AWS-3 Auction Surpasses Minimum Price Target

The AWS-3 auction on Monday surpassed the FCC’s minimum target of $10.5 billion. The auction has raised $16.4 billion so far through 15 rounds.


UPDATE: Already, the AWS-3 auction is the FCC’s most successful auction ever, reports FierceWireless. After just six days of bidding it has raised more than $24 billion in provisionally winning bids, surpassing the $13.7 billion raised during the AWS-1 auction in 2006, and the $18.9 billion raised during the 700 MHz auction in 2008. Now some predict the AWS-3 auction could raise more than $30 billion (which it did easily the next day).

AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile US are expected to grab the lion’s share of spectrum, but Dish Networks and non-U.S. companies including Mexico-based America Movil and Japan’s DoCoMo are among the potential bidders.

Dish Network has cobbled together nearly 55 megahertz of spectrum and has been looking for a wireless partner. The valuation of Dish’s 40 MHz in the nearby AWS-4 spectrum has already sent Dish Network stock rising. Their stock gained nearly 4% on Tuesday to a record high, and Dish was up more than 2%, above 69, in early trading in the stock market today. Dish also bought H-Block airwaves (adjacent to their AWS-4 spectrum), in March, raising $1.56 billion for the Treasury.

The FCC granted Dish flexibility to use 20 MHz of its AWS-4 spectrum at 2000-2020 MHz for uplink OR downlink operations. Dish owns uplink spectrum on the low end of AWS-4, but interference with the adjacent downlink H-block has been a concern.

If Dish is successful in attaining 15 MHz of uplink-only spectrum, then they could then pair it with AWS-4, converting uplink to downlink spectrum. In addition, Dish owns 6 MHz of 700 Mhz for downlink, potentially outflanking AT&T and Verizon in downlink spectrum. Their AWS Block H block could give them device interoperability/roaming with other carriers.

The FCC chose to require that AWS-3 spectrum be interoperable with AWS-1 spectrum, which many carriers currently use for LTE services. AWS-1 runs from 1710-1755 MHz and 2110-2155 MHz, notes Fierce Wireless, but the FCC left it up to carriers to voluntarily have AWS-3 be interoperable with AWS-4 (MSS) spectrum, which Dish Network controls.

Analysts have valued Dish’s airwaves in a wide range, from $7 billion to $17 billion. Whatever wireless firms pay for AWS-3 spectrum in specific markets could help set a value for Dish’s airwaves, analysts say. DISH is also part of three separate bidding consortia: American AWS-3 Wireless I LLC, Northstar Wireless, LLC and SNR Wireless LicenseCo, LLC.

The auction of 50 MHz of paired spectrum has increased evaluations of spectrum, according to New Street research analyst Jonathan Chaplin.

Cash-short but spectrum-rich Sprint will sit out the auction.

The AWS-3 auction is not as straightforward as previous auctions because two chunks of spectrum are currently used by federal agencies, including the Department of Defense. In most cases, federal spectrum users will have to exit the 1695-1710 MHz and 1755-1780 MHz bands or geographically share them with commercial users.

The Report and Order sets flexible-use regulatory, licensing, and technical rules for 65 megahertz of spectrum in the AWS-3 band, which includes the 1695-1710 MHz, 1755-1780 MHz, and 2155-2180 MHz bands.

The FCC adopted rules to allocate and license the 1695-1710 MHz band for uplink/mobile operations on an unpaired shared basis with incumbent Federal meteorological-satellite (MetSat) data users.

The other 50 MHz block is more traditional. They will assign AWS-3 licenses by competitive bidding, offering 5 megahertz and 10 megahertz blocks that can be aggregated using Economic Areas (EAs). The FCC’s decision to license only one paired 5×5 MHz block in smaller Cellular Market Areas (CMAs) was disappointing for most competitive carriers.

The Order will make 50 megahertz (of the total 65 megahertz) of the AWS-3 spectrum available for commercial use. The 15 MHz chunk will be available on a shared basis with federal incumbents.

The 1695-1710 MHz band will be unpaired spectrum used for low-power uplink operations. The 1755-1780 MHz band will be licensed for low-power uplink operations and will be paired with the 2155-2180 MHz band, which is unencumbered by federal users, for downlink operations.

