SAN JOSE, November 6 – It was Kevin Martin’s day to suck up praise from Silicon Valley.
The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission – for about two more months – came to the Wireless Communications Association’s annual conference here on Thursday to be feted by many Googlers, including company co-founder Larry Page.
Google had billions of dollars’ worth of reasons to be thankful to Martin. In a hat-trick of decisions on Election Day, Martin shephered a Google-led initiative to make use of the vacant “white spaces” on the television dial through the political shoals of the traditionally broadcaster-friendly FCC.
Also on Tuesday, the agency’s five commissioners unanimously voted to approve the merger of Clearwire and Sprint Nextel, aided by investment from – you guessed it – Google (plus Intel, Bright House Networks, Comcast and Time Warner).
The clean merger of the old Clearwire and the wireless carrier Sprint Nextel took a rocket docket through the FCC. It required no divestiture of assets, as is generally par for the course. Announced on May 7, the merger was approved on November 4, or 181 days later.
By contrast, Comcast and Time Warner had to cool their heels for 404 days before they could accept a condition-riddled division of the assets of failed cable operators Adelphia, in July 2006.
Even AT&T, which once seemed like the favored son of the Martin FCC, was forced to wait 269 days before it could consummate its relations with BellSouth, and 273 days for the merger of SBC Communications and the old AT&T.
In the third significant decision at Tuesday’s FCC meeting, Verizon Communications got the blessing to gobble up wireless competitor Alltel – a merger announced on June 5 – but Verizon had to “voluntarily divest” itself of spectrum assets in 100 markets.
The wireless association’s conference here on Thursday was a celebration of all things Google-ish, with a keynote by Larry Page, a joint press conference by Page and Martin, and a VIP-only reception hosted by Google, TechNet and the wireless association.
In his keynote, Page got right to the point. “I really want to applaud the chairman and the FCC for doing the right thing, and one of the most important things that they can do and that happened in technology in a long time,” he said, speaking about the white spaces decision.
On Tuesday, the FCC approved an order by its Office of Engineering and Technology – powerfully pushed by Google and a collection of other high-tech companies including Microsoft, Motorola, Phillips and others – to allow wireless devices to transmit internet signals in the radio-frequencies unused by television stations.
Each city has dozens of such vacant channels. In San Jose, 26 of the 49 stations between channels 2 and 51 are occupied by broadcasters, leaving 23 potentially available for transmitting broadband, Wi-Fi style, according the Media Tracker of the Center for Public Integrity.
Google’s Page wasn’t clear on any company plans to flood the market with devices that that can take advantage of all those vacant broadcast channels. Nor was he clear – other than the fact that he was very, very excited – on how or whether the company would leverage its spectrum investment in the new Clearwire with its work on Wi-Fi.
“We are an investor in the Clearwire thing, so we are excited about that,” Page said. “They have tremendous [spectrum holdings]. We are absolutely excited about devices that use that spectrum.”
But Page did suggest that the accidental success of Wi-Fi would likely set the stage for a new flowering of white spaces devices.
“We use Wi-Fi all the time to connect to the Internet,” Page said. “At Google, everyone is connecting to laptops. We have Ethernet cables, but we don’t even plug them in, because the Wi-Fi is so good.”
In his speech, Page called Wi-Fi – which utilizes spectrum in the 2.4 Gigahertz (GHz) range – a fortunate accident. He called it “bad spectrum that was useless, and so it was put in this unlicensed regime. Wi-Fi came along, and great engineers got a hold of it, and it is basically used for all of our internet connections.”
Kevin Martin chimed in. He pointed out that “wireless microphones are not licensed” and that “many did not go through certification, the way they were originally supposed to.”
The fact that wireless microphones are able to operate without disrupting broadcast television demonstrated, Martin said, the validity of the Silicon Valley argument in favor of opening the broadcast band up for experimentation and innovation.
The propagation characteristics of 2.4 GHz spectrum aren’t great. “Wi-Fi goes through two walls and then it stops,” Page said. The white spaces between channels 2 and 51, by contrast, operate in relatively low frequencies, from 54 Megahertz (MHz) to 698 MHz.
These lower frequencies will allow for cheaper deployment than Wi-Fi, and “a new wireless broadband alternative that reaches millions,” according to Google’s “White Spaces: Access for the Future” document bandied about the conference here.
