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University of Notre Dame Launches SpectrumX to Expand Radio Spectrum Research

The project is funded by a National Science Foundation grant and keeps diversity and inclusion in mind for its research goals.

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Nick Laneman, co-director of the Wireless Institute at the University of Notre Dame

WASHINGTON, November 11, 2021 – The University of Notre Dame has announced SpectrumX, a project aimed at promoting research on radio frequency spectra.

The initiative, established by a $25 million grant from the National Science Foundation, partners with several universities around the United States and prioritizes a focus on diversity and inclusion in the work it does on spectrum.

During a launch event in Washington on November 4, SpectrumX made clear that it plans on a strategy of community engagement through its work rather than working from an “ivory tower.”

Part of the organization’s excitement for its work stems from the fact that it currently has all the financial resources it needs for its planned endeavors. It now looks forward to putting those resources towards creative uses in radio spectrum research. Among the focuses highlighted in the launch event was the possibility of using radio in the millimeter wave band for its work.

Additional projects the organization hopes to undertake include research on 5G, cloud automation, spectrum management through flexible licenses, GPS and mobile broadband.

Reporter T.J. York received his degree in political science from the University of Southern California. He has experience working for elected officials and in campaign research. He is interested in the effects of politics in the tech sector.

Wireless

Verizon, TracFone Deal Gets FCC and California Approval

The companies agree to consumer protection measures as conditions of the transaction.

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Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg

WASHINGTON, November 23, 2021––The Federal Communications Commission voted Monday to approve Verizon’s purchase of TracFone Wireless.

The transaction is subject to binding conditions to ensure that the deal benefits the public interest. In approving the deal, the FCC imposed requirements to protect consumers from price increases, guarantee affordable 5G services and devices for underserved customers, and ensure that TracFone continues its support as a federal subsidy Lifeline program participant. Specifically, Monday’s order requires TracFone to offer its Lifeline supported services for at least seven years and offer “a range of cost-effective 5G devices” and plans to existing and new Lifeline customers.

The FCC also adopted enforcement measures as a condition of the merger. “Given the likelihood that any violation of these conditions could harm low-income consumers,” the FCC’s press release said, “today’s Order requires regular public reporting and more than seven years of oversight.” The enforcement mechanism includes an internal and an independent compliance officer who are empowered to proactively monitor conditions, ensure that low-income consumers are not being harmed, and facilitate consumer complaints about potential violations.

On Friday, the California Public Utilities Commission also approved Verizon’s acquisition of TracFone Wireless with those similar conditions.

TracFone is the largest prepaid carrier in the U.S. And with TracFone’s 21 million customers, Monday’s merger makes Verizon the largest prepaid service operator in the country.

Kathleen Burke, policy counsel for public interest group Public Knowledge, said Monday that the organization “applaud[s] the FCC for its thorough review of this merger, and its efforts to ensure that this merger meets the necessary public interest standard.” With these commitments, Burke says a merged Verizon/TracFone “should provide better prepaid and Lifeline services to the benefit of low-income and price-conscious consumers.”

The deal was initially criticized for eliminating a strong Verizon competitor and potentially leading to an increase in the barrier to market entry for the communications sector. Policy analyst Daniel Hanley at the Open Markets Institute said in a Broadband Breakfast expert opinion that the merger allows Verizon to neutralize competitors.

“Verizon does not need to acquire TracFone to accomplish its operational goals,” he said. “The FCC should not allow Verizon to use its dominant financial position to acquire a critical competitor and market participant and forgo operational investments and other necessary market research to expand its network.”

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Wireless

Dish Reiterates Need for Full Three-Year Phase-out of Sprint Network

Supply chain issues are impacting Dish’s ability to bring on new customers, company says.

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Tom Cullen, executive vice president of corporate development for DISH

WASHINGTON, November 11, 2021 – A representative from Dish Network reiterated at the INCOMPAS show in Las Vegas late last month the company’s frustration with T-Mobile’s timeline for shutting down the Sprint 3G network on which it serves its customers, as the case drags on in front of the California Public Utilities Commission.