The Advanced Wireless Service (3) auction started on Thursday and could last weeks. It’s the first major sale of airwaves since 2008 when the 700 MHz auction raised some $19 Billion for the treasury. That spectrum is now utilized by AT&T, Verizon and others for nationwide LTE service. The current AWS auction will put some 65 MHz of spectrum on the auction block.

Some proceeds of the AWS-3 auction will go toward FirstNet, the stand alone LTE public safety network, on the 700 MHz band.

Related Dailywireless articles include; 70 Companies Qualified for AWS-3 Auction, Dish Wins Everything in H-Block PCS Auction, FCC Sets AWS-3 Auction Rules, AWS-3 Auction Rules: Who Benefits?, Verizon Activates AWS Band , DOJ Sets Conditions for Verizon AWS, Verizon Getting AWS Spectrum Says WSJ, T-Mobile Okayed to Test Spectrum Sharing, Verizon’s Spectrum Deal: Tough Nut, AT&T Buys 2.3 GHz from NextWave, AT&T Wants 2.3 GHz for LTE, FCC to Okay Verizon/Cable Spectrum Buy

WorldVu Proposes Global LEO Broadband

According to the Wall Street Journal, Elon Musk is working with WorldVu Satellites which proposes to deliver Internet access across the globe. A network of 700 satellites in Low Earth Orbit would use the Ku band (12/14 GHz) to deliver broadband to end users. Industry officials estimate that it would cost $1 billion or more to develop the project.

Musk is working with Greg Wyler, a former Google executive and satellite-industry veteran. Wyler founded WorldVu Satellites which controls a large block of radio spectrum in the Ku band.

WorldVu hopes to bring the cost of manufacturing the satellites to under $1 million, with each satellite weighing about 250 pounds. The current WorldVu design has been granted radio spectrum rights by international regulators, to beam some 2 gigahertz of Ku-band (12/14 GHz) using nongeostationary satellites at between 800 and 950 kilometers in altitude.

The WorldVu satellite constellation would be 10 times the size of the current Iridium fleet. It is expected to require up to US$3 billion in capital by the time the full constellation becomes operational in 2019–2020. SpaceX, which has launched a dozen of its Falcon 9 rockets in the past five years, would likely launch the satellites.

O3b Networks, a previous satellite Internet startup founded by Mr. Wyler, has faced technical problems with the first four satellites it launched, which likely will shorten their lifespans. Today, satellites in the O3b constellation each weigh about 700 kg (1543 lbs), and were designed, tested and integrated by Thales Alenia Space. O3b serves large areas on either side of the equator with a constellation of eight satellites and is planning to launch four more by the end of the year. O3b is using Ka-band frequencies that were abandoned by the now-defunct Teledesic venture

Teledesic was the most ambitious of the early LEO broadband constellation proposals. Originally in 1994, 840 active satellites were planned, then 288 active satellites in 1997 after a Boeing-led redesign and before the merge with Motorola’s Celestri. Later it was reduced to a proposed 12 satelites in a Medium Orbit (as Craig McCaw’s ICO). Teledesic planned 21 near-polar orbital planes of 40 active satellites with 4 in-orbit spares per plane at an altitude of 700km. Each Teledesic satellite was originally planned to have eight intersatellite links, in the 60GHz band. Ka-band frequencies were allocated to Teledesic at the 1995 World Radio Conference.

Alcatel announced its SkyBridge constellation in February 1997. Unlike Teledsic, SkyBridge did not propose to use intersatellite links. Instead, its satellites were planned to act as in-orbit ‘bent-pipe’ transponders, in the Ku-band.

The WorldVu concept is similar to the defunct SkyBridge satellite constellation, and is an attempt to use the same spectrum. Before it disappeared, SkyBridge battled with existing satellite fleet operators about whether dozens of SkyBridge satellites in low orbit would interfere with the standard telecommunications satellite fleets in geostationary orbit 36,000 kilometers over the equator, notes SpaceNews.

Perhaps active beamforming antennas like Kymet’s flat antenna and improved frequency inteference rejection will bring LEO broadband satellites back from the dead. With WorldVu, Google may be adding another player in satellite space in addition to their SkyBox Imaging platform.

