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Before October 27 Auction, a Q&A With Gregory Rose, Author of 'The WiMAX Band'

WASHINGTON, October 23, 2009 – Next Tuesday, October 27, 2009, the Federal Communications Commission is preparing to hold Auction 86, for the use of radio-frequencies being deployed through WiMAX technologies. The presence of two major carriers in the band – Clearwire and Sprint – makes this auction crucial for the success of WiMAX in the United States. Last week, BroadbandCensus.com began offering for sale a major report on “The ‘WiMAX Band’: Characteristics, Technology, Major Spectrum Holders in the BRS-EBS Service and Prospects for Auction 86.” BRS-EBS stands for Broadband Radio Service-Educational Broadband Service. Click here for further information about the report – including an extensive series of detailed and searchable auction tables in spreadsheets.

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Editor’s Note: Next Tuesday, October 27, 2009, the Federal Communications Commission is preparing to hold Auction 86, for the use of radio-frequencies being deployed through WiMAX technologies. The presence of two major carriers in the band – Clearwire and Sprint – makes this auction crucial for the success of WiMAX in the United States.

Last week, BroadbandCensus.com began offering for sale a major report on “The ‘WiMAX Band’: Characteristics, Technology, Major Spectrum Holders in the BRS-EBS Service and Prospects for Auction 86.” BRS-EBS stands for Broadband Radio Service-Educational Broadband Service. Click here for further information about the report – including an extensive series of detailed and searchable auction tables in spreadsheets.

BroadbandCensus.com Reporter-Researcher Christina Kirchner interviewed Gregory Rose, the author of the report, to provide a layman’s guide to what’s happening in the auction – and why it matters for the future of broadband. Below are edited excerpts from the interview:

Q: What prompted you to research this information and compile this comprehensive report in anticipation of this auction?

A: I have been working on spectrum issues for many years and I have contacts with the principal players. Also this is available in terms of [press] releases from these companies. They keep websites, they put information about them, all it takes some very digital searching and running into the right information and the right people.

Q: How long you been working on spectrum issues in relation to WiMAX and Clearwire?

A: WiMAX is an up and coming technology which has, in addition to Clearwire, been a particular national player in the provision of 4G [fourth-generation] wireless services. The fact that Comcast, Time Warner and several other companies – together with Sprint and Clearwire – invest heavily in the technology suggest something well worth keeping an eye on.

Q: WiMax is intended principally for wireless networks in metropolitan areas, correct? Will the presence of Clearwire engaging in more widespread spectrum leasing create more competition between existing spectrum license-holders?

A: Well, I think that the intended purpose is to challenge the incumbents in urban areas. Well, I mean the WiMAX technology can be used in rural areas. It has a 50-75 mile transmission zone, so that it is perfectly feasible technology for some rural areas. WiMAX competitors like DigitalBridge and Xanadoo, which have chosen smaller towns and rural areas because they know areas where Clearwire is not deployed, [are focusing] particularly in rural areas.

Q: What do you mean by not deployed? Are they purposely not doing that?

A: I think it is probably the influence of Comcast and Time Warner [which have an ownership stake in Clearwire] on their policy. Roughly 10 percent of America is in rural area, where there is not enough population or where the cost of deployment is relatively high, such that the rate of return that investors receive who deploy there is not terribly high. Given the fact that all major wireless companies are publicly-owned, they are held hostage to the expectations of financial markets. Deploying in these areas would significantly reduce their mean rate of return and they would be punished by investors in the stock market. So they have simply redlined 10 percent of America. And Clearwire seems to be following in that same policy probably for much of the same reasons. Smaller, privately owned companies are, however, beginning to deploy in some of those areas.

Q: In page seven of the report, it says “Spectrum coverage is in such redundant depth in these locales that there has been speculation that Clearwire believes that complete fixed and mobile WiMAX coverage will be more spectrum-intensive than originally projected.” In layman’s term, what is spectrum intensive?

A: Ah, yes, WiMAX is suppose to be non-line-of–sight.Rather, it goes through things rather than have a direct line of sight connection to where it is transmitting. In Portland, the first major WiMAX roll -out deployment, that there have been more line-of-sight problems than the engineers thought there would be. There are WiMAX “dead zones” so they had to put up more towers to retransmit signals than they would have expected to if WiMAX didn’t have at least, in practical terms, some line of sight limitations. And that involves using more spectrum, transmitting at higher power levels, that sort of thing.

Q: So being spectrum intensive is, effectively, a bad thing?

A:Yes, although Clearwire has enough spectrum in redundancy in places where it is planning to deploy, it is confirmatory that there is some problem. [That’s why] they have acquired so much spectrum redundancy in given areas.

