FCC Floats 600 MHz Auction Rules

Posted by Sam Churchill on

The FCC may reserve up to a third of licenses sold in a TV airwaves auction next year for smaller wireless carriers – if a minimum revenue threshold is met – according to Re/Code. Companies that hold at least one-third of the low-band spectrum in that market wouldn’t be allowed to bid on the 30 MHz of spectrum that has been set aside in restricted bands.

The 600 MHz plan allows all wireless carriers to bid for airwaves in the remaining part of the spectrum (in unrestricted bands), estimated to be about 40-60 Mhz, in an effort to drive up revenues from the sale.

According to Re/Code, the licenses would be mostly paired in 5 megahertz blocks. If bidding reaches a to-be-determined threshold price, the agency would set aside up to 30 percent of the licenses for companies that don’t currently hold a lot of nearby airwaves. Winners couldn’t immediately flip their licenses and sell them to the larger wireless carriers, sources said.

Comprehensive LTE coverage is far cheaper at 600-800 MHz because only 1/5th to 1/10th the towers are required. Sub 1 GHz spectrum is largely how and why the duopoly became a duopoly.

Verizon and AT&T currently own about 80 percent of low-band spectrum in the 700 and 800 MHz bands. Sprint and T-Mobile have virtually none. Apparently – if price minimums are met – the duopoly will be capped at 70% of the 600 MHz band.

Smaller carriers might argue that a 50% cap on the duopoly would be fair, and encourage competition. But Sprint owns so much 2.6 GHz, perhaps the two largest carriers would have had a legitimate case of unfair discrimination.

AT&T, in Wednesday’s filing, expressed concerns that, in some markets, the plan to restrict up to 30 MHz could leave only one bidder with an opportunity to get a block of airwaves large enough to deploy LTE technology, reports Reuters.

“If the restrictions as proposed are adopted, AT&T will need to seriously consider whether its capital and resources are directed toward other spectrum opportunities that will better enable AT&T to continue to support high-quality LTE network deployments to serve its customers,” AT&T Vice President Joan Marsh said in an FCC filing (pdf).

AT&T says in all band plans less than 70 MHz, restricted bidders — particularly AT&T and Verizon which currently own most of the 800 and 700 MHz band — would be limited to bidding for only 3 blocks. AT&T says at most only one restricted carrier could emerge from the auction with a 10×10 MHz allocation. And it wouldn’t be economical.

But the FCC is expecting 85MHz of spectrum to be available, not 70 MHz. Sprint uses 5×5 Mhz for LTE on PCS and aggregates it with other LTE spectrum. AT&T must not have heard about carrier aggregation.

The proposal is said to represent an effort by Wheeler’s aides to meet two broad, conflicting goals of the auction: Raise as much money as possible (by selling licenses to wireless giants AT&T and Verizon) while increasing competition (by selling licenses to smaller carriers).

The FCC could vote on the plan and release details to the public as soon as mid-May, although some details may change in the coming weeks.

According to four people briefed on the plan, the agency would create two separate classes of licenses for sale in the TV airwaves auction next year, restricted and unrestricted. Restricted licenses would affect carriers like AT&T and Verizon which currently control almost all the sub 1 GHz spectrum.

Currently, the agency thinks it will have about 85 megahertz of airwaves from broadcasters in urban areas to auction off, sources said. There could be more licenses available in rural areas.

Under Wheeler’s plan, airwaves held by Sprint and Dish Network that were previously excluded from the “spectrum screen” would now be factored into the calculation. The new limits apparently wouldn’t be used to hinder carriers from acquiring spectrum in the TV airwaves auction next year, but would apply in the future.

The new spectrum calculation would make it easier for AT&T and Verizon to add to their spectrum holdings but could hinder Sprint, which controls a significant amount of 2.6 GHz airwaves that aren’t as valuable as their competitors.

In February, Sprint proposed the FCC adopt a “weighted wireless broadband spectrum screen” that would accord competitive advantages to spectrum under 1 GHz. It’s aimed at the duopoly which now dominates 700MHz and 800MHz spectrum ownership.

