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Wireless Executives Debate Role of Next-Generation Services

WASHINGTON, February 11, 2009 – Wireless industry veterans butted heads during a panel discussion at Tuesday morning’s Broadband Breakfast Club. Organized by, the event focused on the role of wireless services in next-generation broadband deployment.



WASHINGTON, February 11, 2009 – Wireless industry veterans butted heads during a panel discussion at Tuesday morning’s Broadband Breakfast Club. Organized by, the event focused on the role of wireless services in next-generation broadband deployment.

The four-month delay in transitioning the United States to digital television will not affect Verizon’s plans to deploy its fourth-generation service dubbed Long-Term Evolution (LTE), said assistant vice president for wireless and spectrum policy Donald Brittingham.

Despite paying $9 billion for much of the 700 Megahertz spectrum that until last week had been set to vacated by television stations on February 17, Brittingham maintained that Verizon had never planned to begin deploying LTE immediately after the transition date. Instead, the carrier will conduct a period of testing before implementing an “aggressive plan” to deploy their 4G service before year’s end, he said.

Brittingham predicted that LTE will become the world-wide standard for 4G wireless broadband instead of the WiMax technology adopted by rival Sprint-Clearwire. The 700 MHz spectrum for LTE’s  will allow for “substantially better” service and let Verizon serve areas where it previously had not been economical, he said.

The transition will unleash productivity benefits for both consumers and businesses, as well as public safety and homeland security stakeholders, said Steve Sharkey, senior director of regulatory and spectrum policy for Motorola. While Sharkey said a smooth transition should “not be taken lightly,” he warned that the delay puts economic activity associated with next-generation services on hold.

The public safety sector has been moving into the 700 MHz band for years, said John Kneuer, formerly Assistant Secretary of Commerce and head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, and currently a consultant working for a number of clients promoting public safety communications, including Rivada. Kneuer was confident that the DTV switch will allow even more communities to deploy next generation systems for their first responders.

Wireless services outside of the 700 MHz band should also be green-lighted to allow more broadband competition nationwide, said M2Z Networks CEO John Muleta. If the goal of increased penetration isn’t taken more seriously, than any policy on wireless broadband has failed, he said. Muleta said that a one percent increase in broadband penetration could create 800,000 jobs.

The variety of services available in the 700 MHz band means that consumers don’t have to choose one particular technology, said Motorola’s Sharkey. The choice between licensed spectrum and unlicensed “white space” devices is not an “either/or” choice, he said.

Sharkey broke from the practice of referring to wireless as a “third pipe” along with cable and fiber services. “We’re now at a place where we have five to six pipes,” he said. Policymakers should allow as many technologies as possible to be used to fill underserved gaps in the population, he said. But between LTE, WiMax, and other technologies, he suggested most communities have very competitive marketplaces for wireless services.

Convincing consumers to adopt wireless services will be a “nagging problem,” said M2Z’s Muleta.  Speed is only one factor in consumer choice, he said. Muleta lamented the lack of ecosystems for developing open, carrier-agnostic applications and said that wireless executives visit Silicon Valley and see how frustrated developers are at the lack of open standards for development. What consumers really want is “really cool applications,” he said.

Sharkey said that the success of Apple’s iPhone app store rebutted Muleta’s arguments. But Muleta dismissed Apple’s platform as a closed environment when compared with Google’s Android operating system and Verizon’s open device initiative. Government policies like the open access requirements of the 700 MHz auction support market innovations that drive new applications, Muleta said.

Sharkey said that the limiting factor in consumer adoption of wireless broadband has been hardware, not software. He predicted that as the performance gap between mobile devices and desktop machines narrows, open access will become the norm, much like the way software is loaded on a desktop PC today. Eventually, most people around the world will be on wireless broadband, he said.

A wireless world will have a place for smaller companies as well as the major carriers, said Tom DeRiggi of Rapid DSL and Wireless, a wireless service provider. Fixed wireless services like his company’s are “very nimble” and can provide faster speeds than mobile technologies, he said. While fixed wireless won’t compete head-to-head with fiber, DeRiggi predicted the high cost of fiber would allow space in the market for other services.

Fixed wireless has benefits no other service can provide, DeRiggi said. His company deployed service to the Capitol and Lincoln Memorial for last month’s inaugural festivities on little notice, with great success, he said. “Who can provide 100 megabits in two days?” he asked.

But consumers ultimately may not care whether their wireless is fixed or mobile as long as their access comes with “the least amount of friction,” said Muleta. Instead of focusing on getting subsidies to build out to rural areas, the industry and regulators should change the debate to one about what consumers want, not what the industry wants, he said.

Brittingham took a shot at M2Z’s proposal to offer a free tier of service over the Advanced Wireless Service 3 band in exchange for the spectrum license. It was  an idea supported by former FCC chairman Kevin Martin, but held up by concerns over plans to require the service to filter out adult content. “Buy it,” he told Muleta. “Don’t ask the FCC to give it away for free.”