Third world and global broadband connectivity is being explored with a variety of platforms, including drones. Facebook purchased Britain’s Ascenta drone company as part of what it calls its Connectivity Lab project, while Google earlier this year purchased Titan Aerospace.

Near-space platforms at 12 miles (20K meters/65K feet) are 20 times closer than a typical 400-kilometer LEO satellite at 250 miles. High altitude UAVs can stare — 24/7 — without blinking or human needs. Mercury’s sigint computers are powered by nVidia GPUs and Intel processors for TeraFLOPS processing.

IEEE Spectrum has Five Ways to Bring Broadband to the Backwoods, including solar-powered drones, MEO and LEO satellites, balloons, blimps, and White Spaces.

Perhaps not co-incidentally, Google’s rumored fleet of LEO Comsats would weigh about the same as their new Skybox imaging satellites, or about 250 pounds (113 Kilograms).

Supposedly, the LEO comsats would operate in circular orbits of 800 and 950 kilometers inclined 88.2 degrees relative to the equator. Google may try for a regulatory deadlines of between late 2019 and mid-2020 to enter service by the ITU, using the Ku band (12/14 GHz).

In other news, the third MUOS secure military communications satellite has been delivered to Florida by Lockheed Martin and the U.S. Navy for launch next year. MUOS, or Mobile User Objective System, spacecraft, is a geosynchronous platform that can send and receive secure voice and data communications directly to handsets.

MUOS-1 and MUOS-2 were launched respectively launched in 2012 and 2013. The MUOS Constellation will consist of Four Satellites in Geosynchronous Orbit with one on-orbit spare. A total of 16 communication beams can be provided by each satellite. MUOS will replace the legacy UHF Follow-On and operates primarily in the 300 MHz band which penetrates foliage well.

MUOS utilizes 3G (WCDMA) cell phone technology which was a pretty big deal back in 2002. Data rates of up to 384kbps will be available for mobile users. Today’s drones, however, now depend on commercial broadband satellites for most of their kill missions.

Related DailyWireless Space and Satellite News includes; Google Buys Skybox Imaging for $500 Million, Fleet of LEO Comsats for Google?, Satellite Swarms Revolutionize Earth Imaging, Google Buying Drone Company Titan, Facebook Announces Connectivity Lab, Amazon & Globalstar Test Wireless Service, GlobalStar Promotes “Licensed” WiFi in 2.4 GHz band, OuterNet: CubeSat Datacasting?, Planet Labs’ Photo CubeSats Released,SpaceX: Geosynchronous Launch, Antarctic Expeditions Go Live, ExactEarth Launches 5th AIS Satellite, ViaSat-1 Launched

Carriers Track Users with “Supercookies”

Verizon and AT&T, the largest wireless carriers in the US, are using “supercookies” to track users, but they could be a boon to advertisers, hackers, says C/Net.

Cookies can be used to remember the information about the user who has visited a website in order to show relevant content in the future. Many websites use cookies for personalization based on users’ preferences. They’re commonly used on desktop browsers, but mobile phones and tablets generally have not used them.

“You’re making it very difficult for people who want privacy to find it on the Internet,” Paul Ohm, a senior policy adviser to the Federal Trade Commission and associate professor at the Colorado Law School, told The Washington Post, which reported the tracking programs last week.

Verizon’s solution is called the PrecisionID. When consumers visit certain websites or mobile apps, a request is sent through a Verizon network. Precision ID packages the request, as a hashed, aggregated and anonymous unique identifier, then turns it into a lucrative chunk of data for advertisers.

According to eMarketer, U.S. adults now spend nearly 24% of their media consumption time with smartphones and tablets, but marketers only spend an average of around 10% of their ad budgets targeting those devices.

Marketers say that’s largely because of technical limitations related to targeting and measuring ads on phones and tablets using “cookies.” The problem is, cookies don’t work well on smartphones and tablets, and that makes it difficult for marketers to understand who their ads are reaching, and the effect they’re having on consumers.

Facebook, the No. 2 digital advertising platform in the world, analysis the data on its 1.3 billion users to sell individually targeted ads. Facebook’s rebuilt ad platform called Atlas (product tour) will allow marketers to tap its detailed knowledge of its users to direct ads to those people on thousands of other websites and mobile apps, while online ad giant Google is evaluating non-desktop alternatives to cookies as well.

