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Media Access Project Panel Debates Spectrum Auctions

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WASHINGTON March 14, 2011 – The Media Access Project, a public interest law firm specializing in telecommunications matters, brought together leading industry experts Friday to explore issues surrounding potential spectrum auctions.

The goal of the proposed auctions is to free up spectrum for use by mobile broadband. The spectrum would come from that which is currently owned by television broadcasters who voluntarily gave up part of their licensed bandwidth for monetary compensation. The Federal Communications Commission estimates that only 10 percent of the population still watches over-the-air broadcast television. Many broadcasters, however, oppose the plan and are reluctant to give up their even part of their currently licensed spectrum.

“The U.S. is falling behind in providing spectrum for innovation and mobile broadband,” said Chris Guttman-McCabe, Vice President of Government Affairs at CTIA – The Wireless Association. “Japan is offering up 400 megahertz (MHz) of new spectrum while the UK is offering 500 MHz for new uses.”

Guttman-McCabe went on to support the idea of voluntary broadcast spectrum auctions, calling them necessary to prevent a spectrum crisis.

“Voluntary auctions will work as long current spectrum owners are compensated and given a fair market price.” he said.

Jim Goodmon, CEO of Capital Broadcasting Company, presented a contradictory view of the need for auctions. Goodman stated that while broadcasters support the Obama administration’s National Broadband Plan and want to provide more broadband they are unwilling to give up their spectrum. He estimated that nearly 30 percent of people still rely on over-the-air broadcast.  Goodmon  then went onto highlight  the the importance of over-the-air broadcasts  during emergencies, calling them “a crucial mechanism for the dispersal of information.”

“Mobile broadband providers need spectrum to deploy video, but they don’t have the best technology for it. Broadcasters are able to deploy much more video using fewer transmitters using current multi-point technology.” He said.

Goodman also suggested that mobile handset makers install broadcast chips in their products to allow consumers to watch broadcast television.

“Currently broadcasters must pay the government a percentage of revenue if they use their spectrum for non-broadcast purposes,” Goodmon pointed out. “If we start using the spectrum to deploy new products, the government would get more money over a longer period of time.”

Goodman also asked that the industry be given time to develop new technologies that can improve efficiencies. The recent move to digital from analog took years to engineer and the industry needs time to improve the digital broadcasting.

Jane Mago, Executive Vice President and General Counsel, National Association of Broadcasters, echoed the sentiment of Goodmon in part.

“We are not opposed to voluntary auctions,” said Mago, “but we do need to ensure current consumers are not deprived access.”

Michael Calabrese, Director of the Wireless Future Project at the New America Foundation asserted that while auctions would provide new spectrum for mobile broadband, there is also a need to protect the unlicensed spectrum.

Significant innovation occurs in the unlicensed spectrum since these are nationwide bands which can be used by  anyone without having to pay for an expensive license . Wi-Fi and Bluetooth both work on unlicensed bands. Many mobile broadband providers are actually embracing Wi-Fi hotspots as a way of offloading internet traffic, Calabrese added.

Alan Norman, Principal, Business and Operations Strategy, Access Team, Google, reiterated the need to preserve unlicensed spectrum. Currently Google’s super Wi-Fi project, which can transmit a signal for miles, is running using the unlicensed bands . “Unlicensed spectrum is necessary for creating innovative devices” Norman said, by having devices run on these bands manufacturers do not have to adhere to strict technical guidelines.

Rahul Gaitonde has been writing for BroadbandBreakfast.com since the fall of 2009, and in May of 2010 he became Deputy Editor. He was a fellow at George Mason University’s Long Term Governance Project, a researcher at the International Center for Applied Studies in Information Technology and worked at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. He holds a Masters of Public Policy from George Mason University, where his research focused on the economic and social benefits of broadband expansion. He has written extensively about Universal Service Fund reform, the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program and the Broadband Data Improvement Act

Mobile Broadband

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

Jericho Casper

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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

David Jelke

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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

Drew Clark

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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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