The Federal Communications Commission announced that it would release a portion of the 2GHz S unleashes additional spectrum for use by mobile wireless services. But the decision is just one step in a long and complicated program to bring broadband wireless data services to business and consumers.
The Federal Communications Commission has
kicked off the next step to its search for new radio spectrum for
broadband users today by announcing that it would release a portion of
the 2 GHz S-band now used for mobile satellite
The new frequencies would be available for use
in terrestrial broadband applications in addition to their current use
in low earth orbit satellite communications. The existing satellite use
The June 18 action is part of the FCC's
implementation of its National Broadband Plan, announced earlier this
year. Use of this band was part of the agreements that facilitated
Harbinger Capital's acquisition of all of SkyTerra Communications and
its broadband frequencies. The acquisition enables Harbinger Capital to
provide wholesale 4G services to mobile communications
The FCC approval means that Harbinger can use
its resulting terrestrial and satellite services to provide a
nationwide converged terrestrial and satellite network. Other companies
using this portion of the spectrum are satellite communications
providers Inmarsat and TerreStar, both of which are partially owned by
In April, the FCC released a 25 MHz chunk of
bandwidth to mobile communications. At the time, the Commission stated
that the goal was to remove barriers to flexible use of existing
spectrum. The new announcement today makes more bandwidth available in
a frequency range that's adjacent to existing wireless data services,
which in turn eases the problem of designing equipment to take
advantage of it.
According to a statement from the Spectrum Task
Force at the FCC, today's announcement should make an additional 90 MHz
of spectrum available for broadband wireless.
At some point later this year, the FCC will determine exactly how it wants to go about the next stage of its National Broadband implementation.
The most likely events are that the FCC will issue a Notice of Inquiry
(NOI), in which the FCC will solicit comments from the public and the
industry on how to proceed.
This would be followed by a Notice of Proposed
Rulemaking (NPRM) setting forth what the FCC plans to do and how it
plans to do it. Both the NOI and the NPRM will involve public hearings.
At this point, no date has been set for either event.
Ultimately, the FCC's National Broadband Plan
proposes to deliver 500 MHz of spectrum for wireless broadband services
by 2020. These radio frequencies will come from a variety of sources
ranging from shared access such as in the June 18 announcement, to
narrow slivers of previously unused guard frequencies, such as those in
the TV whitespace plans.
Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazine's Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.
He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.