But Muleta fired back, pointing out that 80 percent of the spectrum offered in the 2007 auctions was bought by 2 carriers, Verizon and AT&T. Spectrum isn’t sold in a free market, he said — the FCC is the only place to get it.

The Broadband Breakfast Club is sponsored by CTIA – The Wireless Association and the Benton Foundation.

Editor’s Note

The Broadband Breakfast Club is a monthly discussion form meeting on the second Tuesday of the month at the Old Ebbitt Grill in Washington.

Archived webcasts of the Broadband Breakfast Club are now available on the channel on TV Mainstream. One full year of online access to each premium webcast is available for $40.00, at

TV Mainstream

Telecommunications policy advocates, attorneys, policy-makers and journalists seeking to obtain insights from top officials in Washington can attend the Broadband Breakfast Club, which includes a full American and Continental breakfast, for as little as $45.00, plus a modest registration fee. Registration is available at

The events are on the record and open to the public. Individuals who register to attend the Broadband Breakfast Club will also receive a full year of complementary online access to the webcast.

Andrew Feinberg was the White House Correspondent and Managing Editor for Breakfast Media. He rejoined in late 2016 after working as a staff writer at The Hill and as a freelance writer. He worked at from its founding in 2008 to 2010, first as a Reporter and then as Deputy Editor. He also covered the White House for Russia's Sputnik News from the beginning of the Trump Administration until he was let go for refusing to use White House press briefings to promote conspiracy theories, and later documented the experience in a story which set off a chain of events leading to Sputnik being forced to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Andrew's work has appeared in such publications as The Hill, Politico, Communications Daily, Washington Internet Daily, Washington Business Journal, The Sentinel Newspapers, FastCompany.TV, Mashable, and Silicon Angle.


FCC Votes to Preserve Parts of 12 GHz Spectrum Band for Satellite Use

In light of technical evidence, the FCC has voted to preserve 12.2-12.7 GHz band for satellite purposes.



Photo of FCC Commissioners Nathan Simington, Brendan Carr, Jessica Rosenworcel, Geoffrey Starks (left to right)

WASHINGTON, May 18, 2023 – The Federal Communications Commission voted in an open meeting Thursday to preserve parts of the 12 GHz spectrum band for advanced satellite service.

The FCC adopted rules to preserve spectrum in the 12.2-12.7 GHz band for satellite services by refusing to authorize two-way, high-powered terrestrial mobile use on the same band due to the significant risk of harmful interference to existing satellite services.  

“In 12.2 we are correcting course in response to technical evidence,” said FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks in his comments. “Based on the studies filed, our engineers have concluded to date that high-powered mobile broadband when deployed throughout the country will interfere with established and emerging satellite services that serve millions of customers and is growing.” 

“I would have welcomed a path forward that allowed both services to thrive, but for now, it is time for us to adapt,” he concluded. 

The FCC also adopted a proposal to repurpose some or part of the 12.7-13.25 GHz band to support flexible terrestrial wireless use and is seeking comment regarding the action. 

Starlink, SpaceX’s satellite broadband service provider said in a letter to the FCC earlier this month that it appreciated that the proposal to reject the use of high-powered mobile operations in the 12.2-12.7 GHz band would be considered.  

The company has raised alarm for years about potential interference issues if the commission opens the band to mobile use.  

RS Access said in a letter to the FCC that the band is compatible with both mobile and satellite operations. The letter suggested that the FCC “tentatively conclude” that high-power fixed operations are compatible with other “co-primary operations.” 

The company’s CEO, Noah Campbell, issued a statement following the FCC’s Thursday decision stating that he “welcomes the FCC’s unanimous and bipartisan vote on how to enable valuable consumer services in the 12 GHz band.”

Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel concluded her remarks with a plea for Congress to reauthorize spectrum auction authority to the FCC, which expired in March for the first time in its history. 

“Restoring this authority will provide the United States with the strongest foundation to compete in a global economy, counter our adversaries’ technology ambitions, and safeguard our national security,” she said. 

Continued crackdown on illegal robocalls and more flexible rules for 60 GHz spectrum

The FCC also approved and adopted new rules to further expand its robocall blocking requirements for voice carriers. The new rules will extend several call blocking requirements to include voice service providers that are not currently covered by FCC rules. 

In November, the FCC ruled that straight-to-voicemail robocalls will be subject to the 1991 Telephone Consumer Protection Act’s consumer protections. The FCC has focused its energy over the last few years on eliminating robocall activity in the United States. 

“Today we build on these efforts by clarifying some of our rules designed to put a halt to illegal robocalls. We make clear that all carriers have a duty to respond to traceback requests in 24 hours so we can figure out who is behind any new rash of illegal robocalls,” said Rosenworcel in a statement.  

According to a Federal Trade Commission report, U.S. consumers reported a total of $798 million lost to fraud via phone call in 2022.  

