Powell Addresses Spectrum Policy and Proceedings

October 27, 2004. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Michael Powell gave a speech [5 pages in PDF] titled "The Wireless Broadband Express" on October 26. He spoke about the FCC's spectrum related initiatives at a convention hosted by the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CTIA). Then, on October 27, he gave a speech [5 pages in PDF] in Las Vegas, Nevada titled "WISPs: Bringing the Benefits of Broadband to Rural America".

He advocated "more broadband spectrum", "greater licensing flexibility", allowing "the competitive market to determine the technology standards for mobile broadband", and "pro-competitive and deregulatory policies" in his San Francisco speech. He spoke about the "democratization of communications", "empowerment" and how the FCC's "unlicensed rules have been a hotbed for wireless broadband innovation" in his Las Vegas speech.

Michael Powell"First, we need more broadband spectrum", said Powell (at right) in San Francisco. "The FCC is moving aggressively to put valuable spectrum on the market through auctions. In January, the Commission will auction over 200 broadband PCS C and F block licenses. In addition, we are working collaboratively with our colleagues at NTIA to move forward expeditiously to an auction of spectrum at 2 GHz for advanced wireless services. We also greatly appreciate Congress’ efforts to craft the Spectrum Relocation Trust Fund to ensure that the relocation of military operations that currently use this spectrum can be adequately funded with the proceeds of this auction."

Although, the Congress has not yet passed this bill. See, HR 1320, the "Commercial Spectrum Enhancement Act". The House passed its version of HR 1320 on June 11, 2003. See, story titled "House Passes Commercial Spectrum Enhancement Act" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 679, June 12, 2003. The Senate Commerce Committee passed its version of HR 1320 on June 26, 2003. However, the full Senate has yet to pass a bill. See, story titled "Senate Commerce Committee Approves Commercial Spectrum Enhancement Act" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 689, June 27, 2003.

Powell stated in Las Vegas that "We continue to look for more ways to encourage growth of unlicensed wireless broadband services. Last year, we made an additional 255 MHz of spectrum available in the 5 GHz region of the spectrum -- adding a sizable chunk of spectrum to that already available for unlicensed devices. We also made spectrum available in the upper reaches of the spectrum -- above 70 GHz -- on an unlicensed and very lightly licensed basis. Technologies that use this new spectrum frontier are rapidly maturing and new services are on the horizon. We are also in the process of considering additional spectrum bands for use by unlicensed devices -- the so-called spectrum ``white spaces´´ between the channels assigned for TV broadcast services and 50 MHz of spectrum in the 3650 MHz band."

DTV Transition. He addressed DTV transition. "In the 700 MHz band, the Commission has heard the call of the wireless community and is making every effort to ensure the availability of this spectrum for public safety and new advanced wireless services in the most expeditious manner possible. It is no longer a question of ``whether´´ the television transition will end and free up more spectrum, but instead a question of ``when.´´ I believe we need a hard deadline for this transition, as do so many. A hard deadline will give the public, industry desperately needed clarity. If your industry agrees, I urge you to make a point of being heard in Washington." (Quotations are from the San Francisco speech unless otherwise indicated. Although, he repeated some statements.)

Smart Antennas. Powell said that "We believe technology is going to usher in the possibility of much more dynamic use of frequencies without unacceptable interference. Just as an example, the Commission has pushed forward on new smart radio equipment. We recently concluded a proceeding that enabled ``smart´´ antennas to be used in some of our unlicensed bands." See, story titled "FCC Adopts Report and Order Regarding Unlicensed Devices" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 934, July 9, 2004.

He added that "Smart radios also can facilitate secondary markets. Licensed users can lease their spectrum to third parties using smart radio technologies, allowing spectrum to move more quickly to its higher and best uses without the impediment of prior government approval. And, because of their frequency agility, smart radios can also act as a bridge between two different radio services -- effectively translating the signals from one service to the frequency and format of another."

Unused Broadcast TV Spectrum. He also stated that "We are also exploring the possibility of using smart technology to allow advance wireless services to operate in the white spaces of the broadcast bands. This must be done carefully, of course, but advances in technology have made it a possibility, where in the past to even suggest it would be heresy."

Powell urged his Las Vegas WISP audience to submit comments to the FCC in its TV white space proceeding, as well as in its smart antennas and 3650 MHz proceedings.

See also, story titled "FCC Adopts NPRM Regarding Unlicensed Use of Broadcast TV Spectrum" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 898, May 14, 2004.

Private Commons. Powell stated that "I introduced an innovative approach to allow users of smart equipment to gain access to spectrum that is underutilized by licensees -- the private commons model. Under these rules, licensees can set aside an entire license or a portion of a license for an arrangement in which users can access that spectrum under technical rules and other conditions set by the licensees." See, "Second Report & Order, Order on Reconsideration, and Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking" adopted at the July 8, 2004 meeting. It is FCC 04-167 in Docket No. 00-230. See also, story titled "FCC Adopts Second Secondary Markets Report and Order" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 934, July 9, 2004.

He added that "This new option has the potential to provide spectrum for ad hoc and mesh, peer-to-peer networks that can be used to offer wireless broadband services. The model also may be particularly valuable to users of the unlicensed bands, such as wireless ISPs, who may find those bands congested and may be looking for a source of additional spectrum to supplement their existing operations."

Enforcement of Technical Rules. Powell stated in his Las Vegas speech that "I hear concerns from the WISP community that -- while it’s not a significant number -- not everyone is playing by the rules -- that a few folks out there are using non-FCC certified equipment or are installing power amplifiers to boost their signals beyond allowable limits. Understand this directly from me -- we are fully committed to enforcing our technical rules. Indeed, over the last two years, we have investigated approximately one dozen complaints related to WISPs for non-compliance with our rules."

He added that "we have significantly ramped up the resources in our enforcement field offices -- increasing the total investment by more than 5 times. Also, our investment in the FCC’s engineering laboratory has increased by more than 20 times -- providing us with much more sophisticated tools for technical analyses. So, in an era of increasingly more intensive spectrum use, we now have the improved tools to do our jobs policing the airwaves."