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Spectrum Decisions Becoming Increasingly Important for Future: FCC’s Simington

FCC Commissioner Nathan Simington said focus on spectrum decision will become increasingly important for digital success.



FCC Commissioner Nathan Simington

July 13, 2021 — Carefully crafting a cohering spectrum policy is crucial in today’s digital marketplace, which is becoming increasingly reliant on wireless technology, Federal Communications Commissioner Nathan Simington said in a recent Hudson Institute event.

“Given that Wi-Fi, 5G and other wireless technology encompass an ever-increasing spot in the economy, I think it is imperative that we continue to get spectrum policy right by anticipating the needs of industry and consumers and the evolution of tech to the wireless space,” he said at the event, held in late June.

Simington stated his commitment to involving all relevant federal government agencies in discussions about future spectrum decisions.

“I feel that coordination with other executive branch agencies is key to a cohering national policy that allows for private industries to succeed without encumbering existing stakeholders in the executive branch,” he said.

Simington compared the process of future telecommunications regulation to the idea of attempting to build a skyscraper in New York instead of one in a rural area, making the point that working within the constraints of existing infrastructure is a new challenge.

“No matter where you want to build, you’re going to have to deal with prior efforts,” he said. “There’s a lot of history.”

In previous events with the Hudson Institute, Simington had spoken similarly about spectrum usage and its immense increase over the course of the pandemic, arguing that receiver standards that were adequate in the past may not be equipped for the future of radio spectrum.

More can be expected from Simington on this topic in the coming months; since being appointed in December of 2020, he has made spectrum policy a focus.

“Some of the most vital open issues the commission can address [are] physical network security, trade issues, spectrum policy and closing the digital divide,” he said.

Reporter Sophie Draayer, a native Las Vegan, studied strategic communication and political science at the University of Utah. In her free time, she plays mahjong, learns new songs on the guitar, and binge-watches true-crime docuseries on Netflix.

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FCC Votes Forward 42 GHz Spectrum Sharing Model Proposal to Broaden Use

Proposed rules will consider how the band might be made available through non-exclusive spectrum access models.



Photo of Nathan Simington, Brendan Carr, Jessica Rosenworcel, Geoffrey Starks

WASHINGTON, June 8, 2023 – The Federal Communications Commission voted unanimously at its June open meeting to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking that explores how the 42 – 42.5 GHz spectrum band might be made available on a shared basis. 

The FCC will consider how the band might be made available through one of several non-exclusive spectrum access models that would have the potential to maximize its use, particularly by smaller providers. 

The 42 GHz band has 500 megahertz of greenfield airwaves with no federal or commercial incumbencies, which the FCC seeks to use with non-exclusive access models. This could entail using technology-based sensing to help operators mitigate interference by detecting and avoiding one another, non-exclusive licenses that leverage a database to facilitate co-existence, or site-based licensing. 

“In the United States, we have already auctioned nearly five gigahertz of this spectrum for traditional exclusive use. I believe now it’s time for something new,” said Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel in her statements. 

The notice further seeks comment on whether the approaches in the 42 GHz band could be used in other spectrum bands, like the lower 37 GHz band.

Comments regarding the action are due July 8. 

“Our goal here is to come up with a new model to lower barriers, encourage competition and maximize the opportunities in millimeter wave spectrum,” said Rosenworcel, urging for more creativity in sharing models. 

The FCC’s spectrum auction authority expired in March for the first time in its history.  

The FCC also voted to issue proposed rules that would advance the transition to next generation 911, which supports new 911 capabilities including text, video and data sharing.

The ruling would require that originating wireline, interconnected voice over internet protocol, and internet-based telecommunications relay service providers format 911 calls to be compatible with NG911 in IP-based format.  

For providers to implement these regulations, the ruling proposed a timeline of six months from the date it is adopted. Rosenworcel said this would “expedite and inform public safety efforts and dramatically improve emergency response.” 

