The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Monday moved to allocate frequency bands below 3GHz to support the introduction of
Advanced Wireless services, including 3G services, in the U.S.
The decision follows an open meeting held in
August to attempt to sort out the prickly issue of how to allocate additional spectrum for 3G. Congress has mandated that 200 MHz of
spectrum be reallocated for advanced mobile and fixed communication services in the next three to five years, and the 2000 World
Radiocommunications Conference (WRC-2000) passed a resolution that an additional 160 MHz of spectrum will be needed by 2010 to meet
the projected requirements for those areas where the traffic on these services is expected to be heaviest.
In a First Report and Order and Memorandum Opinion and Order adopted in the New Advanced Wireless Services proceeding
and announced Monday, the FCC added a mobile allocation to the 2500-2690 MHz band. However, that band is already extensively used by
licensees offering Instructional Television Fixed Services (IFTS) and Multichannel Multipoint Distribution Services (MMDS), and the
FCC decided that in order to preserve the viability of those incumbent services it will not relocate the existing licensees or
otherwise modify their licenses.
Instead, the FCC said it will rely on market forces, rather than regulatory judgments, to determine the best uses for the band.
“This flexible allocation will, for example, allow certain portable data applications to be provided under existing service rules
and could provide flexibility for introducing other advanced fixed and mobile applications in the future,” the FCC said. “However,
the FCC recognizes that it will have to explore the service rules that would apply to permit mobile operations in the 2500-2690 MHz
band in a separate future proceeding.”
The FCC was forced to move carefully when dealing with the 2500-2690 MHz band because the MDS industry has already invested several
billion dollars to develop broadband fixed wireless data systems in the band, including high-speed access to the Internet. According
to a study prepared in March by FCC staff in the Office of Engineering and
Technology, Mass Media Bureau, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, and International Bureau, the MDS systems offer a “significant
opportunity for further competition with cable and digital subscriber line (DSL) services in the provision of broadband services in
urban and rural areas.”
The spectrum is also used to provide video services for education and training in schools, health care centers and a variety of
other institutions, as well as provisioning wireless cable. Although some argue the spectrum is underutilized, the study said it is
heavily licensed throughout the country. And, the study also found that ITFS and MDS use of the band varies from one geographic area
to the other, presenting “serious challenges to developing band sharing or segmentation options that could be used across the
country without severely disrupting ITFS and MDS use.”
As part of its Memorandum Opinion and Order, the FCC also denied a petition by the Satellite Industry Association, asking that the
commission reconsider its decision not to allocate the 2500-2520 MHz and 2670-2690 MHz bands for Mobile Satellite Service (MSS) use
for 3G services. The FCC felt that sharing the 2500-2690 MHz band between terrestrial and satellite systems would present
“substantial technical challenges in this band and MSS already has access to a significant amount of spectrum below 3GHz to meet its
needs in the foreseeable future.”