FCC Finalizes Spectrum Sharing
December 13, 2012

FCC Spectrum Sharing Opens Bandwidth For Smaller Networks

Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online

In September, the FCC announced they´d begin sharing some of the US Government´s wireless spectrum with the private sector in a move to free up airspace for other wireless carriers.

Yesterday, the FCC finalized this spectrum sharing initiative, making 100 MHz of spectrum in the 3.5 GHz band available to smaller cellular networks. The FCC also claims that this move is in accordance with the President´s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology´s call this summer to find ways to share some of the government´s spectrum. As cellular carriers continue to grow and tax the nation´s airwaves, this spectrum has become something of a rare and precious commodity. As such, some US lawmakers are now saying the FCC should auction this spectrum off to carriers in order to bring in some extra cash rather than offer it up freely.

“The proposal lays the groundwork for the widespread deployment of small cell technologies across 100 megahertz of spectrum, and would spur significant innovation in wireless technologies and applications throughout the economy, while protecting incumbent users in the band,” explains the FCC in a statement.

The FCC explains that this 100 MHz section of spectrum will be split into 3 tiers: The top tier (or Incumbent Access) will be limited to federal and military use. As such, this Incumbent Access spectrum will also be protected from the rest of the tiers, making it more secure for government use.

The second tier, called Protected Access, will be used for hospitals, utilities, public safety officials and other government facilities. The FCC is promising these users that they´ll have “quality-assured access” to this tier where available.

The third and final tier is labeled General Authorized Access and will be open to all “other” users, including the general public.

At a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee yesterday, some US lawmakers took the FCC to task for offering these bands of spectrum without auctioning them off.

Were the FCC to auction off this spectrum to the highest bidder, the proceeds could be used for public security or given back to the US Treasury.

"What I cannot support is the unnecessary expansion of unlicensed spectrum in other bands needed for licensed services, especially at the expense of funding for public safety," said Greg Walden, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, according to Reuters.

California Democrat Henry Waxman is in favor of opening these bands up, saying similar measures have spurred along the development of some of today´s most common technologies, such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.

"Unlicensed spectrum has been an incredible economic success story," Waxman said.

The FCC has also recently approved Dish Network to use some spectrum, which they purchased many years ago. Now, Dish Network can enter into the mobile market, offering consumers another option when choosing a cellular provider. Though the FCC has approved this move, Dish still has some concerns about their new spectrum. The FCC wants to place some power restrictions on the spectrum so as not to interfere with nearby bands. Doing so would greatly reduce the speed of Dish´s network, making them slower than their competitors.