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FCC Issues 3 Bold Spectrum Notices

At its Nov. 30 meeting, FCC adopted 3 bold notices which reverse many years of inaction and apparent 8th floor disinterest in spectrum policy.

The NPRM in ET Docket No. 10-235 “take(s) preliminary steps to enable the repurposing of a portion of the UHF and VHF frequency bands that are currently used by the broadcast television service, which in later actions we expect to make available for flexible use by fixed and mobile wireless communications services, including mobile broadband.”

MSTV has made no public statement yet, but NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith said:

"NAB has no quarrel with incentive auctions that are truly voluntary. Going forward, we believe policymakers have an obligation to maintain digital TV services currently provided by broadcasters and to allow free TV viewers to benefit from DTV video innovations.

"NAB will oppose government-mandated signal strength degradations or limitations, and new spectrum taxes that threaten the future of free and local broadcasting."

CTIA’s Steve Largent said

“We applaud the FCC for opening a proceeding to explore options for freeing up valuable spectrum in the broadcast TV bands for mobile broadband services. Today’s action is another important step to ensuring that we can meet America’s growing demand for mobile Internet access at anytime and anywhere.”

The ET Docket No. 10-237 NOI looks at how to encourage dynamic spectrum access, nee cognitive radio. It raises a whole laundry list of questions including: Interference Suppression, Propagation Models and other Technical Considerations, Policy Radios, Certification, Authorization, Compliance, and Enforcement. To many of us, these are quite familiar issues. But the real problem in encouraging DSA is speedier decision making at FCC. The endless saga of Docket 04-186 with its 6 years to resolution(?) and no products yet approved or even capable of being approved is a huge disincentive to capital formation for DSA research or possibly any innovative wireless technology.

Finally, the ET Docket No. 10-236 NPRM deals with Part 5 experimental licenses. It includes proposals to:

(1) create new opportunities for universities and researchers to use a wide variety of radio frequencies for experimentation under a broad research license that eliminates the need to obtain prior authorization before conducting individual experiments;
(2) empower researchers to conduct tests in specified geographic locations with pre-authorized boundary conditions through the creation of new “innovation zones”;
(3) promote advancement in the development of medical radio devices by creating a medical experimental authorization that would be available to qualified hospitals, Veterans Administration (VA) facilities, and other medical institutions;
(4) broaden opportunities for market trials by revising and consolidating our rules;
(5) promote greater overall experimentation by consolidating and streamlining our existing rules and procedures; and
(6) open new opportunities for experimentation by making targeted modifications to our rules and procedures.

Some observations: The feature proposed in (1) has already been in effect for certain large industrial R&D labs but without any transparency. Codifying such provisions is a good move to implement better transparency.

The VA provisions in (3) are puzzling as the Commission acknowledges in para. 50 with respect to the FCC/NTIA dichotomy.

(4) has been in the rules for a long time, but in practice has been problematical due to abuse and the general disinterest in Title III enforcement on the 8th floor. Thus there has been a real fear at the staff level to allowing marketing trials. Hopefully more explicit rules here will improve things.
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