The FCC will need to identify the spectrum it is
reclaiming for wireless broadband by the middle of next year and start transitioning
broadcasters off their spectrum or onto new channels in the VHF band or into
channel sharing arrangements by the beginning of the second quarter of 2013.
That is according to a just-released timetable from the National
Telecommunications & Information Administration.
The FCC plans to launch a rulemaking and inquiry into
spectrum relocation at its Nov. 30 meeting. It is looking to reclaim 120 MHz
of spectrum from broadcasters and auction it for wireless broadband.
The NTIA timetable tracks pretty closely with
the broadcast spectrum reallocation timetable on the FCC's National
Broadband Plan action agenda,
which had a 2010 target for a rulemaking proposal, a 2011 date for a final
order, though it suggested starting the auctions of the spectrum in 2012.
FCC sources have indicated that 120 MHz is a
target rather than a mandate, and getting any spectrum voluntarily from broadcasters
will almost certainly require Congress to approve legislation to compensate
broadcasters out of the auction proceeds.
NTIA outlined its plans Monday in two
reports, a 10-year plan for freeing up 500 MHz--of which the FCC timetable
above was a part--and a "fast track" assessment that turned up
115 MHz of government spectrum. NTIA chief Larry Stricklng had
already telegraphed that 115 MHz of spectrum last month as
coming from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (15 MHz
from spectrum used mostly by weather satellites and balloons) and the Defense
Department (100 MHz from spectrum used for naval radar).
The White House, in a report from NTIA, had
requested that "fast track" assessment of possible available government
spectrum last month. NTIA, which is part of the Department of Commerce, is the
chief telecom advisory arm of the administration.
Senate Communications Subcommittee Chairman John
Kerry said he would do his part to clear a legislative path to freeing up more
spectrum. "[NTIA's plan] presents a roadmap and urges legislative action
authorizing voluntary incentive auctions to enable the reallocation of
privately held spectrum that is going unused or underutilized," he said in
a statement. "[P]rivate firms need access to more space in the public airwaves
so they can innovate and unleash that next generation of jobs here in
America. I'm committed to getting this done and will make it a priority
going into the next Congress."
"We believe that NTIA's efforts to free
government spectrum for licensed commercial use are essential to helping the
U.S. wireless industry maintain our world leadership in mobile innovation, and
we will carefully review NTIA's report," said Steve Largent,
president of CTIA - The Wireless Association
The wireless industry has been pushing the
government to free up as much as 800 MHz over the next decade--the government's
current target is 500--saying there is a growing spectrum crunch/crisis.
The cable industry has a growing stake in wireless spectrum. Comcast,
Time Warner Cable and Brighthouse are partners in the Clearwire wireless
broadband service, while Comcast, the nation's largest cable operator, just
announced an app that would allow digital customers to access its content on