FCC Rules for 700MHz Wireless Spectrum Tuesday

Federal agency is expected to set rules surrounding the auction of a broad chunk of nationwide wireless spectrum.

The FCC is expected to set the rules Tuesday surrounding the auction of a broad chunk of nationwide wireless spectrum that is being sought by traditional wireless carriers and Google, which wants to loosen up the restrictions customers have on what they can use their wireless services for.

While the auction is scheduled for early next year, the rules will determine the strategies potential bidders use to capture the license, which Congress says should take in US$10 billion.

The 700MHz range of bandwidth is being eyed by service providers ranging from the large telecom carriers to cable TV companies to start-ups to Google, and observers say it will likely be used to provide broadband services.

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The spectrum is unique because it will become available in all parts of the United States at once, making it possible for a single successful bidder to scoop up rights to a nationwide footprint. That would require winning the licenses for all six geographic regions for which it is being auctioned.

The wavelengths being auctioned are being abandoned by UHF TV stations, and the wavelengths involved penetrate buildings well, so it would be well suited for services in heavily populated areas where a provider could pick up a lot of customers.

Business customers might expect the winning bidders to support bandwidth services on the frequencies, so that they can run whatever applications they choose over the network.

Google says its plans for the bandwidth would be to allow unrestricted use of the frequencies by its customers. It objects to current wireless carriers' restrictions on what wireless devices are allowed to access networks and what applications and services customers are allowed to reach.

When the rules are made public tomorrow, they will determine not only the rules for bidding but may or may not include restrictions on how the licenses may be used. Google, for example, has been pushing for a provision that would allow use of any wireless device with the services offered in the 700MHz range. That would be at odds with how wireless carriers operate today, and may affect how much they are willing to bid.

The spectrum at issue is regarded as the last chance for a provider other than a traditional carrier to grab up licenses for what could be a significant, nationwide network.

This story, "FCC Rules for 700MHz Wireless Spectrum Tuesday" was originally published by Network World.

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