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Wireless Industry, Broadcasters Clash over Incentive Auctions at CES

LAS VEGAS, January 10, 2011 – Industry and government representatives debated the future of spectrum policy during a panel discussion at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) on Friday and highlighted the controversy over the FCC’s proposed incentive auctions.

Rick Boucher introduced the discussion with a prepared statement explaining the need to free up more spectrum for mobile broadband use and promoting both voluntary incentive auctions as well as the re-auction of the D-block, a controversial segment of spectrum. Boucher served as the Chair of the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet during the 111th Congress.

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LAS VEGAS, January 10, 2011 – Industry and government representatives debated the future of spectrum policy during a panel discussion at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) on Friday and highlighted the controversy over the FCC’s proposed incentive auctions.

Rick Boucher introduced the discussion with a prepared statement explaining the need to free up more spectrum for mobile broadband use and promoting both voluntary incentive auctions as well as the re-auction of the D-block, a controversial segment of spectrum.  Boucher served as the Chair of the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet during the 111th Congress.

The D-block is a segment of spectrum in the 700Mhz range – considered prime real estate for mobile broadband use – that the FCC attempted to auction off in 2008, but bids failed to meet the Commission’s reserve price.  Currently the swath is allocated for use by public safety. Boucher supports re-auctioning it for commercial use, in part because of budgetary concerns.  As he explained prior to the panel, the Congressional Budget Office assumed $2.5B in income for the auction, but if the government does not realize that income, it will be forced to cut the amount from elsewhere in the federal budget.

Politico’s Kim Hart moderated the panel, which was part of the Tech Policy Summit series at CES, and invited participants to explain the spectrum issue and discuss solutions going forward.

As part of the National Broadband Plan (NBP), the FCC has set a goal to reallocate 500Mhz of radio spectrum to mobile broadband through various programs over the next 10 years.  Among the prospective plans is a voluntary incentive auction, which would allow existing spectrum licensees to elect give up part or all of their spectrum in exchange for monetary compensation.  The plan requires Congressional approval before going forward.

“There is a bright future for broadcasters who want to be entrepreneurial and a bright future for broadcasters who want to carry linear, must-have kind of services,” explained Tom Wheeler, a heavyweight in the industry who chairs the Federal Communications Technology Advisory Council.  “Voluntary incentive auction allows broadcasters to make a economic decision: ‘What’s the future of my business?'”

If the incentive auctions go ahead, broadcasters could stick with traditional services and receive compensation for spectrum that their business models do not require.  Current licensees could also choose to refrain from giving up any spectrum if they feel it is or will be necessary for them to use in the future.

Two other parts of the plan, channel sharing, which would allow broadcasters to double up on a 6Mhz channel, and “repacking,” or compressing broadcasters to free up more contiguous spectrum, are also on the table in the FCC plan.

The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), which has faced allegations of its members “squatting” on unused spectrum, strongly opposes the FCC plan.  Lynn Claudy, Senior Vice President of Science and Technology for the NAB used a barnyard analogy to explain the association’s position.

“There are three moving parts: incentive auctions, which are like selling off part of your cattle, channel sharing, which is like “piggybacking” your cattle, and repacking, which is like packing your cattle closer together.”

Claudy further asserted that as consumers more and higher quality programming, such as HD and 3-D (which require more bandwidth to broadcast), that taking spectrum away will cause problems for broadcasters.

Rebecca Hanson, the FCC’s Spectrum Director for the National Broadband Plan, however, took exception to the NAB’s portrayal of the plan, emphasizing that it was strictly voluntary on the part of current licensee broadcasters.

“We aren’t requiring any broadcaster to give up spectrum against his or her will,” said Hanson. “How much spectrum [broadcasters] offer for auction is entirely up to the broadcaster.”

Wheeler supported the FCC’s position, calling the auctions “quintessential free market.”  He explained that if broadcasters have a need for their spectrum, they are free to refrain from giving any up, but if they do not, it can become a salable asset.

