Feb. 8, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Congress Watches as FCC Mulls Spectrum Giveaway

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Walden is in favor of licensing 600 MHz spectrum to wireless carriers as a way to maximize the revenue raised.

A Democratic aide underscored the necessity of setting aside blocks of spectrum for unlicensed use on a nationwide basis by arguing that manufacturers are unlikely to take much interest in developing new devices that don’t work in New York or Los Angeles.

The pressure for the FCC to auction as much spectrum as possible means device makers and others looking to tap unlicensed spectrum in the 600 MHz band may instead be limited to the use of “guard bands,” as outlined in the 2012 payroll tax cut extension (PL 112-96) that authorized the auction. Guard bands are small chunks of spectrum reserved between larger blocks in order to prevent adjacent networks from interfering with each other.

As Walden noted at a recent hearing, that law authorizes the FCC to create guard bands as technically needed. The commission is authorized by the statute to permit some unlicensed uses in the guard bands, provided they don’t cause interference with the licensed users in adjacent spectrum.

Several industry experts emphasized that an important issue in the debate is which guard bands are ideal for unlicensed use, including what size bands are optimal for wireless equipment manufacturers.

But the FCC is weighing a wide range of band plans and hasn’t tipped its hand on the size or nature of its final proposal. Whether those guard bands would be enough to deliver on the promise of super Wi-Fi remains anyone’s guess.

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