Last week, the FCC released a Public Notice (“PN”), following up on its July Public Notice, concerning the software to be used during the Incentive Auction to determine whether the acceptance of each bid from a broadcaster will result in a feasible, and optimal, repacking process.

Continue Reading SpectrumWatch: FCC Releases Information Related to Repacking Process

Continuing its efforts to license spectrum for mobile broadband uses consistent with the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, the FCC announced that it will auction spectrum licenses to the H Block by January 14, 2014.  The H Block spectrum will be used for flexible-use services, including mobile broadband, and expand the Personal Communications Services (PCS) band.  The FCC sought comment on auction procedures, including auction design, auction structure, and post-auction payments.  Comments were due August 5, 2013 and reply comments are due August 16, 2013.

The licenses for H Block spectrum will be awarded on an Economic Areas basis in all areas, including the Gulf of Mexico.  The Lower H Block and Upper H Block frequencies will be licensed as paired 5 MHz blocks, with each license having a bandwidth of 10 megahertz: 1915-1920 MHz for mobile and low power fixed (uplink) operations, and 1995-2000 MHz for base station and fixed (downlink) operations.  The spectrum will be subject to cost-sharing requirements related to the past clearing and relocation of incumbent users from these bands.

A congressional subcommittee held an oversight hearing Tuesday addressing the Federal Communications Commission’s progress in setting rules for the upcoming incentive auction of television broadcast spectrum for mobile broadband use. On Monday, the FCC released a Public Notice addressing one aspect of those rules, which would govern how TV stations that do not sell their spectrum would be assigned new channels. This process is known as the “repacking” of the broadcast spectrum.

Also Tuesday, a Senate bill that would encourage cable and satellite operators to allow subscribers to purchase channels a la carte picked up its first Democratic co-sponsor, Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. Continue Reading SpectrumWatch: Congress, FCC Consider Options for TV Spectrum Repacking, Cable Pricing

A joint statement released today by AT&T, the National Association of Broadcasters, and Verizon criticized the FCC for seeking comments on new proposals for reorganizing the spectrum currently used by television broadcasters, which the statement said would go against the “growing consensus” of the broadcast and wireless industries. Continue Reading SpectrumWatch: FCC Draws Criticism on Band Plan Proposals

In a Public Notice released yesterday, the Federal Communications Commission asked for comments on several possible plans for reorganizing the spectrum currently used by television broadcasters. Initial comments are due June 14, with reply comments due June 28.

Under a statute passed last year, broadcast television stations will be allowed to voluntarily participate in an auction of their spectrum to mobile broadband providers, after which the FCC will involuntarily repack remaining television stations into a smaller television spectrum band. Continue Reading SpectrumWatch: FCC Considers Alternative Band Plans for Post-Incentive Auction Spectrum

On Tuesday, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) approved the proposed merger of cellular service providers T-Mobile USA and MetroPCS.  In its written opinion and order, the FCC’s Wireless Bureau concluded that the proposed merger would benefit competition in the wireless market by, among other things, providing the combined company with greater spectrum resources for its LTE network.  The Bureau’s action underscores the value that federal policymakers place on maintaining four national carriers―an issue that came to the forefront when regulators rejected the bid of the 2nd-largest carrier, AT&T, to acquire T-Mobile in December 2011.

After reviewing the relevant product and geographic markets, the FCC observed that the merger of T-Mobile and MetroPCS could create limited competitive harms in a few local geographic markets.  However, those harms were outweighed by the public interest benefits likely to accrue from the merger, including “the expansion of the MetroPCS brand into new geographical markets, the development of a more robust, national network, improved quality of service,” and the strengthening of T-Mobile’s “ability to compete in the mobile broadband services market.”  The agency was persuaded that the merger would permit existing MetroPCS customers access to a larger network (and bring the MetroPCS brand to markets in which it does not currently compete).  The merger also would give T-Mobile customers better service quality — particularly in major metropolitan markets, where the combination of the T-Mobile and MetroPCS networks would bolster service in areas where the T-Mobile network was already at capacity.  Continue Reading SpectrumWatch: FCC Approves T-Mobile/MetroPCS Merger, Citing Competitive Benefits

The Federal Communications Commission sought comment, in connection with the incentive auction and repacking process reported in previous posts, on whether to relocate wireless medical telemetry service (“WMTS”) users from the 608-614 MHz spectrum band, known as Channel 37, or allow unlicensed devices to coexist with WMTS on Channel 37.  The proposal elicited comments by a wide range industry players:

The Commission will accept reply comments on this and other issues raised in connection with the incentive auction and repacking proposals until March 12, 2013.

The Federal Communications Commission received over 300 comments from the public regarding its proposals to allow broadcast television stations to voluntarily participate in an auction of their spectrum to mobile broadband providers and to involuntarily repack remaining television stations into a smaller television spectrum band.  Broadcast television station groups, individual stations, mobile broadband providers, wireless microphone operators, proponents of unlicensed spectrum uses, equipment manufacturers, radio astronomers, wireless medical device makers, and a variety of trade associations weighed in on the Commission’s proposals.  There was significant disagreement on a number of the FCC’s proposals — including the extent to which viewers’ existing television services should be preserved in the repacking, the timeframe to complete the repacking, and how to address wireless microphones and unlicensed uses in the spectrum band.  However, at least three key areas of general industry agreement emerged:

Continue Reading SpectrumWatch: 3 Key Areas of Industry Agreement Regarding the FCC’s Spectrum Auction and Repacking Proposals

All five Federal Communications Commission Commissioners will testify on “Keeping the New Broadband Spectrum Law on Track” on Wednesday, December 12, 2012 before the Communications and Technology Subcommittee of the House Energy & Commerce Committee. As they become available, further details will be posted here.

Congress gave the FCC authority to conduct incentive auctions to reallocate and repack spectrum for wireless broadband use and fund a nationwide public safety network in the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012. The FCC recently launched its rulemaking process for implementing the incentive auction and repacking process, as discussed in prior posts.

The Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday approved rules to spur the long-stalled development of the 2.3 GHz Wireless Communications Service band by resolving interference issues between WCS and satellite radio services. The FCC noted that “most of the WCS licenses have gone unused for approximately 15 years,” since the licenses first were auctioned in 1997. 

The new rules largely ratify an agreement announced in June between AT&T and Sirius XM. Among other things, the rules bar mobile and portable transmitters from operating in the 5-megahertz WCS blocks surrounding the satellite radio spectrum, thus “provid[ing] added interference protection to [satellite radio] operations while advancing the Commission’s goal of making mobile broadband services over the WCS spectrum widely available.”  WCS operators also will be required to coordinate with satellite-radio operators to resolve interference issues that arise when WCS signals exceed specified thresholds on roadways. Continue Reading SpectrumWatch: FCC Approves Deal to Spur 4G LTE Deployment in “Long-Troubled” WCS Band