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.
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.
CES 2022: 5G, Aviation Crisis a Problem of Federal Coordination, Observers Say
The hope is coordination problems will be relieved when the Senate confirms NTIA head.
LAS VEGAS, January 6, 2022 – The possible near collision of 5G signals and aircraft altimeters emerged out of a lack of coordination on the federal government’s part to bring all relevant information to the Federal Communications Commission before it auctioned off the spectrum that has now been put on hold for safety precautions, observers said Thursday.
This week, Verizon and AT&T agreed to delay the rollout of their 5G services using the C-band spectrum surrounding airports after the Federal Aviation Administration raised the alarm for months about possible interference of the wireless signals with aircraft, which use their own radios to safely land planes.
But the issue could’ve been resolved back in 2020, when the FCC proposed to repurpose a portion of the band to allow for wireless use, some said on a panel discussing 5G Thursday in Las Vegas.
“After the FCC had adopted the rules, auctioned off the spectrum, raised over $80 billion and deployment began and then additional information that apparently had not been brought to the FCC before comes over…that’s not good for the country,” said John Godfrey, senior vice president of public policy and acting head of U.S. public affairs at Samsung, a sponsor of Broadband Breakfast.
“The time to have that information be disclosed and discussed and analyzed is when the FCC is conducting the rulemaking,” Godfrey said, adding the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration should, as federal telecom rep, be spearheading coordination efforts between the FAA and the FCC on telecommunications matters.
“I think it’s their job as the leaders of telecom policy in the administration to facilitate bringing the full federal government to the table in a timely manner,” Godfrey added.
Asad Ramzanali, legislative director for Democratic California Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, said that the fallout of the aviation issue has shown that, “Looking backwards, I do think this is a failure. This is a failure in government to be able to coordinate at the right time…when there’s a process, those impacted should be participating — that is the role of the NTIA.”
NTIA head confirmation ‘should be a priority’
And the hope is that such coordination issues can be averted in the future with the confirmation of a permanent head of the NTIA, said Ramzanali. President Joe Biden nominated Alan Davidson in October to be the next permanent head of the agency, which has had temporary figures fill in the role since the resignation in May 2019 of the last full-time head, David Redl.
“That should be a priority,” Ramzanali said of pushing Davidson through. “The NTIA is doling out $42.5 billion of that $65 billion [from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act]. The NTIA is supposed to deal with those types of issues. They have brilliant people there, but this is the kind of leadership that they should be in the middle of.
“And this isn’t a recent NTIA thing,” Ramzanali added. “This has lasted many years, especially in the prior administration where the NTIA wasn’t doing this part of it — coordinating with other agencies.
“I’m hopeful with Alan Davidson presumably getting in soon that we won’t see that kind of issue.”
CES 2022: Educating Consumers About 5G Will Encourage Wider Adoption
Currently, consumers are not being provided the information they need to make the leap, a consultant said.
LAS VEGAS, January 6, 2021 – Educating consumers about 5G is necessary to achieving wider adoption in its upcoming deployment in the United States.
At Wednesday’s CES “Path to A Better 5G World” session, industry leaders discussed how 5G will change the digital landscape by offering new experiences for businesses and consumers.
Sally Lange Witkowski, founder of business consulting firm Slang Consulting, said that companies should educate consumers about the benefits of 5G.
“Some consumers don’t even know 5G exists,” she said. “They believe faster is better,” but said that consumers don’t know about 5G’s wider applications. “Consumers should want to have [5G] because of how innovators and entrepreneurs will use the technology.”
Slang’s research shows that consumers are only willing to pay up to $5 more per month for 5G service. “It’s not about the hype, it’s about the usability,” Witkowski added. She noted that people are living longer and older Americans are growing old without the necessary digital skills to thrive in our new ecosystem.
“A child born today has a one in two chance of living till 100,” she said. Educating consumers about 5G’s benefits can help the elderly prepare to participate in the revolution.
Witkowski also said closed hardware software ecosystems, sometimes referred to as “walled gardens,” prevent consumers from discovering new experiences.
“The really large organizations have a hard time innovating. Big corporations are built to scale. The ability to reach out to entrepreneurs to access creative thinking is important,” Witkowski added. “The pandemic changed a lot [for technology companies]. They are going to have to embrace something they don’t normally embrace,” like the fact that another company may be better positioned to create solutions.
