FCC Launches Rulemaking That Could Boost Spectrum, Broadband Competition

BY Phillip Berenbroick
March 21, 2012

CCIA applauds the FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on service, technical, assignment, and licensing rules for flexible terrestrial use of spectrum currently assigned to the Mobile Satellite Service (MSS) in the 2 GHz band.  CCIA strongly urges the Commission to expedite its rulemaking process so that licensees in the 2 GHz band can move quickly to deploy their planned mobile broadband networks.

As noted last week in Politico, the Commission has fallen behind in its efforts to meet the goals set out in the National Broadband Plan – making 500 MHz of spectrum available for mobile broadband use over the next decade.  90 MHz of the targeted 500 MHz was to be spectrum currently allocated for mobile satellite services that could be made available for terrestrial deployment.

Unfortunately, up to this point the Commission has failed to seize the low hanging fruit of spectrum that is readily available for mobile broadband use.

Last year, DISH Network requested a routine wavier of FCC rules so it could begin preparations to deploy its planned mobile broadband network.  DISH’s plan would have utilized 40 MHz of MSS spectrum for providing mobile broadband services.

Instead of granting DISH’s request and expediting this 40 MHz of spectrum for mobile broadband use, the FCC denied the waiver and decided to handle the matter through a rulemaking process.  Today the FCC released its NPRM on this matter; unfortunately, rulemakings can take years to complete.  As noted above, CCIA requests the Commission expedite the MSS rulemaking process.

LightSquared, as has been well documented, has run into even more egregious delays in its dealings with government agencies in its long-running effort to deploy a nationwide, 4G LTE mobile broadband network.  LightSquared’s planned network would use 20 MHz of MSS spectrum.

Most recently, NTIA relied on a flawed testing process, skewed in favor of other licensees, to report to the FCC that interference issues caused by GPS receivers “listening in” on LightSquared’s licensed spectrum could not be remedied.  In response, the FCC abdicated its responsibility to work with LightSquared by proposing actions that would make it impossible for LightSquared to deploy its network in the foreseeable future.

CCIA believes the FCC and other Federal agencies must work with the private sector, and companies like DISH and LightSquared, to utilize valuable and scarce spectrum resources to deliver mobile broadband services.  Rather than retreating at roadblocks, the FCC should help find innovative solutions to enable companies that hold spectrum licenses deploy their planned mobile broadband networks.

The Commission should expedite the MSS rulemaking proceeding to enable DISH to bring its network online as soon as possible.  Further, as CCIA wrote last week in its Comments to the FCC, the Commission should work with LightSquared to resolve any remaining interference issues and allow LightSquared to deploy its nationwide network.

By moving quickly to ensure additional spectrum is put to use for mobile broadband, the Commission will move toward meeting the goals of the National Broadband Plan, increase competition in the mobile broadband market from providers such as DISH and LightSquared’s wholesale network (with its 30+ partners and customers), and help close the digital divide.

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