According to a study commissioned by T-Mobile, covering Arizona with 700 MHz LTE would cost $19 million, but it would cost $58 million to cover the same area with 1900 MHz. Only one-tenth the number of towers are required to provide coverage at 600 MHz compared to 2.6 GHz. That’s why 700 MHz can cost $1 Mhz/pop vs $.10 Mhz/pop for 2.6 GHz.

All in all, you could argue the 600 MHz rules are a win for big carriers. In an alternative world, perhaps one third of that spectrum could have been set aside for unlicensed use, maybe in unpaired 5 MHz chunks, with a 10 MHz chunk available for municipalities to use as they will. But somebody’s got to pay for SafeNet, the nationalized first responder network.

Too bad half the money will go to pay off television group owners — who have never paid one dime to use the public airwaves and have never “owned” that spectrum.

Currently both AT&T and Verizon control 20 MHz each on the 700 MHz band, while T-Mobile and Sprint have none. AT&T probably needs 600 MHz spectrum more than Verizon (which has AWS).

The FCC’s 700 MHz auction, auction 73 in 2008, raised $19.6 billion for the U.S. Treasury with AT&T Wireless and Verizon Wireless accounting for the bulk ($16 billion).

The winning bids for the A, B, C, and E Block licenses exceeded their reserve prices with AT&T and Verizon paying an average $1.51 per MHz/POP. Next years auction should see prices considerably higher since the 2008 auction was mostly pre-smartphone era.

The term “MHz-pops” is a standard evaluation of spectrum derived from multiplying the number of megahertz associated with a license by the population of the license’s service area.

The overall $/MHz-Pop for the 700 MHz auction was $1.22
– ($19 billion / 52MHz x 300 million population)
– Average per MHz for nationwide coverage = $365 million
– Average per 6 MHz for nationwide coverage = $2.2 billion

Using the figures (above) if 85 MHz were auctioned off nationwide, it presumably could generate $30-$50 billion.

The 600 MHz auction should be interesting. Especially if Google, Facebook, Amazon and Dish Networks are added to the mix. Perhaps 2.6Ghz/5GHz small cells combined with 600MHz will enable new business models.

Enabling competition to Comcast and the wireless duopoly would be a good thing.

Related Dailywireless articles include; 700MHz: Money Talks, 700MHz: It’s Done!, Dish: Lower 700MHz Power Ups Speculation, AT&T and Verizon: No 700 MHz Interoperability For You!, AT&T Competitors: No 700MHz Roaming, FCC Announces H Block Auction, Dish Won’t Bid on H Block Spectrum, AT&T Buying Leap Wireless (Cricket), FCC Limits Dish on LTE Terrestrial Spectrum, Dish: On the Move, Dish and Sprint Battle over PCS band Extension, FCC Approves 2.3 GHz for AT&T, AT&T Likely to Get 2.3 GHz, Sprint’s Dish Compromise, Nexus 4 Deals for Voice/Data, MetroPCS Merges with T-Mobile USA, The Duopoly’s Worst Nightmare, Arctic Technology, Wheeler Advocates for Spectrum Caps at 600MHz , 600 MHz Auction Speculation,

Google Buying Drone Company Titan

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Google is buying drone maker Titan Aerospace, a startup maker of high-altitude drones, reports the WS Journal. Google didn’t disclose a purchase price for Titan, of Moriarty, N.M., whose solar-powered drones are intended to fly for months at a time.

Facebook was also reportedly looking to buy Titan Aerospace, and was rumored to offer $60 million to buy Titan, but ultimately bought Ascenta, for $20 million. Ascenta is a U.K.-based aerospace company that also is developing solar-powered unmanned aerial vehicles.

Titan’s Solara 60 can carry a payload of 250 lbs while the Solara 50 maxes out at 85 kilograms (187 lbs). As a broadband relay, it could provide coverage over about 17,000 square kilometers, an area equivalent to the reach of more than 100 cellular towers. Titan says it aims to sell the Solara for around US $1 million and already has customers lined up to buy the first three in early 2014. The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) has sent a letter to the FAA encouraging the agency to allow limited unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) operations.

As a communications relay, the Solara offers about an 18-mile radius of coverage easily covering all of New York City’s five boroughs, as shown in the map above. Of course 10 million people can’t simultaneously access one cell tower 12 miles away.