The commission also voted forward proposed rules that would enhance the accessibility of interoperable video conferencing services by requiring video conferencing platforms to comply with the accessibility requirements under the Communications Act. That includes improving speech-to-text captioning, text-to-speech capabilities, sign language interpreters, and other accessibility tools.  

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T-Mobile Sues WCO Spectrum for Allegedly Artificially Inflating Spectrum Leasing Prices for Profit

A whistleblower exposed WCO Spectrum scheme estimated to cost T-Mobile $10 million, T-Mobile claims.



Photo of Gary Winnick of WCO Spectrum

WASHINGTON, June 7, 2023 – T-Mobile is alleging in new court documents filed in a California court on June 2 that WCO Spectrum has engaged in a “nationwide criminal scheme to defraud T-Mobile and its subsidiaries” by artificially inflating prices it pays to lease spectrum from educational institutions. 

T-Mobile leases the right to use certain spectrum bands from educational institutions that hold Federal Communications Commission licenses for the bands. The wireless carrier reserves the right of first refusal in most of its contracts which allows the company to match a third party offer to purchase a spectrum license and acquire the license itself.  

The filing in federal court alleges that Gary Winnick, founder of WCO Spectrum, formed an illegal enterprise to make fraudulent offers to educational institutions to purchase spectrum licenses intended to raise T-Mobile costs. T-Mobile claims that WCO — which is described as a private investor in educational broadband service spectrum licenses — entered into “secret side agreements” with these educational institutions to pocket a portion of the price hike in the event that T-Mobile matched the third-party offer.  

The side contract guaranteed that the licensee will pay WCO a portion, usually 10 percent, of the purchase price. According to T-Mobile, the WCO tried to hide its kickback arrangement by requiring the licensee to sign a non-disclosure agreement. The carrier said the scheme has cost it $10 million. 

T-Mobile alleges WCO has, in total, offered the educational institutions more than $1.6 billion for 167 spectrum licenses. The carrier alleges that because WCO cannot follow through on that big of a purchase, it means it never meant those offers in good faith. 

To support the scheme, WCO allegedly entered into a fake line of credit agreement with SCH LLC, T-Mobile said. SCH lends the appearance of legitimacy to WCO’s offers by purporting to lend WCO the funds needed to purchase the spectrum licenses, claimed T-Mobile. 

In actuality, said T-Mobile, SCH’s line of credit is a farce as it does not have any apparent history, public presence, or lines of business. According to T-Mobile, SHC exists to create the illusion that WCO’s offers are backed by legitimate financing. T-Mobile claimed that SCH receives 8 percent of WCO’s kickback. 

WCO did not respond to requests for comment.  

Faced with the allegedly fraudulent offers, T-Mobile had to choose between spending vast sums of money to purchase spectrum licenses or risk the possibility that WCO would purchase the license and become T-Mobile’s spectrum landlord, “almost certainly guaranteeing that T-Mobile would have to pay a king’s ransom later,” the complaint said.  

WCO had allegedly abandoned multiple deals rather than produce documents to T-Mobile that would have unveiled the alleged fraud, the carrier added.  

A former insider of WCO and whistleblower alerted T-Mobile to the scheme, read the court filing. The whistleblower allegedly provided documents consistent with his claims and T-Mobile was able to obtain further documents which corroborate the whistleblower’s narrative, the carrier said. 

In one instance WCO actually signed a contract to purchase a license subject to a T-Mobile lease, which T-Mobile claims is “simply an example of WCO taking steps to cover up its scheme.” The deal happened soon after the whistleblower surfaced and WCO learned T-Mobile was aware of the scheme, it said. 

T-Mobile says the alleged fraud violates the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act and California Unfair Competition Law. 

“At their core, defendants are fraudsters whose racketeering and unfair and deceptive conduct is precisely the type of behavior that the RICO and UCL statues were designed to redress,” read the filing. 

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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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