrum, and
    enable device performance and size consistent with existing smart phones and
    tablets, locating all paired spectrum above TV Channel 37. This approach has
    the benefit of avoiding certain potential interference issues that exist with
    the FCC’s lead plan and would encourage rapid development of devices that meet
    consumer expectations for cost and size.
  • Second, offering “generic,” spectrum licenses that are not
    frequency-specific within each geographic area and separating the licenses by
    Major Economic Areas rather than the smaller Economic Areas would help
    increase auction efficiency. In addition, the FCC should promote
    interoperability across all paired 600 MHz band channels by adopting an
    express interoperability requirement within the 600 MHz blocks.
  • The Commission should adopt rules that prohibit any licensee from
    acquiring more than a certain percentage of spectrum below 1 GHz, applied on a
    market-by-market basis.
  • Enhancing broadcaster participation and calibrating clearing rules to
    local or regional market conditions, will increase the amount of spectrum
    available for broadband use and lead to a more successful incentive auction.

T-Mobile’s Kathleen Ham, Vice President of Federal Regulatory Affairs, was careful in her consumer-facing blog post not to mention unlicensed spectrum, but it might be implied that T-Mobile’s approach would minimize any unlicensed spectrum.

T-Mobile would eliminate the FCC’s “license free”, 6 MHz guardbands, placed between remaining million watt television stations and 10 watt cell sites. Just how T-Mobile’s approach would lower interference is not clear. Cell frequencies adjoining TV frequencies seems problematic. What was not included in T-Mobile’s presentation may be more revealing. Perhaps they have some kind of mutual understanding (read revenue split).

In its FCC presentation, T-Mobile displayed a graph showing that AT&T and Verizon Wireless together currently hold in excess of 100 MHz of lower-band spectrum averaged across the top 100 markets, while all other carriers combined hold barely over 20 MHz.

The FCC’s proposal would auction off paired 6 MHz channels on the 600 MHz band, raising as much as $17 billion. These paired channels would not be located next to TV broadcast channels. Instead a “guardband” of 6 Mhz would separate TV channels from cellular channels. Those guardbands could use low-power, unlicensed “white space” devices, that listen for any interference before transmitting.

Meanwhile, Verizon has argued that Clearwire’s 2.6 GHz spectrum should also be capped, in the same way as spectrum ownership is limited in other bands. Verizon, in their filing with the FCC, did not take a position on the Sprint/Softbank or Sprint/Clearwire deals, but made it clear that if the FCC approves the transactions, it wants Clearwire’s spectrum evaluated.

Google, Microsoft and other tech giants say unlicensed 600 MHz wireless service would spark an explosion of innovations and devices that would benefit most Americans, especially the poor.

According to the Washington Post, if approved by the FCC, public wireless networks could allow many consumers to make free calls from their mobile phones via the Internet. “For a casual user of the Web, perhaps this could replace carrier service,” said Jeffrey Silva, an analyst at the Medley Global Advisors research firm.

Broadcast radio and television networks have thrived for over 75 years because access to their content is free. Mobile carriers don’t do “free”. Their business model is based on subscriptions.

Internet providers such as Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and others generate revenue by advertising, not by subscription fees. They’re all for “free”.

The 120 MHz wide, 600 MHz band is the last, best hope for delivering ubiquitious wireless broadband. Supporters say “white space” devices are unlikely to have a big impact the cellular industry since their bandwidth and power is limited. The new 600 MHz spectrum could create whole new industries, says the Wireless Innovation Alliance.

Rural broadband, meter reading (Machine to Machine), wireless home networking, and low-cost public networks may be enabled with license-free spectrum.

WiFi has spawned a multi-billion dollar industry. Every laptop, tablet and smartphone depends on a tiny slice of “free” spectrum. A similar WiFi capability in the 600 MHz band could penetrate walls, but at slower speeds.

Arstechnica smugly pronounced, No, free Wi-Fi isn’t coming to every US city. But free WiFi is in every city now. The 600 MHz band could boost its range significantly — if the carriers don’t kill it first.

Related Dailywireless articles include; FCC Supports National White Space Networking , War 2.0 for Unlicensed Spectrum, Congressional Battle over Unlicensed Spectrum, FCC: TV Auction in 2014, Spectrum War: Unlicensed, Shared and Auctioned, White Space Radio using 802.11af Demoed, FCC: TV Auction in 2014 , FCC Dishes Dirt, Talks Up 3.5 GHz, Spectrum Bridge Partners with Carlson Wireless, Incentive Auctions: Going Nuclear, AT&T Fears FCC’s Incentive Auction Plans, FCC Moves on TV Frequency Auction, Google and Microsoft Want UK White Space?, Microsoft Announced Narrow Channel Whitespace, FCC Authorizes White Space Service in Wilmington, Genachowski Lobbies for Unlicensed White Spaces, Universal Service Reform Passed, Microsoft Announced Narrow Channel Whitespace

Posted by Sam Churchill on Tuesday, February 5th, 2013 at 10:02 am .

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