The Google report cites an analysis prepared by the New America Foundation’s Wireless Future Program showing that the amount of vacant white spaces after the DTV transition varies from 82 percent of the broadcast band in less-populated markets like Fargo, North Dakota, to 30 percent of the band in densely-populated Trenton, New Jersey.
Google CEO Eric Schmidt is Chairman of the New America Foundation, and the think tank has received donations from Schmidt, but not from Google or Google.org, the search giant’s non-profit affiliate.
What plans does Google have for all of this new white spaces spectrum? In a separate presentation at a companion conference here sponsored jointly by the FCC and the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, Daniel Conrad of Google’s strategic partnership division said, “Getting to this spectrum, which is unused, allows you to hit great range [that] allows you to even get indoors with your network.”
Conrad noted that Google, which operates a public Wi-Fi network in its home city of Mountain View, Calif., can’t use the network inside buildings.
“Not that Google has some grand master plan for what will happen with this spectrum,” said Conrad. “We are happy to see the support of the [FCC] to open it up and to allow anyone to bring whatever business model they want to this space” – provided, of course, that that business model calls for an unlicensed use of the frequencies.
Martin, for his part, said he decided to act now on white spaces because the transition to digital television was nearly complete. “There were two things that were important in my thinking,” Martin said in the joint press conference with Google’s Page. “Utilizing the white spaces prior to the DTV transition, because you were going to be moving the broadcasters around, was going to affect consumers.”
Martin also said that that he was confident that white spaces devices submitted by technology companies met technical requirements for non-interference with broadcast television.
The Martin-feting continued all day. At the Google-TechNet cocktail hour, Google Vice President Doug Garland told him, “We have been so appreciative of your leadership in so many ways.”
Martin, his days at the FCC clearly numbered, sounded relieved to get outside the Beltway. “It is helpful for us to come out to Silicon Valley and get an appreciation” for innovation.
Editor’s Note: The original version of this article incorrectly reported that the New America Foundation had received funding from Google. New America Foundation Vice President Michael Calabrese said that neither Google nor Google.org had ever given funding to the think tank.
Dish Requests Temporary Authority to Use 600 MegaHertz Band Licenses for 5G Test in Las Vegas and Denver
Dish said it needs non-contiguous 600 MHz band licenses to test open-RAN 5G network in two markets.
WASHINGTON, September 9, 2021 – Dish Network is asking the Federal Communications Commission to grant it a temporary license to use 600 MegaHertz (MHz) spectrum band licenses owned by another licensee for 5G tests in Las Vegas and Denver.
Dish said in a Wednesday submission to the FCC that Bluewater Wireless II, the owner of the 600 MHz spectrum band in question, has consented to allow Dish to use the spectrum under a regime called a special temporary authority.
Dish said it requires Bluewater’s spectrum licenses in the two cities to test and validate equipment for its 5G broadband network, using open radio access network technologies. The company said it needs the licenses to test carrier aggregation, where using its own licenses would be insufficient, because the two spectrum blocks cannot be contiguous.
“DISH anticipates needing more low-band spectrum in some markets to meet customer demand in the future,” the company said in its submission. “When and if additional 600 MHz spectrum becomes available, either when the Commission auctions unassigned spectrum or through future partnerships, DISH plans to use carrier aggregation at the market level to combine multiple 600 MHz assets to add capacity and improve data throughput speeds.”
“Grant of this STA will deliver important public interest benefits,” the company added. “In particular, the STA will enable DISH to put to use certain spectrum licensed to Bluewater that is not yet deployed.”
The test will end no later than the end of this year and the spectrum will only be used for testing and not for commercial purposes, Bluewater added in a letter to the FCC consenting to the arrangement.
The Denver-based company said it completed its first fully open RAN-compliant network communication in December 2020.
Dish announced that it was taking sign-ups for its 5G service in June, with the first city to get its so-called Project Gene5is being Las Vegas, Nevada.
Dish secured mobile wireless assets in a deal that allowed T-Mobile to absorb Sprint and entered the market in 2020 with the purchase of Boost Mobile and Ting Mobile. Dish has been widely expected to deliver wireless service that would add competition back in after the acquisition of Sprint.
The company announced this month that it is also purchasing Gen Mobile, a pre-paid and low-cost mobile service company, through its Boost brand.