Facebook’s Yael Maguire explained some of its plans for low earth orbit satellite and solar powered drones. Facebook estimates that some 5 billion people — or two-thirds of the world — are without Internet access, and it wants to change that. said it is working with Ascenta, in the UK that specializes in high-altitude long-endurance aircraft.

Both Ascenta and Titan Aerospace are in the business of high altitude drones, which cruise nearer the edge of the earth’s atmosphere at 65,000 feet (12 miles).

Google recently demonstrated how its Loon prototype balloons could traverse the globe. Drones could provide connectivity and imagery with a higher degree of control. Google also bought Boston Dynamics and seven other robotics companies under Andy Rubin.

Outernet hopes to use datacasting technology over a low-cost CubeSat constellation. The startup says it will be able to bypass censorship, ensure privacy, and offer a universally-accessible information service at no cost to global citizens. Outernet’s motto is “Information for the world from outer space.” The startup says the entire constellation utilizes globally-accepted, standards-based protocols, such as DVB-S2, Digital Radio Mondiale, and UDP-based WiFi multicasting.

Planet Labs’ mini photo satellites were released from the International Space Station in December, 2013.

Planet Labs wants to create – essentially – a live view version of Google Earth. Four satellites were launched February 2013 in what is expected to become a steady stream of miniature satellites ejected from the ISS.

Located at 78 degrees north latitude, SvalSat is the world’s only established commercial station capable of downlinking on every satellite orbit. The Svalbard facility offers a high speed backhaul link via redundant fiber optic cables to transmit all data to exactEarth’s data center in Canada.

Satellite Backhaul of 3G and LTE is the way to go according to

SES announced today that they have signed a capacity and ground satellite deal to provide SES’s NSS-9 satellite to provide connectivity to the Italian research station located at Terra Nova Bay, Antarctica. SPIE has a collection of Remote Sensing articles.

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 the NRO and will become obsolete if UAVs can deliver the goods faster, cheaper and better.

Related DailyWireless Space and Satellite News includes; Facebook Announces Connectivity Lab , OuterNet: CubeSat Datacasting?, Satellite Swarms Revolutionize Earth Imaging , Planet Labs’ Photo CubeSats Released, Arctic Technology, Sea Launch: 15 Years Later, Facebook Buying Drone Company, Inside Google’s Loon Project, Project Loon Field Trip Hangout, First Four O3B Satellites Launched, Google Backhaul: Balloons & Satellites, Kymeta’s Flat Beamforming Antenna Links to Satellite, Blimp In A Box, ExactEarth Launches 5th AIS Satellite, Dish: Lower 700MHz Power Ups Speculation, Earth to Space Optical Communications – Again, O3B: Funded for Launch, Arianespace: Busy 2013, Gilat Does Satellite Cell Backhaul, SkyTerra 1 Launched, Broadband Satellites: Black Hole?, LightSquared: Phase 1, Intelsat Announces EpicNG Satellite Platform , Satellite 2012, Formation Flying Swarmbots, Flying Cell Towers, Range Networks: Open Source Cellular Networks

exactEarth Gets Partner for Space-based AIS

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exactEarth has agreed to jointly develop with Software Radio Technology an AIS transceiver for global tracking from space.

A new technology called ABSEA which, when embedded within standard low powered AIS transceivers, enables AIS transmissions to be received by exactEarth satellites. It enables extended tracking of small vessels. Their first nanosatellite was launched in April, 2008, to validate COM DEV’s space-based AIS technology.

High powered Class A type transceivers are able to be tracked globally by the existing exactEarth AIS satellite network, but transmissions from standard Class B and Identifier type devices cannot currently be reliably tracked from space.

The Automatic Identification System is a VHF technology primarily designed for vessel tracking with a range typically limited to approximately 50 nautical miles.

“AIS is currently deployed on more than 80,000 vessels globally, however AIS base station receivers are mostly based on land and can only track ships moving up to 50 nautical miles off the coast

Their first nanosatellite was launched in April, 2008, to validate COM DEV’s space-based AIS technology. ExactEarth AIS satellites pass over Norway’s Svalbard Earth Station every 90 to 100 minutes.

Under the terms of the agreement SRT and exactEarth jointly own the ABSEA technology and will co-operate to commercialise the tracking data. SRT will receive a share of the revenues generated from data sales. The first ABSEA enabled products are expected to be deployed later this year.

