Spectrum allocation: Time to get on with it

by on April 17, 2013 · 2 comments

My new policy brief urges the Federal Communications Commission to get on with the business of allocating the necessary spectrum to meet the burgeoning demand for wireless services.

The paper was finished before Chairman Julius Genachowski announced his resignation last month. At the risk of sounding harsh, that might be addition by subtraction. One of the big disappointments of Genachowski’s tenure was the lack of significant movement to get spectrum freed up and auctioned. In fairness, there were the interests a number of powerful constituencies to be balanced: the wireless companies, the broadcasters, and the federal government itself, which is sitting on chunks of prime spectrum and refuses to budge.

But that’s the job Congress specifically delegated to the FCC. We’d be closer to a resolution–and the public would have been better served–had the FCC put its energies into crafting a viable plan for spectrum trading and re-assignment instead of hand-wringing over how to handicap bidders with neutrality conditions and giving regulatory favors to developers of unproven technologies such as Super WiFi. Instead of managing the spectrum process, the FCC got sidetracked trying to to pick winners and losers.

A new chairman brings an opportunity for a new direction. Spectrum relief should go to the top of the agenda. And as I say in the policy brief, just do it.

  • Steve Crowley

    I generally agree with the thrust of this post but find portions used to support the argument to be flawed and exagerated.

    Page 2 refers to Genachowski saying smartphones use 24 times the “spectrum.” A transcript of his speech showed he said “spectrum capacity,” which I think is more accurate. I can generate more spectrum capacity without using more spectrum, by using technology.

    The chart on page 2 shows data from a flawed FCC analysis that I debunked here: http://stevencrowley.com/2011/11/19/three-invalid-assumptions-that-make-the-fcc%E2%80%99s-spectrum-requirements-model-skew-high/

    On page 2 — “FCC analysts believe spectrum availability could peak as
    early as 2014″ Not clear where that comes from.

    The box on page 3 refers to mobile broadband spectrum needs of users “scattered in coffee shops, bars, offices and lofts.” If they are in those locations, they will likely have better-performing Wi-Fi available. Sitting in one place indoors watching videos is not a better use case for mobile broadband.

    Endnote 3 refers to the Cisco Visual Networking Index as “the industry’s most comprehensive annual study.” It may be one of the most comprehensive, but it is also one of the most unreliable, as this analyst (for one) finds: http://tmfassociates.com/blog/2013/02/06/cisco-castle-deflated/ Note that the department that prepares the Index also sells hardware intended to address the “data deluge” the Index predicts.

    I appreciate your giving your attention to this important issue.

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