Kevin Ross: The Time is Now to Expand Internet Access with Fixed Wireless Broadband at Gigabit Speeds
New approaches must leapfrog the slow pace of extending fiber to the home and high costs of 5G and satellite.
The COVID-19 pandemic has altered our behaviors in bandwidth consumption and driven enormous demand for reliable, high-speed internet access. Even before the pandemic spiked, high school and college students nationwide experienced this need for speed and continue to face this challenge today.
Broadband access also remains a critical need for millions of employees seeking to increase their productivity while working from home. According to ABI Research, “many business are allowing remote working for some of their employees after the pandemic, which will boost the need for home broadband services even further.” Fast, reliable broadband access is critical for file sharing, Zoom meetings, streaming content and other bandwidth-intensive applications. This business imperative will continue in the post-COVID-19 era as the home is now the new office.
High-speed uplink connectivity is another growing concern for at-home workers, not only for web-based conferencing applications but also for sharing large files and rapid uploads. This need puts increasing pressure on upload links.
Symmetrical broadband connections, enabling equally fast uplink and download speeds.
With symmetrical access, there is no “speed discrimination” based on the direction of data traffic. End users receive the same network speed for both uploads and downloads. Businesses and work-at-home employees who rely on cloud applications, fast data transfers and non-stop, high-speed connectivity ultimately will benefit from balanced, symmetrical internet connections.
However, a major issue with most broadband services is the prevalence of asymmetrical internet access speeds, reaching hundreds of megabits per second on the downlink but much slower on the uplink. As a result, upload speeds are significantly slower than download speeds, throttling business operations and employee productivity with unnecessarily slow upload speeds. According to Speedtest, the median download speed for fixed U.S. fixed broadband subscribers in October 2021 was 131.16 Mbps, while median upload speed was 19.18 Mbps.
To help close the digital divide, we need innovative, new approaches to broadband deployment that leapfrog the slow pace of extending fiber to the home or the high cost of current conventional 5G wireless and satellite internet options.
Fixed wireless access networks, enabled by new mmWave based FWA technologies, provide an ultra-high-speed alternative to fixed-line broadband service. Although wireless internet service providers have traditionally focused on rural areas, some are deploying services in metro areas using next-generation FWA networks based on ultra-fast millimeter wave technology. FWA has been around for years but with the rollout of mmWave alternatives, FWA networks are commercially viable and speed-competitive with traditional fiber deployments.
In fact, mmWave networks are so fast they are dubbed wireless fiber, bypassing miles of underground fiber and cable infrastructure with faster, easier deployment while delivering multi-gigabit uplink and downlink speeds. The rapid rise of mmWave networks is a game-changer for WISPs and FWA networks, enabling ultra-high-speed broadband services at symmetrical gigabit speeds to residential subscribers and enterprise customers and providing a competitive alternative to fixed-line DSL, cable and fiber as well as emerging satellite broadband access.
Given the complexities of America’s broadband access needs, we’ll see an optimal mix of fiber, mmWave FWA wireless and satellite deployments based on infrastructure requirements. FWA service, for example, makes sense for denser urban and suburban environments where it can provide high-speed wireless broadband to homes and businesses at up to gigabit speeds, connecting the unconnected and expanding and improving broadband access.
This alternate FWA approach is much quicker and less expensive to deploy than traditional fiber-to-the-home or conventional 5G, and unlike Low earth orbit satellite, it has sufficient capacity to deliver gigabit service with significant penetration in densely populated areas. With the steady expansion of mmWave wireless networks, gigabit-speed FWA service will also make symmetrical connectivity a must-have feature and market imperative.
Now and in the future, mmWave-based FWA networks will help drive digital transformation in homes and offices and give at-home workers greater freedom of choice. This trend is even more important today as the COVID-19 pandemic has permanently changed the balance of work and school from home.
Kevin Ross is founder and CEO of WeLink, a rapidly-growing, next-generation broadband provider. Kevin is pioneering the use of mmWave technologies and small cell micro-pop network architectures, combined with a crowdsourced site acquisition model, that reduces small cell deployment costs and time to market by greater than a magnitude of order. 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 reflected in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.
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