The potential legal issues, experts say, stem in part from the Communications Act, which prohibits carriers from revealing identifying information about their customers or helping others to do so. That is at the heart of complaints by the EFF, which is contemplating a lawsuit or other action to stop Verizon, said one of the group’s lawyers, Nate Cardozo.

Obama Urges Strong Net Neutrality Rules

President Obama today urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to take up the strongest possible rules to protect net neutrality. It represented a rare step by the White House into the policy-setting of an independent agency, reported Reuters.

“An open Internet is essential to the American economy, and increasingly to our very way of life,” said President Obama at the White House today, strongly supporting the concept of “net neutrality“.

Obama is calling for the FCC to enact four rules:

  • A “no blocking” rule where ISPs can’t block lawful Internet traffic.
  • A “no throttling” rule banning the intentional slow down some content.
  • Increased transparency around how ISPs connect to consumers that would potentially address interconnection deals like the ones between Netflix, Verizon, AT&T and Comcast.
  • A “no paid prioritization” rule, where no service would be stuck in a ‘slow lane’ because it does not pay a fee.

“By lowering the cost of launching a new idea, igniting new political movements, and bringing communities closer together, it has been one of the most significant democratizing influences the world has ever known.That is why today, I am asking the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to answer the call of almost 4 million public comments, and implement the strongest possible rules to protect net neutrality,” said President Obama.

Net neutrality” has been built into the fabric of the Internet since its creation — but it is also a principle that we cannot take for granted. We cannot allow Internet service providers (ISPs) to restrict the best access or to pick winners and losers in the online marketplace for services and ideas.

The FCC on May 15 launched a rulemaking seeking public comment on how best to protect and promote an open Internet. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is designed to ensure robust, fast and equal Internet access to providers and users.

At the crux of the debate over Net neutrality is Title II of the Telecommunications Act, explains C/Net. The section, which is more than 100 pages long, regulates how common carriers must conduct business across all forms of communication in order to act “in the public interest.” Net neutrality supporters say that the language is vague and could be used to sidestep a free and open Internet.

In a press release, Chairman Wheeler today said the President’s statement is an important and welcome addition to the record of the Open Internet proceeding.

“Like the President, I believe that the Internet must remain an open platform for free expression, innovation, and economic growth. We both oppose Internet fast lanes. The Internet must not advantage some to the detriment of others. We cannot allow broadband networks to cut special deals to prioritize Internet traffic and harm consumers, competition and innovation.”

“…Keeping the Internet open includes both the Section 706 option and the Title II reclassification. Recently, the Commission staff began exploring “hybrid” approaches, proposed by some members of Congress and leading advocates of net neutrality, which would combine the use of both Title II and Section 706. The more deeply we examined the issues around the various legal options, the more it has become plain that there is more work to do.”

Public internet groups have vigorously opposed Wheeler’s proposal, which prohibited Internet service providers from blocking any content, but allowed deals where content providers would pay ISPs to ensure smooth delivery of traffic, reports Reuters.

Reaction was mixed, with netneutrality supporters largely supporting Obama’s stance and carriers opposed.

  • The Electronic Freedom Foundation said the White House Gets It Right On Net Neutrality.
  • The Internet Association — whose members include Facebook, Netflix, Amazon and others — had previously remained largely mum, said it was in full support of the president’s plan.
  • AT&T’s statement today said, “Today’s announcement by the White House, if acted upon by the FCC, would be a mistake that will do tremendous harm to the Internet and to U.S. national interests.
  • Verizon’s statement said, “Reclassification under Title II, which for the first time would apply 1930s-era utility regulation to the Internet, would be a radical reversal of course that would in and of itself threaten great harm to an open Internet, competition and innovation.”
  • The CTIA and its members said, “…applying last century’s public utility regulation to the dynamic mobile broadband ecosystem puts at risk the investment and innovation which characterizes America’s world-leading $196 billion wireless industry.
  • Comcast’s statement by VP David Cohen said, “To attempt to impose a full-blown Title II regime now, when the classification of cable broadband has always been as an information service, would reverse nearly a decade of precedent, including findings by the Supreme Court that this classification was proper. This would be a radical reversal that would harm investment and innovation, as today’s immediate stock market reaction demonstrates.”

