Spectrum, Spectrum, Who's Got the Spectrum


There seems to be some confusion over whether or not there is a spectrum crisis. The FCC’s chairman has usually been careful to talk of a looming crisis, not one currently at hand, but even the “looming” seemed to be called into question by a report that a Sprint executive told a 4G conference in Chicago that there was “no impending [spectrum] crisis” and that it was instead a planning crisis.

That came the same day that CTIA: The Wireless Association and its leadership, including Sprint CEO Dan Hesse, called on the supercommittee to include incentive spectrum auctions in its deficit reduction package. While the letter did not say there was a crisis, it suggested that the explosive growth in demand for wireless service that will fuel economic growth “will require additional spectrum.”

In one way it is no surprise that Sprint would be supporting freeing up more spectrum while downplaying the “crisis” part. It is trying to defeat the proposed AT&T/T-Mobile merger, a deal that AT&T has said is all about freeing up spectrum to handle all this exploding demand that has already pushed some markets to near spectrum exhaustion, a spectrum pitch he made to policymakers at a Media Institute dinner in Washington last week.

Meanwhile, Public Knowledge was suggesting Wednesday that AT&T was working against its own spectrum shortage arguments by having earlier this year teed up a sale of some spectrum in combination with NextWave.

“AT&T is working with NextWave to make available to potential buyers a nationwide footprint of WCS 2.3 MHz spectrum,” said the company in a statement. “As AT&T has repeatedly made clear, the current FCC service rules for the WCS spectrum bands make them unsuitable for LTE deployment. As a result, AT&T cannot use these bands for its LTE deployment and is therefore making them available on the secondary market for carriers that may want to pursue an alternative deployment approach. Suggesting that such a sale is hypocritical or contrary to public policy simply reveals how little Public Knowledge knows about efficient spectrum use and network deployment requirements, or the positions taken in our merger proceeding.”

And so it goes.