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FCC Chief: 300MHz More Spectrum By 2015

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the we-want-it-all dept.

Wireless Networking 60

itwbennett writes "On Thursday, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski laid out plans to make 300MHz more spectrum available by 2015. Among the blocks that will be auctioned in the AWS (Advanced Wireless Services) band is a band between 1755MHz and 1780MHz, where a commercial user would share the spectrum with current government users." Genachowski's full speech (PDF) is available online.

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What I can't figure out... (3, Insightful)

Andy Dodd (701) | about 2 years ago | (#41560073)

How is it that Europe has no problems using their existing spectrum allocations, while the USA seems to be resorting to insane band fragmentation?

The European 2100 MHz band isn't THAT big...

Re:What I can't figure out... (4, Insightful)

ThatsMyNick (2004126) | about 2 years ago | (#41560145)

Well, band fragmentation benefits the carriers. Phones made for one carrier cannot be used on the other, and hence discourages customers from switching to another carrier. No wonder the carriers are keen on spectrum fragmentation.

Re:What I can't figure out... (2)

alen (225700) | about 2 years ago | (#41560341)

every carrier has free on contract phones and cheap phones. and there is a used market for every carrier's phones

Re:What I can't figure out... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41560655)

You've missed the point. Say I'm here with my nice smartphone on T-Mobile. I like my phone so don't want to change it, but this means I can't switch to any other carrier. The fact that I can get a free / cheap / used phone for another carrier doesn't make an ounce of difference when I want to keep my current phone because it's better than any free / cheap / used phone I'll be able to buy. Vendor lock-in like this is bad.

Re:What I can't figure out... (1)

jeffmeden (135043) | about 2 years ago | (#41560735)

You missed the other point. Take your phone, go to another carrier (even if it were compatible) there is still no financial upside... You don't get any discount in service for bringing a device vs buying one subsidized. Therefore, the ETF is the only thing they need to enforce to discourage you from moving. Otherwise, you can just get a similar phone for very little money after switching. If you think the $200 for a "nice" phone is a barrier, you are fooling yourself because the long term cost of the data plan is many times more than that.

Re:What I can't figure out... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41561031)

I really hate the US system for that. Here in the UK I don't bother to get a phone subsidised, yeah I could but it turns out cheaper not to.

Example: Galaxy S3

T-Mobile: £45 Phone, £36 Per Month 2 Year Contract, £909 Total.

Phone on it's own £415, T-mobile month to month contract with Internet £10, £655 Total over two years.

Granted you don't get as many minutes with the £10 month to month, but there's a lot of cheap contracts that'll get you the same. I hate making calls, and don't send many texts so it's perfect for me, internet is all I really want..

Re:What I can't figure out... (1)

Rob Riggs (6418) | about 2 years ago | (#41563213)

There is *no* mobile contract in the US priced anything close to that. I know. I just looked. I came back from a couple weeks in the UK. I spent about USD30 on a 3 network SIM + top-up. Had phone and internet service for my stay. A month of unlimited internet on 3 is about USD25. It's even cheaper for reasonably limited data (i.e. more than you get in the US on average).

The closest I could get in the US was on T-Mobile and that was USD65/mo for phone/data.

The US does not do much for keeping our telecom services competitive. Our free markets are not exactly filled with robust competition.

Re:What I can't figure out... (1)

zach_the_lizard (1317619) | about 2 years ago | (#41563799)

The closest I could get in the US was on T-Mobile and that was USD65/mo for phone/data.

Straight Talk's unlimited everything is $45 / month. Virgin Mobile is $35 / month. Boost is $50 / month. MetroPCS is $40 unlimited 3G coverage. All of these are still a lot more expensive than the $25 unlimited plan, but it's not as large a gap as $65 vs $25.

Re:What I can't figure out... (1)

Rob Riggs (6418) | about 2 years ago | (#41567807)

Thanks for the tip. I was unaware of Straight Talk. Straight Talk is the only one of the lot that is GSM / SIM-based. The others are CDMA and non-SIM based. They all require that you buy one of their phones because CDMA phones are not really network portable. They are also mostly useless for non-US residents or us world travellers.

That said, I am now seriously thinking about ditching my T-Mobile contract for Straight Talk. Worst cast is I go back to T-Mobile monthly.