Meanwhile, ORBCOMM’s Next Generation – OG2 satellite will all featire Automatic Identification System on-board. They are launching 18 OG2 satellites on a SpaceX Falcon 9 in 2014. Sierra Nevada Corporation is building the 18 OG2 satellites, with an option to purchase up to 30 additional satellites to augment and upgrade Orbcomm’s existing constellation.

Orbcomm’s 27 current-generation satellites operate for the most part in an 825-kilometer orbit inclined 45 degrees relative to the equator. The second generation will be placed into a 52 degree inclination, an orbit that gives better coverage of northern latitudes to enhance Orbcomm’s AIS maritime coverage.

The current Iridium satellite constellation consists of 66 active satellites and additional spares. Each satellite can have four inter-satellite links: two to neighbors fore and aft in the same orbital plane, and two to satellites in neighboring planes to either side.

Iridium NEXT, their second-generation platform, is expected to launch beginning in 2015. It will also consist of 66 satellites, with six in-orbit and nine on-ground spares. It will host payloads. Space is now fully allocated to two entities, Aireon for its space-based aircraft surveillance application and Harris Corporation for additional auxiliary payloads.

Aireon will use the Iridium NEXT hosted payload space to develop the world’s first space-based global aviation monitoring system.

ADS-B will be replacing radar as the primary surveillance method for controlling aircraft worldwide. Enabled by Harris’ 81 space-qualified ADS-B receivers, the system relies on two avionics components—a GPS navigation source and a datalink (ADS-B unit). This allows controllers to guide aircraft into and out of crowded airspace with smaller separation standards than it was previously possible.

Here’s the real-time vessel traffic world-wide posted on, a mashup which was developed and hosted by the University of the Aegean in Greece.

Related DailyWireless stories include; ExactEarth Launches 5th AIS Satellite, ExactEarth Launches AIS Satellite, Arctic Technology, Orbcomm: World’s Largest Container Tracker, Space-Based Vessel Tracking, AIS Space Race, Orbcomm’s Space-based AIS Fails, Hackerspace Satellite, Shipboard AIS Fused with Radar, Small Satellite Conference Celebrates 25 Years

Petition to Open 10 GHz in USA for Wireless Backhaul

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Qualcomm and other companies are urging the FCC to open the 10.5 GHz band for wireless communications. Using Authorized Shared Access technology would allow the spectrum to be shared with licensed mobile operations when and where incumbents are not operating, says Qualcomm.

The FCC has invited public comment on the Petition for Rule Making (RM-11715) that would make a significant portion of the 10.0 to 10.5 GHz band available for wireless broadband services.

Authorized Shared Access technology has already been slated for the 3.5 GHz band, and Qualcomm said it “can similarly allow the 10.0 to 10.5 GHz band to be integrated into mobile networks and provide a predictable quality of service when and where incumbent users are not operating.

Qualcomm’s filing with the FCC builds on a petition for rulemaking filed by Mimosa Network pointing out that the 10 GHz – 10.5 GHz band, which is currently allocated for radio location and amateur radio use, could be used for mobile broadband applications.

“Opening access to the 10 GHz band using ASA and small cells should be given serious consideration because it can enhance and expand mobile broadband network capacity,” Qualcomm noted.

In the 70s, Xerox once wanted to become a player in telecom and got the FCC to allocate 10 GHz band for a PtMP wireless service it called X-Ten (Xerox Telecommunications Network). The plan was to bypass local telephone company wires and offer document interchange service to businesses. This was before email, and the documents would be scanned in as faxes for transmission. It later abandoned the whole thing.

CED columnist Jeffrey Krauss reviews the early history of “Digital Electronic Message Service” (DEMS), above 10 GHz. The FCC allocated more spectrum for DEMS at 18 and 24 GHz for wireless backhaul.

Mimosa’s proposed power limit of 55 dBW EIRP is very high, particularly for point-to-multipoint operations.

