Saturday, May 24, 2008

25 MHz of spectrum on auction

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin scheduled a vote on rules for another major spectrum auction, one that would encompass 25 megahertz in the 2155-2180 MHz advanced wireless services band and require the winning bidder to offer free broadband service under an aggressive build-out schedule.

“We’ve had a variety of proposals that had come into the commission originally where some people wanted us to give them the spectrum,” said Martin in a briefing with reporters. The FCC chief said a vote may be held at the agency’s upcoming June 12 meeting, but added it is possible the measure could be approved before that date.

Martin said that a licensee of the 2155-2180 MHz spectrum (referred to as the AWS III band) would have to provide a free service tier, and would have to reach 50% of the population in four years and 95% of the population by the end of the license term.

Martin also said the agency will initiate a separate rulemaking on what to do with other AWS frequencies.

The FCC earlier this year auctioned 62 megahertz of 700 MHz spectrum, raising almost $20 billion.

It is unclear whether the FCC would hold the AWS III auction later this year, and if that auction will affect the agency’s plans to re-auction of the 700 MHz D Block. The D Block — whose rules currently call for a public safety-private sector partnership via a national license — was not claimed in the 700 MHz auction because no bidder met the $1.3 billion reserve price.

Interestingly, Martin’s plans for the AWS III spectrum draw on the free wireless broadband access proposal first advocated by M2Z Networks Inc. The FCC dismissed M2Z’s application for spectrum, and the company subsequently challenged the FCC ruling in federal appeals court.

Meantime, Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) and Christopher Cannon (R-Utah) are pushing a bill to foster deployment of a national, family-friendly wireless broadband network with open access. Their bill envisions one auction of airwaves in the 2155-2180 MHz band and another auction involving yet-to-be-determined spectrum below 3 GHz.

The mobile phone industry generally opposes conditions on spectrum auctioned by the FCC.

Also slated for action at the June 12 meeting is expected dismissal of Skype Ltd.’s petition to mandate an open-access rule for all mobile-phone and other commercial wireless spectrum. Martin also said the FCC will hold a hearing on early termination fees on June 12, a move that follows unsuccessful efforts by the FCC chairman and Verizon Wireless to find common ground on a national policy governing charges of $175 and more levied on consumers that break service contracts.
Moustafa El-hadidi


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