Re:What I can't figure out... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41561063)

You missed the other point. Take your phone, go to another carrier (even if it were compatible) there is still no financial upside... You don't get any discount in service for bringing a device vs buying one subsidized.

That is a very valid point, but it was not the point anyone above you in this thread made.

Re:What I can't figure out... (1)

ThatsMyNick (2004126) | about 2 years ago | (#41561141)

Many consider migrating to prepaid carriers at the end of their contracts. There is no lump sum to be paid to anyone, just one month in advance. With LTE I was hoping that this will become more and more popular. But I was wrong, phones support frequencies only on the carrier they are on. So at the end of the contract, people dont pay $600 to get a new phone to get prepaid, they just renew with one of their post paid providers.
 
I would say the lack of phone interoperability is much bigger deterrent than ETF.

Re:What I can't figure out... (1)

jeffmeden (135043) | about 2 years ago | (#41561253)

Many consider migrating to prepaid carriers at the end of their contracts. There is no lump sum to be paid to anyone, just one month in advance. With LTE I was hoping that this will become more and more popular. But I was wrong, phones support frequencies only on the carrier they are on. So at the end of the contract, people dont pay $600 to get a new phone to get prepaid, they just renew with one of their post paid providers.

I would say the lack of phone interoperability is much bigger deterrent than ETF.

Prepaid carriers exist for every single major network, so nothing is stopping you from taking your ATT, Sprint, Verizon, etc. phone and going to one... Prepaid carriers are making a decent living but the big providers are still raking in money faster than they know how to spend it. The biggest disadvantage of a prepaid is that anyone with three or more lines is almost always better sticking with a major carrier because prepaid ones dont give breaks for multiple contracts (there is no contract).

Re:What I can't figure out... (1)

ThatsMyNick (2004126) | about 2 years ago | (#41561423)

Most prepaid providers are MVNOs of major networks (the major networks prepaid plans are a joke). Most MVNO agreements prohibit them from allowing phones that have been on major phone networks. The only one I know on Verizon is pageplus, and their plans are for people who dont need data. Sprint devices, until recently can be used only on Sprint directly. Recent new MVNOs have managed to get rid of these clauses in their contracts. But still they are very very few. The only one I know is Ting. You can lookup any prepaid provider, they do not allow bringing phones from other providers.
 
To address you sharing contract point, some carrier allow you to share minutes, data on prepaid plans. T-mobile used to (and I believe still does), now Ting allows you to. So you do get a break for multiple phones.

Re:What I can't figure out... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41561941)

spectrum should never have been auctioned, it should be leased
leased spectrum revenues should enhance cellular infrastructure
carriers should have to be cross-compatible with each other.
insert some benefit to reward infrastructure enhancement from personal revenues

yes, companies can coexist in this matter, so long as the overseer has some teeth.

Re:What I can't figure out... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41560177)

There are two ways to clear up spectrum for cell phones.

One is, obviously, add more spectrum.

The other is add more towers and reduce transmit power, to reduce noise, crosstalk, and the band in other locations.

Europe has much denser populations than most of the US, and other areas very sparse.

The US, on the other hand, has vast areas of middle ground that is suburb hell.

Re:What I can't figure out... (1)

Andy Dodd (701) | about 2 years ago | (#41560213)

Problem with your argument is, the places where the carriers are bitching about insufficient spectrum (and the first places they roll out new bands) are densely populated cities.

Not in my back yard (1)

tepples (727027) | about 2 years ago | (#41560399)

With a given spectrum allocation, densely populated cities with more customers need more towers. So how should a cell phone company acquire the land and permits for such towers over the complaints of NIMBY types? Is there a difference between the European countries and the United States as to utility land acquisition practices that would explain this?

Re:Not in my back yard (1)

X0563511 (793323) | about 2 years ago | (#41560455)

Cell towers can and are cleverly disguised, and its easy to put them on tall buildings in ways that don't make them super-obvious.

Re:Not in my back yard (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41560507)

The towers can be painted, and non-RF interfering things can be hung from their struts. They needn't be ugly.

Re:Not in my back yard (3, Informative)

Andy Dodd (701) | about 2 years ago | (#41560885)

Yup. It's next to impossible for anyone (even a person that knows they're there) to identify the antennas for Verizon's cell site on top of Cornell's Barton Hall.