Q: How do hills and other physical obstacles have an effect on these transmissions?

Apparently they can. And some weather conditions, too. It is very wet out here [in Portland] much of the year, and I think with the intersection of hills and precipitation surprised Clearwire a bit in how much a difficulty they were going to have covering the entire Portland metropolitan area.

Q: Hence, in hindsight, the cost of deploying WIMAX abilities in rural areas more than they thought it would be. So when a company is coming to auction, how do they properly value what they should bid on particular frequencies?

A: Well, very little of WiMAX spectrum was actually auctioned. The rest or the majority of the spectrum is picked up on the secondary market, which is where they will transfer licenses or long-term leases of their licenses. And those transactions have to be approved of the FCC. Given the fact that there has been encouragement from the FCC to have BRS-EBS licenses-holders agree to use other spectrum, they will have an incentive to go onto the secondary market to either transfer or lease the spectrum they have, while they are migrating to other spectrums of the FCC.

Q: What is going to happen at the buildout deadline set for May 2010, and what kind of action can we expect for this auction on October 27?

A: They have set relatively low build-out expectations and the FCC has a history of giving waivers to those who don’t meet build out requirements. It has been a matter of continuing public interest to the community who vigorously see it as a failure of enforcement of the build-out requirements, which allows incumbents to warehouse their spectrum.

I expect the FCC to enforce the rules, but also at the same time, can see them do one- or two-year long waivers in cases where the spectrum holder has not been able to meet the requirement if they show evidence of serious intention [to deploy].

We have a relatively small number of bidders and I am expecting Clearwire and Digital Bridge to clearly dominate the scene, particularly Clearwire, making a national footprint by holding over half of the BRS-EBS spectrum. There are going to be three active bidders over the Gulf of Mexico region, mainly with communications with oil rigs. Then there will be smaller companies competing for spectrum in their existing footprint, competing for a handful of licenses.

Q: Any other issues?

A: There were some issues from the commenters of the bidding. The FCC has resolved them to the satisfaction of the people who are more likely to bid in the first place. Some of these issues were raised because of the implications that were raised at the other auctions, because once the FCC has decided on the rules of the auction, they will carry those rules over from one auction to another auction to another auction. So there were some commenters concerned about the long term effects on auctions of the certain kinds.

For more information on the purchasing the report, including the FREE Executive Summary, click here.

About BroadbandCensus.com

BroadbandCensus.com was launched in January 2008, and uses “crowdsourcing” to collect the Broadband SPARC: Speeds, Prices, Availability, Reliability and Competition. The news on BroadbandCensus.com is produced by Broadband Census News LLC, a subsidiary of Broadband Census LLC that was created in July 2009.

A recent split of operations helps to clarify the mission of BroadbandCensus.com. Broadband Census Data LLC offers commercial broadband verification services to cities, states, carriers and broadband users. Created in July 2009, Broadband Census Data LLC produced a joint application in the NTIA’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program with Virginia Tech’s eCorridors Program. In August 2009, BroadbandCensus.com released a beta map of Columbia, South Carolina, in partnership with Benedict-Allen Community Development Corporation.

Broadband Census News LLC offers daily and weekly reporting, as well as the Broadband Breakfast Club. The Broadband Breakfast Club has been inviting top experts and policy-makers to share breakfast and perspectives on broadband technology and internet policy since October 2008. Both Broadband Census News LLC and Broadband Census Data LLC are subsidiaries of Broadband Census LLC, and are organized in the Commonwealth of Virginia. About BroadbandCensus.com.

Drew Clark is the Editor and Publisher of BroadbandBreakfast.com and a nationally-respected telecommunications attorney at The CommLaw Group. He has closely tracked the trends in and mechanics of digital infrastructure for 20 years, and has helped fiber-based and fixed wireless providers navigate coverage, identify markets, broker infrastructure, and operate in the public right of way. The articles and posts on Broadband Breakfast and affiliated social media, including the BroadbandCensus Twitter feed, are not legal advice or legal services, do not constitute the creation of an attorney-client privilege, and represent the views of their respective authors.

Spectrum

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.

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Dish President and CEO Erik Carlson

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.

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Spectrum

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.

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SpaceX head Elon Musk

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.”

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Expert Opinion

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.

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The authors of this Expert Opinion are Jeff Blum of DISH and V. Noah Campbell of RS Access

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.

See also “Broadband Breakfast on Wednesday, July 14, 2021 — Spectrum for 5G, LEOs and the Future of the 12 GigaHertz (GHz) Band.

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 commentary@breakfast.media. The views expressed in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.

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