Tom Cullen, executive vice president of corporate development for DISH, also said at the October 26 show the company’s capacity to migrate these new customers on its network is limited by supply chain delays that have caused a shortage in connectivity devices.

Part of T-Mobile’s deal to acquire Sprint, closed last year, required that the latter sell wireless assets, including Boost Mobile, to Dish. During regulatory review of the deal, T-Mobile said it would phase-out Sprint’s 3G and LTE networks within a three-year period following the deal’s closing, enough time for Dish to fully migrate customers over to its own networks. The phase-out would occur sometime in 2023.

But T-Mobile then announced that it would shut down the 3G network in January 2022, with the LTE shutdown occurring by June 30 that year. In an update to the California Public Utilities Commission in May, T-Mobile pushed back the 3G phase-out deadline to March 31, 2022, which it said should serve as grounds to dismiss Dish’s wish for the commission to reinstate the three-year phase-out period.

“DISH submits that while additional time is welcome, three months is not nearly sufficient to protect Boost customers in California – many of whom are low income – who are expected to still be using the CDMA network beyond March 31, 2022,” the Colorado-based company said in a November 3 filing, which reiterating its needs to have the network operational for the full three-year period.

The California Public Utilities Commission ruled in August that T-Mobile had to show why it shouldn’t be penalized for providing “false, misleading, or omitted statements” related to the claim it made about the timeline to shut down the 3G network. The Department of Justice also noted it was concerned about the damage to Dish’s new customer base if the shortened timeline was upheld.

Dish announced this summer that its Boost Mobile is buying Los Angeles-based prepaid and low-cost mobile service company Gen Mobile. Last year, the company purchased Ting Mobile.

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Spectrum

More Experts Weigh In On Possibility 12 GHz Band Can Be Shared with 5G Services

More experts weight in on the debate about whether the 12 GHz band can coexist with 5G operations.

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Michael Calabrese, director of the Wireless Future Project at New America’s Open Technology Institute

WASHINGTON, November 9, 2021 – Experts at the New America Open Technology Institute last week suggested that the 12 Gigahertz band can be shared with 5G wireless services and argued that the big-name proponent that says it can’t has allegedly not produced evidence saying otherwise.

The Federal Communications Commission, studying the sharing possibility, has fielded comments from Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which has argued that the 12 GHz band used by satellite services, cannot be shared with 5G wireless providers because of interference problems. On the other hand, providers like RS Access have argued that it can, using a technical study from RKF Engineering to demonstrate as such.

At a New America Open Technology Institute event on November 2, Kathleen Burke, policy counsel at internet advocacy group Public Knowledge, alleged SpaceX hasn’t submitted any studies showing it’s not possible to share spectrum.

Burke said SpaceX has no engineering analysis supporting its claim that the band could not be shared. “Incumbents are not open to sharing spectrum” she said, alleging a strong desire for SpaceX to win exclusive use licenses for its satellite venture.

“The evidence demonstrates it is possible to share this band,” she added.

Nicol Turner-Lee, director of the Center for Technology Innovation at the Brookings Institution, said that it’s worth looking at innovations in satellite. “When we come up with a solution for the digital divide, shared spectrum use [of the 12GHz band] has always been on the palate,” she said.

“The question is, can we get along when there’s so many people that are disconnected,” she added. “This may not be picking winners and losers and more about getting everyone on board…no one should hog the spectrum if it’s at the expense of communities that need it most.”

Mid-band crucial for 5G

Michael Calabrese, director of the Wireless Future Project at New America’s Open Technology Institute, said that the 500 megahertz of mid-band spectrum on the 12GHz band offers more speed and potential than any other mid-band spectrum being considered by the FCC. Using the 12Ghz band for 5G and authorizing the band for open shared access could “promote more competition, enhance the benefits of next-generation Wi-Fi, and help address the digital divide,” he said.

The RKF engineering study concluded that Starlink’s SpaceX low-earth orbit satellite terminals can reject 5G signals; technology used by mobile wireless networks will direct energy toward handsets, not satellite terminals; and 5G networks will largely be used in higher population areas while Starlink will target mostly rural areas.

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