On Thursday FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski gave a speech about the opportunities and challenges for mobile broadband at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business. During this speech, he revealed the FCC's plan to free up more wireless spectrum that carriers like Verizon and AT&T will need to offer more high-speed mobile services. This plan includes serving up 300 MHz by 2015 and 500 MHz by 2020.
"A megahertz, by the way, is a slice of spectrum frequencies," he told the audience. "To put the 300 and 500 MHz numbers in context, consider this: when we released the plan, 500 MHz represented almost a
doubling of the supply of spectrum for broadband."
He pointed out that President Obama adopted these goals in an Executive Order, and declared a goal in making 4G service available to 98-percent of all Americans by 2016. To accomplish this, Genachowski said that the FCC has been using "new and innovative ways" to accelerate the availability of spectrum for broadband – typically it would have taken decades to identify, reallocate and auction spectrum.
"Some have contended that the U.S. has less spectrum available today for broadband, but that's simply not the case," he said. "Looking at the spectrum charts, we are in a small group at the very top tier of countries. Overwhelmingly, countries are playing catch-up with the U.S. We were well ahead of them in auctioning spectrum freed up by the Digital TV transition. The real question is the future - and as long as we hit our 2015 spectrum targets, we'll stay ahead."
He goes on to announce that the FCC is on track in freeing up 300 MHz of spectrum by 2015. For starters, the FCC is getting ready to auction 75 MHz of licensed Advanced Wireless Service spectrum by 2015, and includes an auction of shared rights to the 1755-1780 MHz band – this could be paired with the 2155-2180 MHz band already in inventory to extend the AWS band by 50 MHz. That said, the first AWS-2 H-block auction will take place in 2013.
Revenue from this auction will serve as a down-payment on funding a nationwide Public Safety Network and to reduce the deficit, he said.
Genachowski also said that to reach its 2015 goal, the FCC needs to remove regulatory barriers to flexible spectrum use which includes removing outdated rules and restrictions on 70 MHz of spectrum (40 MHz for satellites, 30 MHz for the Wireless Communications Service). "We're also working with stakeholders to enable use of the portions of the mobile satellite spectrum in the L- and BIG LEO bands for terrestrial service, and this would add to our megahertz total," he said.
Also listed on the FCC's task list is to clear new bands for flexible broadband use, and to enable the use of 100 MHz of spectrum in the 3.5 GHz band while also integrating database "white space" technology to enable sharing between commercial broadband and military radar systems. This "shared" spectrum can be online for commercial use by 2015, but only if government spectrum users are "fully engaged."
"So with 75 MHz from traditional auctions, 70 MHz from removing regulatory barriers, 100 MHz from dynamic sharing, and significant spectrum from incentive auctions, reallocations of government spectrum, and white spaces, we are on track to exceed the 300 MHz target by 2015," he said.
He goes on to talk about the FCC's goal of 500 MHz by 2020, which can be read here (starts on page 6).