Of course, the rather distracting Force12 HF antenna belonging to W2CXM helps a bit... But even without the Force12, the Verizon antennas (sector antennas painted to match the stone of the building) are nearly impossible to spot.

In any built-up area it's really easy to hide a cell site.

Re:Not in my back yard (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41561071)

problem is then all the "I'm allergic to radiowaves" nutters start yelling

Re:Not in my back yard (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41561607)

Reminds me of a german cell provider who errected a new tower and immediatly got complains from people who couldn't sleep anymore or had other effects from the evil radiowaves. The company collected the complains over a couple of weaks before announcing that they hadn't even switched it on yet.

Re:Not in my back yard (1)

firex726 (1188453) | about 2 years ago | (#41561087)

Yea, and oil wells too...

Go out to Fl and Ca, and you can find cell towers designed as cacti/church steeple, or an oil well in what is in effect a shell designed to look like a small office building.

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2564/4118297426_6f3fee3505_o.jpg [flickr.com]

http://cutenessapproved.com/2008/08/cell-towers-in-disguise/ [cutenessapproved.com]

Re:Not in my back yard (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about 2 years ago | (#41560571)

They stuff 'em in church steeples. The church gets a new roof, and desperately needed cash, and the churchgoers get a better connection when texting with God.

Re:Not in my back yard (1)

ThatsMyNick (2004126) | about 2 years ago | (#41562735)

Actually the church would have the worst coverage, as the antennas are directional. I guess like theaters, not having coverage in a church is a good thing.

Re:What I can't figure out... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41560951)

Europe has an abundance of spectrum mines, so they can always dig up more.

70CM (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41560083)

Clear the hams out of 420-450, those frequencies would be great for long distance wi-fi ISPs

Re:70CM (4, Informative)

jrmcferren (935335) | about 2 years ago | (#41560191)

I don't normally respond to trolls, but this is a government band and hams have secondary usage of this. It won't happen.

Re:70CM (1)

firex726 (1188453) | about 2 years ago | (#41561101)

Also don't they serve as a great medium to distribute information during disaster events and the like?

Re:70CM (1)

jrmcferren (935335) | about 2 years ago | (#41562271)

Yes, we do. I figured to hit him with an easier argument that the military uses that band as well. The portion between 420 and 430 MHz is used for Land Mobile Radio (think Taxis cabs, busses, and other businesses) in Canada and the Hams can't use it north of Line A (CONUS) or east of Line C (Alaska). There are other geographical restrictions in that band.

Re:70CM (2)

X0563511 (793323) | about 2 years ago | (#41561029)

How about we take back some of 87.8 MHz to 108.0 MHz instead, since we're trolling?

Re:70CM (1)

tautog (46259) | about 2 years ago | (#41561545)

Might as well... There's little of value in that band anyway.

Nevermind any technical issues that might be at play.

Re:70CM (1)

JDG1980 (2438906) | about 2 years ago | (#41561593)

Any allocation of spectrum for analog broadcast radio seems difficult to justify in the modern era. No one would consider creating the AM or FM bands if we were setting up things from the ground up now.

Re:70CM (1)

k6mfw (1182893) | about 2 years ago | (#41562081)

not a chance. "Computer people" (not techies) nowadays only know of spectrum above 2.4GHz. 400 MHz is about as unknown as HF.

Obligatory Meme! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41560281)

USE ALL THE SPECTRUM!

Good policy (1)

jbolden (176878) | about 2 years ago | (#41560441)

This is all good policy. I wish the FCC were being more aggressive about reallocated spectrum but at the very least this is a step in the right direction.

Re:Good policy (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | about 2 years ago | (#41561497)

This is all good policy. I wish the FCC were being more aggressive about reallocated spectrum but at the very least this is a step in the right direction.

Or is it? It's "government primary, commercial secondary" spectrum, which means the commercial use has to give way to government use. (A lot of the lower spectrum is like this - very little is actually dedicated to one entity or sector).

So the government has a right to the band (it's the government's to begin with) and they're letting commercial interests use it. Except well, officially now the government can spy on users of that band as part of their "spectrum management". Primary users have priority and the right to monitor secondary users of their spectrum to ensure compliance and everything (and if the government want sot block the commercial use temporarily, they can - primary user always has rights over the secondary).

Just something to keep in mind.