The FCC also adopted new, more flexible rules for the 60 GHz spectrum band to support innovative radar technology, which include important applications that alert drivers to children left in hot cars, detect hand gestures to improve mobility, and assist drones in construction and emergency rescue, among other applications. 

“Welcome to the radar revolution. It is no longer just for tracking planes and measuring weather patterns. That’s because we are on the cusp of deploying radar technology for a much wider range of uses,” said Rosenworcel. “In this decision, we are updating our approach to the 60 GHz band. We are modernizing it so that it can be used to its full potential.” 

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Wireless Providers Urge Congress to Move on FCC Spectrum Auction Authority

Small wireless carriers urge Congress to give FCC authority to auction spectrum.



Screenshot of FCC meeting

WASHINGTON, May 15, 2023 – A group of small and regional wireless carriers urged Congress to reinstate the Federal Communications Commission’s spectrum auction authority in a letter sent to the hill on Thursday. 

“We urge Congress to swiftly act to reinstate the FCC’s authority to auction spectrum,” read the letter. “We depend on auctioned and licensed spectrum to offer the communities we serve the latest wireless innovations and secure and reliable service.” 

By allowing the FCC’s authority to lapse, continued the letter, Congress has “jeopardized our country’s wireless leadership and the benefits of wireless connectivity in rural, regional, and nationwide markets.” 

For the first time in its history, the FCC’s spectrum auction authority lapsed on March 9 following Congress’ inaction to pass a bill that would extend the agency’s authority. The authority to auction spectrum was first given to the FCC in 1994 and the agency has since hosted over 100 auctions and raised more than $233 billion in revenue.  

“For three decades, the FCC’s authority to auction the nation’s airwaves has been an indispensable tool for harnessing the promise of new wireless technologies while also spurring economic growth, creating jobs, and strengthening our national security and global leadership,” wrote Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel in a statement following the expiration. 

The Senate failed to act on a bill passed by the House in February that would extend the FCC’s authority to May 19 when Senator Mike Rounds, R-South Dakota, and Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, proposed the deadline be pushed back to September 30 instead.  

Rounds and Hirono argued that the date change would allow the Department of Defense and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to complete a study on the impact of repurposing government spectrum for commercial use. 

Senator Peter Welch, D-Vermont, objected to the data change, claiming that it would prove a disincentive to a swift agreement on behalf of consumers. The delay in passing the bill sparked frustration in the House. 

“We are disappointed that the Senate has not acted to [pass the bill] because of the objections of one Senator, and that the FCC’s authority to issue spectrum licenses will expire for the first time ever as a result,” read a statement issued by Representatives Frank Pallone, D-New Jersey, Cathy Rodgers, R-Washington, and others. 

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Crown Castle CEO Says 5G Plus Fixed Wireless Can Rival Fiber Connections

Experts say that 5G increases fixed wireless speed to be a competitor to wired networks.



Photo of Jay Brown, CEO of Crown Castle from Alter.

NEW ORLEANS, May 11, 2023 – Fifth generation mobile networks has enabled fixed wireless technology to be deployed in areas where it wouldn’t have been accepted otherwise, said Jay Brown, CEO of communications infrastructure company Crown Castle at a Connect (X) forum here on Wednesday.

Fixed wireless will never be a true replacement for a wired network, said Brown, but providers have been successful thus far because running 5G on a fixed wireless network brings speeds up to par with wired connections. “The speeds you get on a fixed wireless network [with 5G] are matching that of the wired solution,” he said.

We’ve seen that if given a choice, consumers will choose wireless over a wired connection, Brown continued, speaking at the Wireless Infrastructure Association trade show. Providers have noted an increase in demand for small cell towers that transmit wireless over a high frequency in a small geographic area, he claimed.

For many communities, managing aesthetic is singularly important and this desire fuels the deployment of small cells, he said.

Due to the faster speeds that 5G enables, providers are seeing deployment in areas that would not have accepted it otherwise due to its lower speeds, added Steve Vondran of American Tower, provider of wireless communications infrastructure..

This allows providers to enter previously untapped networks and connect people across rough terrain and in rural areas, he said.

“Fixed wireless is driving incremental returns but this is just the first application [of 5G],” said Brown. Our use cases haven’t evolved to utilize the full capacity of 5G, agreed Vondran.

Spectrum concerns

However, for wireless providers, spectrum allocations are a continuous concern. The Federal Communications Commission’s spectrum auction authority which allows it to auction spectrum for private use expired in March.

Vondran suggested that the government will need to work with the Department of Defense which holds a significant amount of spectrum to make more available privately.

“If the demand drivers are as predicted, we will need more spectrum made available,” said Jeff Stoops, CEO of SBA Communications.

Until more spectrum is released, industry leaders expect that spectrum shortages will lead to great densification of the networks, the process of increasing small cell towers in an area to address growing demand.

Leaders of the FCC urged lawmakers in a letter dated in April to extend the agency’s spectrum authority amid demands for more across the industry.

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