Earlier this year, Boost bundled its K Health telehealth service in with its mobile service.
SpaceX, Engineers Clash over Whether 12 GigaHertz Band Can Be Shared with 5G Operators
Competing submissions to the FCC show the friction over valuable mid-band spectrum.
August 10, 2021 – Research commissioned by RS Access showing the mid-band 12 GHz spectrum, a band used by satellite service providers, can be shared with 5G operations has elicited a scathing rebuke by SpaceX — and the engineering firm behind the study is responding in kind.
The FCC is currently studying the possible sharing of the band between satellite providers and mobile wireless carriers for 5G. Broadband Breakfast held a panel discussion in July, which included arguments for and against the spectrum’s flexible use. RS Access’ V. Noah Campbell mentioned the technical study in question during the session, by RKF Engineering Solutions, LLC.
In a filing to the Federal Communications Commission last week, however, SpaceX alleges RKF’s technical study is a “fatally flawed” analysis that washes over the interference consequences that will allegedly happen if the spectrum is shared with 5G operations.
To address interference concerns, the engineering study drew three main conclusions: low-earth orbit satellite user terminals, which SpaceX’s Starlink fleet uses, can reject 5G signals; technology used by mobile wireless networks will direct energy toward handsets, not satellite terminals; and 5G networks will be used largely in higher population areas, whereas Starlink will focus on low-density, largely rural, areas. It also said that without coordination, interference possibilities will affect less than one percent of next-generation satellite operator terminals.
But SpaceX said these conclusions assume that the 5G build-out will only occur in urban areas and limit the next-generation satellite service providers from operating in those areas. The company said while Starlink is “designed to optimize for rural areas initially, it will provide service in urban areas.” It also claims that there will be interference suffered by the satellite terminals on the ground to cause disruptions in service, and ultimately, thousands of customers could be impacted.
SpaceX notes that the $900 million it won in December from the FCC’s $9.2-billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund – which is currently being reassessed due to complaints of possible overbuilding – backs the fact that urban coverage is part of its agenda.
The company said it has over half a million back orders in its first six months of beta testing its Starlink service with only a third of its LEO fleet deployed (it has over 1,400 satellites launched). It also said it has applied to increase the number of licensed user terminals to 5 million.
RKF engineering firm responds
But RKF said in a filing to the FCC on August 9 that SpaceX misread the study to “find harmful interference where none may exist.” It said the study finds that a 5G network with zero coordination among users of the spectrum would impact fewer than one percent of next-generation satellite terminals. With coordination, such possible interference incidences would be reduced even further, it adds.
RKF, founded in 2001 and known by the last name initials of its founders Phil Rubin, Ted Kaplan, and Jeff Freedman, said this is the only engineering study of its kind in the FCC docket and no company has refuted it.
Other complaints in the Tuesday filing include RKF’s claim that its study did not say that the 5G build-out will only occur in urban areas, noting that the study surveyed less populated areas and found that demand is greatest in more densely populated areas. It also said its study does not preclude SpaceX from operating in any part of the country. It added that SpaceX operations in urban areas with 5G networks is “still readily achievable.”
“SpaceX’s inexplicable response to our rigorous, data-driven engineering study on coexistence in the 12 GHz band is so egregiously inaccurate that we as a firm felt it needed a direct response,” David Marshack, chief operating officer of RKF, said in a statement to Broadband Breakfast.
“Though our firm has often been called on to perform analyses in Commission proceedings, rarely has our firm engaged directly in the FCC docket on its own behalf. But in multiple Commission filings, SpaceX has impugned RKF’s integrity with baseless allegations and brazen misrepresentations that have made engaging on the record necessary.
“The engineering analysis clearly shows that coexistence between satellite and terrestrial 5G in the 12 GHz band is highly feasible,” the statement added. “Any claim to the contrary is a misunderstanding of our findings which show that a 5G network with zero coordination would impact fewer than one percent of NGSO terminals.”
Dish Network — the beneficiary of mobile wireless assets from the T-Mobile-Sprint merger and which is using said assets to develop its 5G network – said in a January filing that it hopes the commission would find a way to open the band for 5G use.