“The market,” Hanson asserted, “will allow the right amount of spectrum to go to the right buyer at the right price.”

Jonathan began his career as a journalist before turning his focus to law and policy. He is an attorney licensed in Texas and the District of Columbia and has worked previously as a political reporter, in political campaign communications and on Capitol Hill. He holds a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Washington and a J.D. from Villanova Law School, where he focused his studies on Internet and intellectual property law and policy. He lives in Washington, D.C., where he roots for Seattle sports teams and plays guitar in his free time.

Mobile Broadband

Policymakers Urge Better Broadband Maps, Seek Funding for ‘Rip and Replace,’ and Tout Open Radio Networks

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Screenshot of Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi

October 23, 2020 — Policymakers called for more accurate broadband maps, continued progress against robocalls, and the use of an open radio access network for advanced wireless communications at the Competitive Carriers Association’s policy forum on Wednesday.

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi, emphasized new broadband maps in his speech. Wicker noted that Congress recently passed Broadband Data Act, which he authored, requiring the FCC to change the way broadband data is collected.

“Current data claims Mississippi has 98 percent mobile broadband coverage,” said Wicker, adding that the claim is “ridiculous.”

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, D-New Jersey, addressed the achievements of the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act in battling robocalls in his keynote. He thanked CCA members for their help in passage of the measure.

Pallone also called for the passage of the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act, which aims to fund small providers replacing Chinese-made telecommunications equipment in their networks. The program is often dubbed “rip and replace.”

“Replacing Chinese-made gear is going to cost billions, anywhere from to $1.6 to 1.8 billion,” said Pallone, “Congress needs to provide monetary assistance” to small carriers.

Federal Communications Commission Commissioner Brendan Carr championed the use of open radio access networks during his keynote, saying that for CCA members, the unbundling that open RAN technology requires will result in increased competition in the marketplace.

Competitive Carriers Association represents more than 100 wireless carriers and stakeholders.

CCA CEO Steven Berry thanked CCA members for rising to the circumstances presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. He said many members extended service to users and waived fees to keep consumers connected.

Berry said wireless connectivity “has given people exactly what they need” during these times of hardship.

“Small carriers serving remote and rural areas need to have a seat at the table in Washington D.C.” to influence government policies that directly affect industry operations, such as the ability to access spectrum, said Berry.

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Broadband Roundup: Mobile World Congress Cancelled, Yang Bows Out, Ajit Pai at Wind River Tribe

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Photo of Ajit Pai at Wind River Indian Reservation by the FCC

The world’s largest trade show for mobile communications was canceled Wednesday due to the organizers’ uncertainty that it could guarantee the health of its attendees, according to a CNBC article.

The move was prompted by high-profile dropouts from the conference announced earlier in the day.

Amazon, Sony, Nokia, and Intel were among the biggest names to announce that they would ultimately not be sending representatives to the Barcelona-based conference because they were not willing to risk the health of their employees.

“With due regard to the safe and healthy environment in Barcelona and the host country today, the GSMA has cancelled MWC Barcelona 2020 because the global concern regarding the coronavirus outbreak, travel concern and other circumstances, making it impossible for the GSMA to hold the event,” GSMA said in a statement.

The conference was originally scheduled to begin on Monday, February 24.

2020 hopeful and tech whiz Andrew Yang bows out of presidential race

2020 hopeful and former tech CEO Andrew Yang ended his contest in the 2020 presidential election after disappointing results in Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary.

Yang built a small but loyal following referred to as the “Yang Gang.” They and others supported his flagship platform of providing a “freedom dividend,” or universal basic income, of $1,000 for every American family every month.

“We have touched and improved millions of lives and moved this country we love so much in the right direction. And while there is great work left to be done, you know, I am the math guy, and it is clear tonight from the numbers that we are not going to win this race,” he told supporters on Tuesday night.