Re:Good policy (1)

jbolden (176878) | about 2 years ago | (#41561633)

The government under the Communications act of 1934 can grab any spectrum for national defense reasons: 47 U.S.C. 606 (c), (d) . All of it is under ultimately government control, with commercial use being secondary. That isn't a change.

Re:Good policy (1)

Rob Riggs (6418) | about 2 years ago | (#41563297)

The airwaves belong to the people of the United States and we *lease* spectrum to those that provide the citizens and our country with the best value. It is a natural resource which is managed on our behalf by our government. Don't for a minute think of the RF spectrum as anything but that. It is not "the government's to begin with" -- it is the peoples to begin with, and we delegate to our government the right to grant exclusive or shared use for a limited time to other entities.

Why? (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41560481)

640 KHz ought to be enough for anybody.

Re:Why? 640 KHz (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about 2 years ago | (#41560975)

I remember when we used to string between two tin cans and we used morse code.

Now get off my lawn

Balkanization ... (1)

kbahey (102895) | about 2 years ago | (#41560801)

This is just more and more balkanization of the North American mobile market [baheyeldin.com] .

Why don't we see this "different network, different frequencies" problem elsewhere in Europe and Asia?

This is cool since u don't get Internet 2 wifi (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about 2 years ago | (#41560959)

All major EU and US (and Canada I think) campuses are getting Internet 2 secure wifi 802.1x ... but not you.

Tell me when you get more than 1000 mbps baseline. You're playing catchup.

C=B*log2(1+SNR): It's not just a good idea... (3, Insightful)

Erich (151) | about 2 years ago | (#41561019)

It's the law!

And you're getting very close to the Shannon limit with turbo codes. LTE isn't much more spectral efficient as compared to HSPA+, but it has wider frequency bands and so can get more peak speed to customers.

So you can increase the amount of spectrum you have, with the current infrastructure, to get more capacity. That will buy you a few years of network traffic increase.

But eventually you have to figure out how to get less capacity demand and more SNR. There's really only one way to do that: change the infrastructure topology. And that has lots of problems.

It's kind of like we're near "Peak Bandwidth".

Re:C=B*log2(1+SNR): It's not just a good idea... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41561483)

Shannon's Law applies to a single channel, or a fixed number of channels.
However, there is no practical limit to how many channels you can have. You just need an antenna at each end for each of them.
It should be pretty easy to print out a million tiny antennas on a single microchip. Now you just need the signal processing capacity to sort it all out. So Moore's law is the only limit here.

Furthermore, certain spectrum bands have a lot of unused capacity. The IR band, the visible band, the gamma ray band... We're using radio and microwave bands right now because it's easy, not because they're any good.

Re:C=B*log2(1+SNR): It's not just a good idea... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41561753)

Yeah well when it becomes a big enough issue the carriers will while and complain and say they have to lower speed while raising rates. They'll love it, in fact they plan for it.

Just like how I now literally pay twice as much for my Internet and get half the speed I did 10 year ago (same ISP).

Re:C=B*log2(1+SNR): It's not just a good idea... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41561991)

shush! you and your math...

Re:C=B*log2(1+SNR): It's not just a good idea... (1)

evilviper (135110) | about 2 years ago | (#41565935)

The cell co's have tons of licensed, dedicated bandwidth, yet and they can't even match the speeds of WiFi access point scattered all across the country. Sounds like cell co's are being EXTREMELY inefficient when it comes to spectrum reuse.

Re:C=B*log2(1+SNR): It's not just a good idea... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41567429)

They can get better spatial diversity. For starters, adding more towers and turning down the power on each so they don't interfere is one approach. Another potential approach is to use beamforming and directional antennas. Wireless needs an equivalent to 802.11ad. With perfect spatial diversity, each device would in theory get the full spectrum bandwidth to each other node it can connect to. It is the equivalent of running wires between each device and using a switch instead of a router. There is currently research to use helicity to add channels to the same frequency band. That would also add significant capacity.

More bandwidth for Sprint to fail at (1)

gelfling (6534) | about 2 years ago | (#41561131)

Awesome.

Why not repurpose the AM Radio band? (1)

JDG1980 (2438906) | about 2 years ago | (#41561563)

Why haven't we repurposed the obsolete AM Radio band for long-range wireless Internet access? It's been technologically obsolete for many years; FM is far superior in terms of sound quality (though even it is getting long in the tooth) and FM is just as widely supported, if not more so. All it contains now is talk radio, and that kind of stuff can just as easily be done with webcasts or podcasts.