Since the other satellite-using C-band spectrum has already concluded its auction, the supply of critical mid-band spectrum for 5G is diminishing. Last month, RS Access filed a study by Roberson and Associates with the FCC claiming that the 12 GHz spectrum is “highly favorable for 5G, resembles lower-mid band frequencies, and can rapidly accelerate 5G deployment nationwide.”
Jeff Blum and V. Noah Campbell: Unleashing the Next Wave of American 5G through Competition in the 12 GHz Spectrum Band
Allowing 5G use of the 12 GHz band will lead to better broadband.
The Biden administration has recognized the importance of spurring competition in the America economy, including the telecommunications market. Indeed, President Biden recently signed an Executive Order aimed at promoting “a fair, open, and competitive marketplace.” Today, more than 30 diverse companies and stakeholders (known collectively as the 5Gfor12GHz Coalition) are actively working to further this national priority by urging the FCC to expand the use of a huge swath of mid-band spectrum. Doing so will unleash innovation and additional choice in the marketplace, to the benefit of competition and American consumers.
We represent DISH and RS Access, two members of this Coalition. Our Coalition was founded on the belief that the FCC can and should modernize its rules for the 12.2-12.7 GigaHertz (12 GHz) band to allow for 5G use. In doing so, the FCC will further the Administration’s efforts to promote competition by enabling more choice, innovation, connectivity, and lower costs for families and businesses. And, the FCC can unleash the 12 GHz band while protecting existing satellite users, an outcome that will propel competition among broadband providers.
Put simply, allowing 5G use of the 12 GHz band will lead to better broadband options and services for all Americans. By decreasing latency and enhancing video streaming, it will allow more families to access telehealth, more students to connect to virtual classrooms, and more businesses to reach new customers. By amplifying speeds, it will enable a new generation of mobile apps that bring services families need to their fingertips within minutes.
And by boosting data collection and aggregation, it will revolutionize industries like agriculture, as farmers and ranchers will now have smart sensors that provide critical information about crops and livestock in real time. These are just a few examples of how putting 12GHz to work for accelerated 5G deployment will benefit consumers across the nation, daily.
The best part about modernizing rules for the 12 GHz Band? We do not have to sacrifice any services to reap the benefits this 500 MHz of key spectrum has to offer. As the science and data demonstrate, there are many ways to protect existing users of the 12 GHz band while expanding use of the band for 5G and other broadband services—giving all operators in this space a chance to succeed and innovate for American consumers and businesses.
The proof is in the data: a recent study by the econometric firm Brattle Group (which has specialized in analyzing the economic impact of spectrum policy) shows that modernizing rules in the 12 GHz band would bring extraordinary U.S. consumer welfare benefits. And, another study by one of the world’s leading radio engineering firms demonstrates how leveraging this spectrum for 5G networks will spur the rapid deployment of next generation applications in the United States.
Modernizing rules for the 12 GHz band truly is a win-win-win for all sectors of our economy. It benefits the more than 400 million consumers and businesses who rely on 5G for critical services; customers who depend on reliable products from current licensees like satellite providers; and families still living without access to broadband.
The evidence is clear, the record is robust, and the time is now. We must not let this opportunity to accelerate American competition pass us by. As Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said, “Our economy thrives on competition. It is the reason the United States is home to some of the most dynamic companies in the world.” We could not agree more. And for that reason, we urge the Commission to seize this moment and unleash the power of 12 GHz for 5G.
Jeff Blum serves as DISH’s Executive Vice President, External & Legislative Affairs, overseeing public policy, regulatory and government affairs in Washington. He has been with DISH since 2005, and currently serves as Vice-Chairman of the Satellite Broadcasting and Communications Association as well as serving on the boards of INCOMPAS, the Computer & Communications Industry Association and the Broadband Internet Technical Advisory Group. Jeff was a partner at the Los Angeles firm of Davis Wright Tremaine, where his practice focused on copyright, First Amendment and anti-piracy litigation
V. Noah Campbell founded RS Access in 2018 to acquire spectrum in the 12 GHz band in the United States and to operate wireless networks serving a wide variety of constituents throughout our markets, which comprise approximately 15% of the US population. RS Access’ service is designed to ensure that customers can affordably acquire MVDDS point-to-multipoint connections to augment existing network architectures. Campbell, a wireless industry entrepreneur, also founded Radio Spectrum Group, LLC and MSD Capital, L.P.
This piece is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast. Broadband Breakfast accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.
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