In a keynote address at the CTIA Wireless IT & Entertainment convention in San Diego, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski outlined steps the agency is taking to provide more spectrum and remove obstacles to help speed the development and expansion of next generation wireless networks. Will such measures be effective?
FCC Chairman’s Remarks at CTIA 2009
For several years, Wireless Internet Service Providers (WISPs), rural and independent telcos and MSOs have been urging the FCC and U.S. government to free up licensed spectrum to enable them to build faster, more robust and reliable wireless access networks. Both fixed and mobile WiMAX players would be major beneficiaries of this initiative as WiMAX technology would likely be used by network operators to provide much better wireless broadband service than is possible with unlicensed spectrum, which is prone to interference, coverage gaps and other problems.
The CTIA – The Wireless Association® ("CTIA") has recently petitioning the FCC to reallocate 800 MHz of spectrum for wireless broadband providers by 2015 (see next section of this article). At his October 7th CTIA Conference keynote address, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski made reference to that petition by saying that a lack of licensed spectrum is "a looming crisis" as U.S. consumers increasingly rely on mobile devices such as smart phones, netbooks, eReaders, etc. that require heavy wireless data usage.
In his address, Genachowski said that the FCC would examine how to reallocate spectrum for wireless Internet services and look towards ways to promote secondary markets for airwaves, giving companies that hold spectrum licenses the right to lease those licenses to others. "No sector of the communications industry holds greater potential to enhance America’s economic competitiveness, spur job creation, and improve the quality of our lives," Genachowski said. "My goals with regard to mobile are the same that define and drive all our work: fostering innovation and investment, promoting competition, empowering and protecting consumers, all in an effort to help ensure the U.S. has a world-leading communications infrastructure for the 21st century. As this audience knows, it takes years to reallocate spectrum and put it to use. And there are no easy pickings on the spectrum chart."
Genachowski went on to say that the FCC would also try to clear obstacles for wireless network operators trying to install new 4G networks, including speeding up approvals for new cellphone tower construction, which often are met with local community resistance. In this regard, the FCC will propose a federal "shot-clock" on tower-siting, while still being sensitive to local jurisdictions. The siting of towers has long been an obstacle for wireless carriers and tower companies as subscribers embrace mobile services, but city and local governments often don’t want the accompanying infrastructure needed for those services. Genachowski said he understands that Internet providers and wireless network operators need to manage their networks. "We recognize there are differences between wired and wireline network technologies," said Genachowski. "They are different networks and because they are different, I have said the rules that are adopted need to allow for reasonable network management. But we need to have clear rules of the road for everyone regardless of how they access the Internet."
In a press release issued shortly after Genachowski made his keynote remarks, AT&T Wireless Division CEO Ralph de la Vega called for a fact-based discussion with the FCC. "Before we begin ‘fixing’ what isn’t broken, we need to be thoughtful about the consequences," said de la Vega.
In reaction to the Commissioner’s speech, Sprint issued a press release that supports Mr. Genachowski’s recognition of the importance of mobile broadband networks. "Sprint Nextel shares with FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski the view that American business and consumers benefit from the deployment of 4G mobile broadband networks. At Sprint, we are proud to be the first and only nationwide wireless carrier to offer 4G (i.e. mobile WiMAX) in the United States. For Sprint customers, 4G isn’t the future, 4G is here now. Sprint 4G is available in 16 markets today and we expect to offer Sprint 4G service to 120 million people in 80 markets by the end of 2010."
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