The CTIA is proposing the FCC open up some of the 2 GHz spectrum, which television broadcasters currently use for remote microwave links. The CTIA thinks about 15 Mhz could be auctioned off from their 85MHz allotment. In a letter to the FCC, CTIA identified 15 MHz of contiguous spectrum for mobile broadband:
“CTIA believes that the commission should closely consider spectrum from the Broadcast Auxiliary Service as a most effective candidate band. This spectrum band is below 3 GHz, contiguous and adjacent to current allocations, and would allow pairing in a readily achievable fashion.
CTIA is not aware of any other spectrum bands as well-positioned as this band to meet all the key principles for mobile broadband spectrum that could be paired with the specific 15 MHz identified by NTIA, and that could be put to timely use and generate significant revenues through a competitive bidding process.”
CTIA sees the 2 GHz BAS spectrum between 2095 and 2110 MHz becoming available for auction in August 2014 with licenses granted by Feb. 22, 2015, in time to meet the deadlines in the Spectrum Act. CTIA notes that Ericsson proposed pairing the 1675-1710 MHz and 2075-2110 MHz bands in 2011.
The 2 GHz Broadcast Auxiliary Service (BAS) is divided into seven 12 MHz-wide channels, with 500 kHz at each end for digital links. A new 2 GHz band plan could be required with narrower channels. Broadcasters don’t pay anything for this spectrum because group owners have “special rights” as “public service” providers.
The FCC’s 2004 Consensus Plan with Sprint/Nextel swapped Nextel’s interfering 800 MHz frequencies (given to public safety users), in exchange for 10 MHz in the PCS band (the “G” block), where Sprint currently offers FD-LTE (in a 5MHz x 2 slot). But in order to use that spectrum, broadcasters had to move out before Sprint could move in.
The FCC supplied broadcasters with new microwave frequencies and Sprint bought them new digital microwave gear. The new BAS band also allowed HD transmission and more efficient spectrum utilization for broadcasters.
The frequency swap enabled the FCC to stick in the new AWS band at 1990-1995 (for Sprint-Nextel), using the “G” block, add an adjoining “H” block (still unauctioned), as well as a new geosynch satellite phone initiative in the 2.1 GHz (MSS) satellite phone band.
Unfortunately, MSS satphone providers TerraStar and ICO went bankrupt in short order. Their spectrum was then bought by Dish Networks.
Whether lawmakers will find a way to funnel a majority of the auction revenues to broadcasters rather than the treasury or FirstNet remains to be seen.