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.

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 hope to get paid off (by taxpayers) to move off the public airwaves in the 600 MHz band. A sweet deal for billionaire group owners.

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

Google Fiber Going Wireless?

Google has applied to the FCC for permission to begin wireless spectrum tests in the San Francisco area. According to Reuters, the company’s looking into a rarely-used millimeter wave frequency that is capable of transmitting large amounts of data, but only if the receiving equipment is in the line-of-sight.

Google reportedly may offer a fast wireless service in markets where it offers Google Fiber Internet and TV service. By beaming Internet services directly into homes, Google would open a new path now dominated by Comcast, Verizon and AT&T.

The Google wireless test, beginning Nov. 13, will apparently include three sites in the San Francisco Bay Area, including one in San Mateo county and two locations a half-mile apart which appear to be on Google’s Mountain View, California campus. It will use the 5.8 GHz frequency, the 24.2 GHz frequency and the millimeter wave bands of 71-76 GHz and 81-86 GHz, according to the application.

The FCC’s meeting on Friday discussed the use of wireless spectrum above 24 GHz for mobile services, including ways the agency can facilitate the development and deployment of technology. Their Notice on Inquiry looks at utilizing frequencies above 24 GHz for mobile use and “5G” applications. The FCC also adopted a Report and Order to facilite and clarify the use of public infrastructure for wireless transmitters.

Google bought Alpental Technologies in June, a stealthy Seattle startup led by ex-Clearwire researchers. Apparently Alpental will utilize 60 GHz 802.11ad and mesh networking.

The FCC loosened some rules governing the 60GHz band last year, saying that it could be used to provide wireless connections of up to a mile at speeds up to seven gigabits per second.

A wireless broadband network is cheaper than fiber. Rather than digging up roads and laying cables to each individual home, transmitters on nearby buildings could enable Google to bring Gigabit internet to more places in less time. Craig Barratt, the former Atheros Communications CEO, is now head of the Google Access and Energy division. He signed off as the authorized person submitting Google’s FCC application.

FCC Prepares for AWS-3 and 600 MHz Spectrum Auctions

The FCC claims there are no limitations on bidding eligibility for the upcoming AWS-3 auction, scheduled to start on Nov. 13th. The AWS auction will be the most significant airwaves auction since the 700 MHz auction in 2008. Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile, as well as Dish Network are on the list of bidders released by the FCC. A total of 80 entities submitted initial applications.

There is currently 50 megahertz of spectrum set to be auctioned off for commercial services in those proceedings, which have garnered interest from most commercial operators. The spectrum license will include three 5×5 megahertz options, leaving just a single 10×10 megahertz license covering the country.

The FCC adopted rules to allocate another 15 MHz and license the 1695-1710 MHz band for uplink/mobile operations on an unpaired shared basis with incumbent Federal meteorological-satellite (MetSat) data users.

RCR Wireless News spoke with CCA President and CEO Steve Berry at the Competitive Carrier event in Las Vegas to get his view on how the FCC was handling the auction proceedings.

In July, the FCC and the NTIA issued a 43-page public notice outlining coordination procedures for the AWS-3 bands.

Meanwhile, FCC continues to make progress on crafting rules for the planned 600 MHz incentive auction (pdf), this week rolling out an information package (pdf) targeted at television broadcasters, RCR Wireless News.

The auction is scheduled for mid-year 2015, but several parties, including the National Association of Broadcasters, have challenged the auction in court, which could potentially push back that timetable.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has said the greatest challenge for the planned 600 MHz incentive auction process will be in convincing broadcasters to participate in the “reverse” auction process, noting at a recent speech that the opportunity was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to garner financial compensation for underutilized airwaves.

NAB’s members say they will lose coverage area during the auction’s repacking and reassignment process, or be forced to participate in the auction (and relinquish broadcast spectrum rights),” the NAB lawsuit stated.

Broadcasting & Cable calculated $38 billion would wind up in TV broadcasters pockets after the FCC funded the FirstNet emergency responder network and paid the auction costs as well as the TV stations moving expenses as they relocated to new frequencies.

The auction is estimated to generate as much as $45 billion. Some $19.5 billion was raised in the 2008 auction of 700 MHz spectrum. But the 2008 auction was for nearly half the spectrum and before the smartphone’s huge impact on bandwidth.

Wheeler took to the stage at the recent Competitive Carriers Association and CTIA trade shows to encourage mobile operators to participate in the 600 MHz proceedings, which are currently scheduled to begin in mid-2015.

If everything does goes according to the FCC’s plans, about 100 MHz of airwaves would be freed up for commercial mobile broadband services like LTE. The remaining 26 MHz would become guard bands between broadcasters and uplink and downlink transmissions, but that spectrum would also be made available for white space broadband uses.

Mobile Carriers Object to Increased Net Neutrality Rules

This week speec FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler hinted the agency is considering net neutrality guidelines that would apply to wireless carriers. In its original guidelines, the FCC drew a line between wired and wireless networks, getting wireless operators off the hook due to their limited spectrum.

Wheeler highlighted Microsoft’s letter to the FCC, saying the software giant wrote that we are living in a “mobile first” society in which mobile devices are the primary path to the Internet for many people.

Microsoft is advocating for net neutrality rules for the mobile Internet that will follow the guidelines established in the FCC’s 2010 Open Internet Order. That order prevented Internet service providers from blocking or slowing the delivery of packets on their networks.