Re:Why not repurpose the AM Radio band? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41561671)

Probably not a bad idea but politically impossible.
The conservative talk radio and religious programming stations that rely on the AM band wield far too much influence.

Re:Why not repurpose the AM Radio band? (3, Informative)

xtal (49134) | about 2 years ago | (#41561791)

The AM band is very small.

FM VHF isn't very big spectrum either. You don't need a large carrier to move voice signals.

The fact these systems carry a long way works against them too. The line of sight / local bounce propagation from the microwave bands allows for a much higher density of cells that are all synchronized. More transmitters means more bandwidth / spectrum re-use. If the transmitters see each other with stronger signals, your noise floor and interference go up, and your throughput goes down.

Physics is a bitch sometimes.

Re:Why not repurpose the AM Radio band? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41561929)

I want to see what that AM cell phone is going to look like. Baterry size, antena size. That would be sweet.

Re:Why not repurpose the AM Radio band? (1)

Bruce Perens (3872) | about 2 years ago | (#41563053)

Because everything below 30 MHz (and sometimes above) can go around the whole world, which is way too long, and because the band is so narrow that it might only support one customer. My ATT U-Verse DSL, with two pairs, uses more bandwidth than all of the frequencies below 30 MHz.

Re:Why not repurpose the AM Radio band? (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | about 2 years ago | (#41563103)

Why haven't we repurposed the obsolete AM Radio band for long-range wireless Internet access?

What obsolete AM band?

All it contains now is talk radio, and that kind of stuff can just as easily be done with webcasts or podcasts.

Spoken like a true city dweller where there are lots of FM stations ready to serve your every need, and a fast network connection to serve everything you can't get off the FM.

1. Band allocations are based on international treaty. Certainly any band that has the potential for international coverage is. One state cannot just decide to use a chunk of spectrum for whatever it wants.

2. The "obsolete" (but still actively used) AM radio band is only 1.2 MHz wide, about. 530kHz to 1.7MHz. You can't fit a lot of anything else there.

3. Anywhere near a US border, you'd be looking for whitespace between the AM broadcast stations in from Canada or Mexico that would make using a lot of the spectrum for data impossible.

4. The wavelength is very long, and you wouldn't like the size of the antennas you'd need to carry. The propogation would go to crap at night, or you'd have long distance interference making the band unusable for data.

5. When "the big one" hits, it is more likely that you'll be able to hear an AM radio station than log into your podcast server, and the information you get will be more current. It is more likely that one call to the AM station will propogate the information, where it would take a long time for the information to be formatted and put up for podcast. And you're more likely to get obsolete information from an archived podcast than from the AM station.

The arguments that go along the lines of "I don't think we need X anymore because I don't need X anymore" are usually a waste of time.

Please contact me. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41563131)

Why haven't we repurposed the obsolete AM Radio band for long-range wireless Internet access? It's been technologically obsolete for many years; FM is far superior in terms of sound quality (though even it is getting long in the tooth) and FM is just as widely supported, if not more so. All it contains now is talk radio, and that kind of stuff can just as easily be done with webcasts or podcasts.

I have to say, this sounds like an excellent idea. I can have my company purchase this spectrum to deliver broadband services while remaining compatible with legacy AM/FM radio stations on the air.

Don't worry, we would *never* think of applying to modify the FCC license terms to allow us to build 1 megawatt towers in everyone's front yard that would obliterate the ability to receive the radio stations you've come to love.

Thanks again for the idea; please touch base with me so we can proactively leverage our synergies to actualize this disruptive market paradigm shift.

Sincerely,

Doug Smith
CEO, LightSquared

I'm going to go out on a limb here... (1)

macromorgan (2020426) | about 2 years ago | (#41561573)

And guess that AT&T and Verizon manage to get about 290MHz of the 300MHz. At least after this they'll be rasing their data caps to 2.1GB.

does US gov't have the right to auction bandwidth? (1)

cain amofni (2745583) | about 2 years ago | (#41564803)

why does the government have the right to 'auction' (sell) bandwidth? do they own it? if so, from whom did they get it? could guns have anything to do with it? I wonder who gets the money and what they will do with it.

1780MHz - 1755MHz = 25 MHz - where's 300MHz from? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41565041)

Typo? Regan economics?

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