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FCC commissioners today voted on rules for the auction of 700 MHz of spectrum, including public safety capacity: Frontline’s proposal for matching 10 MHz in one set of commercial licenses with 12 MHz of dedicated public safety spectrum has mostly won out. The FCC will auction 22 MHz off for use as both commercial and public safety spectrum, with public safety users gaining priority use of the band during emergencies. Frontline had one of many incompatible proposals for providing more public safety spectrum while, at the same time, expanding commercial use.
In this plan, a public-safety entity will oversee the network, which will be built by the winning commercial bidder at that bidder’s expense. The network has to cover 99.3 percent of the US population within 10 years. Problems with this plan include the potential for a lack of bidders, and for a winning bidder to fail during network build-out. At which point, Ars Technica asks, what then?
Chairman Martin puts proposals for more public safety bandwidth coupled to commercial uses outside of emergencies on the table: There have been generally positive signals towards some of the proposals that would allow a private company to build out national coverage, with priority on a mixed-use band for public safety.
700 MHz spectrum auctions still being finalized: Competing proposals address public-safety component. The sale of 60 MHz of the spectrum could raise $15b to $30b for the Treasury. So far, 24 MHz is allotted to public safety. Cyren Call’s proposal appears dead as it requires rewriting auction rules, and giving a single company managing a not-for-profit trust control over that segment. One synthesis proposal (that includes Frontline’s hybrid commercial/public safety model) could take 12 MHz of the public-safety allotment and turn that over to a not-for-profit trust which would hire a commercial partner to build the network; commercial services on that band would have primary access except in emergencies.
Frontline Wireless pushes hybrid public safety/commercial model for some of 700 MHz: The group, headed by former NTIA and FCC figures, would like to impose a public-safety override requirement on one of the licenses in 700 MHz without devoting the license to public safety. It’s a little tricky to navigate, but there’s 12 MHz already allocated for narrowband voice in 700 MHz to public safety. Frontline wants 10 MHz adjacent to that (the E Block in the auction’s definitions) to be required to have a combined purpose. A bidder who wins the E Block license would have certain access to another 12 MHz that’s currently planned to be allotted to public safety for broadband purposes.
Frontline’s two twists are that the existing auctions could be carried out with this provision overlaid on a license, and that they propose an open access model in which there would be no restriction on the types of devices that would be allowed to be used in that frequency range. The licensee would have to resell access on a wholesale basis, too, making it of greater utility to allow the greatest number of different devices.
Competing plans want half of the 60 MHz scheduled for auction to be set aside for a national public safety network that would be operated by a single private operator, such as Verizon. All the proposals are predicated on the infrastructure cost being borne by private parties, obviating public dollars being spent on the buildout, but forgoing federal receipt of perhaps billions of dollars of spectrum bids.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) wants 30 MHz more in the upper 700 MHz band reserved for public safety communications: The senator, often involved in net and spectrum issues, said this is the last opportunity to preserve this spectrum for additional public safety purposes. The Public Safety Broadband Trust would reallocate 30 MHz for a national, interoperable public safety network that would be built by the private sector. Verizon and others stand to benefit from the single-operator, private-network provision. Only 24 MHz is currently allocated for public safety in 700 MHz. Additional allocation is in the 4.9 GHz band.
The TIA believes existing allocations are sufficient.
The FCC proposes that 12 MHz in the 700 MHz public-safety band be reserved for a private operator to handle this: Despite the support of all five commissioners, this may cause some anger among officials who don’t want already scarce spectrum reallocated. The network would use IP-based communications to allow interoperability among devices instead of proprietary approaches. One company would get the rights to run the network and sell access to public-safety entities. They’re looking for comments.
The company must have liked its CDPD revenue: The firm wants 12 MHz of 24 MHz set aside in the 700 MHz band for a nationwide broadband public-safety network. The network would be unavailable to Verizon’s commercial customers.
Earlier this year, Cyren Call Communications suggested allocating, not auctioning, an additional 30 MHz of 700 MHz that could be shared among public safety and commercial uses with first responders having priority. This would augment the 24 MHz already allocated, but bypass an auction process.