Executives from the nation’s top wireless carriers were quick to unanimously rejected arguments that wireless networks should fall under the same net neutrality guidelines as wireline networks, reports Fierce Wireless.

Leonard Cali, senior vice president of global public policy for AT&T, said it would “chill innovation.” Cali made his comments here at the 4G World event, held in conjunction with the CTIA Super Mobility Week trade show. Cali argued that applying stricter net neutrality guidelines onto wireless carriers would cause them to either seek FCC approval for virtually every action, or would cause them to pay fines.

“It’s an incredibly complicated system,” argued Bruce Gottlieb for SoftBank. Gottlieb said that, during the past few years, device and platform companies like Apple, Samsung and Google have gained more control over the mobile user’s experience, although why that would apply was less clear.

Luisa Lancetti, chief counsel of law and policy with T-Mobile US, argued, “The core difference between fixed networks and mobile networks has not changed.”

On Wednesday, during Internet Slowdown Day, more than 10,000 sites participated in the action by placing spinning “loading” symbols on their web pages, according to Fight for the Future, a public advocacy organization.

The spinning symbols were meant to imitate a slow-loading site, a protest criticizing the FCC’s proposal to allow ISPs to charge websites for faster access to home Internet subscribers—a decidedly anti-net neutrality rule.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has proposed rules that would allow ISPs to charge content companies to ensure their websites or applications load smoothly and quickly, as long as such deals are deemed “commercially reasonable.”
The FCC is currently considering a proposal for rules for the Open Internet that would establish that behaviour harmful to consumers or competition by limiting the openness of the Internet will not be permitted. The proposed rules would ensure:

  1. Transparency: That all ISPs must transparently disclose to their subscribers and users all relevant information as to the policies that govern their network
  2. No Blocking: That no legal content may be blocked
  3. No Unreasonable Discrimination: That ISPs may not act in a commercially unreasonable manner to harm the Internet, including favoring the traffic from an affiliated entity.

Wheeler has recently appeared to be warming up to increased net neutrality rules.

Thirty-three companies including Cisco, Intel, Alcatel Lucent, Ericsson, and Nokia’s NSN, joined activists, lawmakers and companies debating how the U.S. government should regulate Internet service providers. Critics, including Netflix and numerous advocacy groups, argue the plan would threaten less deep-pocketed content providers by potentially relegating them to “slow lanes” on the web.

AWS Auction Prevents Current Dish Move for T-Mobile?

Dish Network’s Charlie Ergen is still interested in a deal with T-Mobile, according to a Bloomberg report. Merger talks between T-Mobile and Sprint broke down last month. Iliad in late July made a $15 billion bid for 56.6 percent of T-Mobile, valuing the carrier at $33 per share. Earlier, AT&T wanted to buy T-Mobile for $39 Billion, but was rejected the the DOJ and the FCC.

The report said Ergen has not made a formal offer but said that he would be open to the idea of making one in the next few months. The report said Ergen will wait until after the conclusion of the FCC’s AWS-3 spectrum auction, which starts Nov. 13, before making any concrete moves toward T-Mobile. Anti-collusion rules for the auction kick into effect this month. Both T-Mobile and Dish are expected to participate in the auction.

Ergen has reportedly had on-and-off talks with DT for several years and is seeking to partner with a wireless carrier to host its spectrum, which totals some 55 Mhz, mostly in the 2 GHz band. DT said it is under no pressure to sell T-Mobile.

T-Mobile recently acknowledged that French mobile and Internet company Iliad is still interested in pursuing a deal for T-Mobile. Iliad’s $15 billion bid for 56.6 percent of T-Mobile, valued the carrier at $33 per share. DT rejected that offer and has since indicated $35 per share would be closer to the mark.

Related Dailywireless articles include; French Operator Iliad Bids for T-Mobile US, Dish: 5th Biggest Spectrum Holder, Unlimited Voice Not Data, New Normal, Viva la Free Network!, Sprint and T-Mobile: Joint Bidding on 600MHz?, T-Mobile/Sprint Agreement?

CTIA Wants Faster Cell Siting

CTIA President Meredith Attwell Baker wants the FCC to take further steps to reform the wireless cell siting process to speed up the deployment of network infrastructure, notes Fierce Wireless.

In an op-ed in The Hill, Baker wrote that “a commonsense national approach to further streamline and modernize the wireless siting process is long overdue” and has bipartisan support. She noted that small cells and Distributed Antenna Systems are becoming integral to network topologies and deployments, but that they are still treated like 250-foot cell towers by many municipalities.

The CTIA chief, herself a former FCC commissioner, wants the FCC to “limit the ability of state and local authorities to delay the collocation and replacement of wireless infrastructure that have minimal impact on communities.”

Wireless carriers, tower companies and infrastructure providers have long complained of delays in the permitting and zoning process, including for equipment that is collocated with an already-approved cell site or with replacing equipment on a site that has already been zoned and approved.

Baker also wrote that the FCC should “curtail unnecessary delays at the local level by imposing a 45-day limit on collocation approvals. After all, as Congress recognized, these wireless facilities already have received the necessary zoning approval, so why impose further impediments?”

In terms of DAS and small cells, she wrote that their small size and flexibility “warrant streamlining the environmental and historic review processes–including the adoption of certain exclusions–for deployment of these facilities.”

In order to expand on the anywhere, anytime connectivity, the CTIA claims the industry needs access to more licensed spectrum, towers and antennas.