We’re going to get sued,” says a senior FCC official to the Washington Post. “But we want to be on firm legal footing. The litigators in the agency want to be sure to do everything to minimize the legal risk.”

The Verge has gathered additional reactions and TechMeme has more links.

AT&T & Verizon Work Toward VoLTE Interoperability

Verizon and AT&T are working to enable Voice over LTE interoperability, reports Fierce Wireless. The two carriers said they are going to enable VoLTE-to-VoLTE connections in 2015. Voice over LTE (VoLTE) was devised to standardise a method for transferring voice over LTE data networks.

According to a Verizon blog post, engineers from both companies will start with lab testing and then move to field trials next year. Verizon said customers will have a seamless experience making VoLTE HD Voice calls between the two networks as well as other Rich Communications Services (RCS) such as video calls, rich messaging and more.

T-Mobile, meanwhile, has VoLTE available in more than a dozen cities (with the proper phone), and has been testing interoperability, with interop agreements with VerizonWireless and Sprint since May, notes John Legere.

AT&T introduced VoLTE services in its initial markets earlier this year, and will continue to expand to more devices and more markets across the United States. “Interoperability of VoLTE between wireless carriers is crucial to a positive customer experience,” said Krish Prabhu, president, AT&T Labs and Chief Technology Officer, AT&T.

Currently, to experience Verizon’s VoLTE service both parties on a call need to be using a VoLTE-enabled Verizon smartphone. AT&T’s VoLTE-enabled HD Voice service lets customers only make HD Voice calls with other AT&T customers using AT&T HD Voice-capable devices within AT&T HD Voice coverage areas.

An additional requirement for VoLTE enabled networks is to have a means to handing back to circuit switched legacy networks in a seamless manner, while only having one transmitting radio in the handset to preserve battery life. A system known as Single Radio Voice Call Continuity (SRVCC) is required for this. Handover from LTE to the legacy network is required when the user moves out of the LTE coverage area.

The benefit to wireless operators is more-efficient use of their network resources, explains C/Net’s Maggie Reardon. VoLTE benefits for consumers include faster call setup times (twice as fast as a non-VoLTE call setup), LTE data speeds while you are on a call, and HD Voice service with greater call quality.

70 Companies Qualified for AWS-3 Auction

The FCC has qualified 70 companies (pdf) to bid on AWS-3 spectrum (pdf). The auction starts Nov. 13 and will be the country’s largest spectrum auction since the $19 billion 700 MHz auction in 2008. That auction was before Apple’s iPhone became a huge hit and the extraordinary growth of data-hungry smartphones. The FCC has set a total reserve price of $10.587 billion for the AWS-3 auction.

The AWS-3 auction is not as straightforward as previous auctions because two chunks of spectrum are currently used by federal agencies, including the Department of Defense. In most cases, federal spectrum users will have to exit the 1695-1710 MHz and 1755-1780 MHz bands or geographically share them with commercial users.

The Report and Order sets flexible-use regulatory, licensing, and technical rules for 65 megahertz of spectrum in the AWS-3 band, which includes the 1695-1710 MHz, 1755-1780 MHz, and 2155-2180 MHz bands.

The FCC adopted rules to allocate and license the 1695-1710 MHz band for uplink/mobile operations on an unpaired shared basis with incumbent Federal meteorological-satellite (MetSat) data users.

The other 40 MHz block is more traditional. They will assign AWS-3 licenses by competitive bidding, offering 5 megahertz and 10 megahertz blocks that can be aggregated using Economic Areas (EAs). The FCC’s decision to license only one paired 5×5 MHz block in smaller Cellular Market Areas (CMAs) was disappointing for most competitive carriers. The FCC also left it up to carriers to voluntarily have AWS-3 be interoperable with AWS-4 (MSS) spectrum, which Dish Network controls.

The Order will make 40 megahertz (of the total 65 megahertz) of the AWS-3 spectrum available for commercial use. The 15 MHz chunk will be available on a shared basis with federal incumbents. The 1695-1710 MHz band will be unpaired spectrum used for low-power uplink operations. The 1755-1780 MHz band will be licensed for low-power uplink operations and will be paired with the 2155-2180 MHz band, which is unencumbered by federal users, for downlink operations.