The Equivalent isotropically radiated power (EIRP) = Tx Output Power (dBW/dBm) + Antenna Gain (dBi) – Line Loss. So (30 dBm or 1 W of power) + 23 dBi of antenna gain = 53 dB (200 Watts). Give or take. Fixed point-to-point U-NII devices operating in the 5.725 to 5.825 GHz band may employ directional antennas with a gain up to 23 dBi, without any corresponding reduction in the transmitter peak output power.

Point to Multipoint antennas in the 5.8 GHz band are far more restricted in power. There is a 4-watt (36dbm) upper EIRP limit for a PtMP link. That’s equivalent to a 1-watt radio and a 6-dBi gain antenna.

Currently, Ubiquiti’s AirFiber has set the standard in 24 GHz at $3K for 700 Mbps while SAF, Trango, and others have announced similar products at $5000 or less.

Ubiquiti offers airMAX systems for the 900MHz, 2.4GHz, 3GHz, 5GHz, 6GHz and 10GHz bands, but their 10 GHz gear is not available (or legal) in the United States. If the 10.0-10.5 GHz band is allowed higher power, under the UNI-II upper rules, possibly with contention, then WISPS will have a new competitive tool, says Rory Conaway at MuniWireless.

NASA Opens Software Portal

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NASA writes a lot of software, and now NASA wants to share more than 1,000 applications available for free to the public.

Available on NASA’s Technology Transfer Portal, the software is organized into 15 categories that encompass applications such as project management, design tools, data handling, and image processing.

Software makes up about a third of reported NASA inventions each year, and by publishing a software catalogue the agency hopes to increase the ability of others to make use of its software.

The transfer of technology for commercialization and public use, is part of the agency’s Office of the Chief Technologist.

“Traditionally our [apps] were distributed at different offices and labs around the country. So we needed to gather everything in one place,” said Lockney in an interview with InformationWeek Government.

“We’re more excited about the potential of this catalogue because of how valuable it can be. It’s our best solution to the problems we’ve encountered.”

AT&T Brings Gigabit Fiber & WiFi to North Carolina

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AT&T plans to begin building out its 1 Gbit/s broadband service in parts of North Carolina, in the next few week, marking its second deployment of the fiber service, after Austin, Texas. AT&T introduced GigaPower in Austin after Google Fiber announced its intention to enter that market. It’s the same deal with North Carolina, reports the News Observer.

AT&T plans to bring U-verse with GigaPower to six North Carolina cities — Carrboro, Cary, Chapel Hill, Durham, Raleigh, and Winston-Salem. It will work with the North Carolina Next Generation Network (NCNGN), a regional group spearheading network deployments. AT&T says it will begin the build-out as soon as the NCNGN’s six member communities ratify an agreement.

The telco will add public WiFi hotspots, and free AT&T U-Verse at up to 100 public sites, with fiber links to up to 100 local businesses, and free 3 Mbit/s AT&T U-verse broadband for 10 affordable housing complexes.

The AT&T Wi-Fi Basic plan is available free for AT&T Wireless and U-verse customers.

AT&T charges as low as $70 a month for the service in Austin. In Kansas City, the first market that Google Fiber entered, the company is also charging $70 a month for 1 Gbps service.

Google Fiber is targeting 34 municipalities within nine metro areas, including Charlotte, Atlanta, Nashville, San Antonio, San Jose, Salt Lake City, Phoenix and Portland, Ore. Seven communities are in the Research Triangle – Carrboro, Cary, Chapel Hill, Durham, Garner, Morrisville and Raleigh.

Some observers believe the coming WiFi duopoly of Comcast and AT&T will grab the lower 5 GHz band and set prices artificially high (unless you’re a subscriber).

Related Fiber Optic articles on Dailywireless include; Google Fiber Expands to More Cities, Comcast: WiFi in Merger Mix with TWC , Comcast Creates Hotspot 2.0 National Network , Google Fiber Launches in Kansas City , Google Blasts Kansas Bill to Limit Fiber Competition, It’s Official: Austin Gets Google Fiber, Kansas City Wins Google Fiber, Gigabit Seattle: Late Paying Bills, RUS Awards $1.2B for Broadband, City Fiber Strategies, US Broadband Sub Count, Hawaii Plans Broadband Initiative, Unlicensed Muni Broadband: Take Two?, Ten Largest Data Centers, The Fiber Utility, 1 Gbps Fiber Comes Home,