“I am not someone who wants to accept donations and support in a race that we will not win. And so tonight I am announcing I am suspending my campaign for president.”

Prior to running for president, Yang founded Venture for America, a nonprofit that matched recent graduates with startups. Prior to that, he was CEO of a test preparation company called Manhattan Prep., which he sold to Kaplan and for which he made millions.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai monitors tribal broadband growth during visit to Wind River Reservation in Wyoming

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai met with leaders of the Arapaho Tribe in Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming to see firsthand the areas in which the FCC is investing $4.1 million for gigabit-speed broadband deployment.

These funds come from the Connect America Fund Phase II auction that is providing speed service to 849 homes and businesses in the reservation.

“Bringing high-speed connectivity to rural Tribal lands can be a game-changer,” said Chairman Pai.  “That’s why bridging the digital divide is my top priority.”

During his visit, Chairman Pai also discussed with Arapaho leaders the Tribal Priority Window.  The FCC opened up the Tribal Priority Window earlier this month to enable federally recognized tribes to apply for spectrum in the 2.5 GigaHertz (GHz) band.

This band—the single largest band of contiguous spectrum below 3 GHz—offers favorable coverage and capacity characteristics for next-generation mobile services, such as 5G.  Through this priority window, tribes can obtain 2.5 GHz spectrum without charge before a commercial auction.  The Rural Tribal Priority Window will close on August 3, 2020.

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Mobile Broadband

Wireless 5G Broadband and Everywhere Connectivity is the Buzz at the Consumer Electronics Show

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LAS VEGAS, January 9, 2018 – Here at the Consumer Electronics Show, it’s impossible to avoid being bombarded by the energy – real and imagined – surrounding the 5G wireless standard that is just beginning to be deployed.

Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg made the communications company’s efforts to nurture, promote and deploy 5G the sum and substance of his Tuesday afternoon keynote at the show.

And in a series of panel discussions on Wednesday, leaders from the technology, media, education and other industries emphasized just how pumped they are for this next generation of wireless connectivity.

Verizon boasts the first commercial deployment of 5G in October 2018, when it went live with fixed-wireless deployments using a 5G networks in Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles and Sacramento.

AT&T followed in December, with what it called the first mobile 5G deployment, to parts of 14 cities including Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville (Fla.), Louisville, Oklahoma City, New Orleans, Raleigh (N.C.), San Antonio and Waco.

The 5G wireless standard includes transmission both at higher-band frequencies, in the so-called “millimeter wavelength” bands above about 25 Gigahertz (GHz), and in the frequencies below 6 GHz. AT&T deployment was in this latter bandwidth.

Vestberg’s keynote showcased 5G as the “fourth industrial revolution.” In it, he introduced what he called the eight “currencies” of 5G that make it — in his view — more than just another technology standard:

His eight currencies are:

  • Speed and Throughput: Peak data rates of 10 gigabits per second and mobile data volumes of 10 terabits per second per square kilometer.
  • Mobility, Connected Devices and Internet of Things: Mobile devices traveling at up to 500 kilometers per hour can potentially stay connected on a 5G network, and up to one million devices can be supported by 5G in a square kilometer
  • Energy Efficiency and Service Deployment: 5G network equipment and devices will consume only 10 percent of the energy consumed by 4G network equipment and devices, and specialized services that will operate on the 5G network will take much less time to implement.
  • Latency and Reliability: Five millisecond end-to-end travel time of data from the mobile device to the edge of the 5G network – faster than the blink of an eye, and 5G will be more than 99.999 percent  reliable

The very first 5G customer, Houston resident Clayton Harrison receiving Verizon fixed wireless service, made a cameo appearance during Vestberg’s keynote. During the demonstration, he conducted a live speed demonstrating service at 690 Megabits per second (Mbps), which he described as the “low end” of the 600 Mbps to 1.6 Gigabits per second broadband speed that he normally receives.

(Photo of Hans Vestberg at CES2019.)

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