Verizon Wireless and AT&T will likely be major bidders of AWS-3 spectrum, but the two dominate carriers did not get their wish to have two chunks of 10Mhz X 2. Instead, the auction will include three 5×5 megahertz options, and just a single 10×10 megahertz license covering the country, notes RCR Wireless. Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile US as well as Dish Network are qualified to bid, along with dozens of smaller carriers, investment firms and private entities. Sprint said in September that it will sit out the AWS-3 auction.

Steve Berry, president of the Competitive Carriers Association was not impressed. “The use of the larger Economic Areas (EAs) will likely curtail participation among smaller carriers, who have neither the resources nor the scale to bid on license areas of that size.”

Congress has mandated the AWS-3 spectrum be auctioned by February 2015.

The FCC also chose to require that AWS-3 spectrum be interoperable with AWS-1 spectrum, which many carriers already use for LTE services. AWS-1 runs from 1710-1755 MHz and 2110-2155 MHz, notes Fierce Wireless, but left it up to carriers to voluntarily have AWS-3 be interoperable with AWS-4 (MSS) spectrum, which Dish Network controls. That will likely mean phone sold by the big carriers will shut out Dish.

Dish controls more than 50 MHz of spectrum, including 40 MHz in the AWS-4 band and 10 MHz of the 1900 MHz PCS H Block, part of which is adjacent to AWS-4. It also owns a large block of unpaired 700MHz “E-Block”, which was originally planned for MediaFLO broadcast-type service. That 700 MHz spectrum (adjacent to the “A block” downlink), would now likely be used for LTE – potentially causing less interference to “A block” licensees.

The FCC also recently announced they will delay the start of the 600 MHz broadcast TV auction from mid-2015 to early 2016, due to broadcasters’ court action. The 600 MHz auction will be the big one, with lots of valuable spectrum likely to be available between TV channels 52-69. Unlike cellular carriers, broadcasters do not pay the government for use of spectrum. That’s because they’re still considered a “public service” by the federal government even though only 5-10% of the population still depend on over the air broadcast television. Broadcasters would get paid off to move off (our) public airwaves in the 600 MHz band.

If fully realized, the 600 MHz auction could bring in $45 billion. From that sum, the FCC will deduct $7 billion: $250 million to run the auction; $1.75 billion to reimburse broadcasters for expenses during the repacking of spectrum assignments; $5 billion to establish the “FirstNet” high-speed public safety network for first responders.

The FCC established an outlay of up to $38 billion to broadcasters, based on the recovery of 126 MHz of spectrum and AT&T’s pledge to spend $9 billion in the auction if its acquisition of DirecTV is approved. If, as some observers expect, only two- thirds of that goal (about 84 MHz of airwaves) is relinquished, the pay-out would be about $26 billion at top valuations. A portion of the reclaimed airwaves will not be sold to wireless carriers; about 26 MHz will be retained for use as guard bands and buffers between broadcast and wireless services sharing the bands. Those may be used for unlicensed White Space data transmission.

The AWS 3 auction could reveal disruption in the comfortable 4 carrier status quo in the United States. Dish Network is “cautiously optimistic” that its fixed-mobile broadband trials, currently running with Sprint and nTelos, will turn into a “real business.” For example, Google and Dish could acquire AWS-3 (for roaming compatibility) and launch a 5th nationwide wireless service. Perhaps Google Wireless could deliver cable-like services with enough spectrum.

Related Dailywireless articles include; FCC Sets AWS-3 Auction Rules, AWS-3 Auction Rules: Who Benefits?, Dish Wins Everything in H-Block PCS Auction, Verizon Activates AWS Band , DOJ Sets Conditions for Verizon AWS, Verizon Getting AWS Spectrum Says WSJ, T-Mobile Okayed to Test Spectrum Sharing, Verizon’s Spectrum Deal: Tough Nut, AT&T Buys 2.3 GHz from NextWave, AT&T Wants 2.3 GHz for LTE, FCC to Okay Verizon/Cable Spectrum Buy, 700MHz: Money Talks