So much has been written about the 700 MHz wireless auctions, and there has been a lot rejoicing on part of Google and other consumer groups who oppose the incumbents. FCC Chairman Kevin Martin got his way, but I am not buying all the doublespeak coming […]

So much has been written about the 700 MHz wireless auctions, and there has been a lot rejoicing on part of Google and other consumer groups who oppose the incumbents. FCC Chairman Kevin Martin got his way, but I am not buying all the doublespeak coming out of the FCC, Google, or the incumbents.

They all say they want to spur the broadband competition, and build a third pipe. If they are actually serious about this, then how about giving the spectrum back to the people – i.e. make it unlicensed (like the spectrum used for Wi-Fi.) In doing so, the FCC would actually be ensuring that no single party owns this third pipe.

The innovation and competition that could emerge as a result would start an economic chain reaction with real long-term economic ramifications. Such an explosion could far exceed the short-term gains that come from auctioning off the spectrum.

The FCC wants to use the proceeds of the auction to help pay for the DTV set-top box upgrades, which is a worthy cause – but isn’t there another way to pay for those upgrades and reap more gains over a longer term? Another argument against unlicensed spectrum could be that there will be enough white space between bands that is going to be unlicensed. Will that be enough? I don’t think so.

Related Posts

* 700 MHz explained in 10 steps
* Inside the 700 MHz spectrum land grab.
* White Space, the new wireless frontier.

  1. I am most decidedly not a radio person, but is it feasible to operate a “long-range” frequency in an unlicensed form?Shouldn’t the access be controlled, lest even people who are geographically far away step on my frequency? It is a sincere question and not a rhetorical one.

  2. WiMAX has both: unlicensed and licensed. You won’t see much commercial development in the unlicensed bands due to interference. Your cordless home phone works in a 2.4GHz (unlicensed) band, and the microwave (and other phones) can wreak havoc.

  3. In 1981, the FCC gave away for free to the monopoly telephone providers the spectrum now being used by the by the big two wireless companies (wireline). Soon after the FCC gave away for free the spectrum to the non-wireline companies – these companies had to prove they were in the wireless business which meant the paging companies (non-wireline). Although Congress decreed that the 700MHz spectrum is to be auctioned by the FCC by January 28, 2008, it would make common sense to turn 700MHz into unlicensed spectrum. Look at how 2.4GHz has been sliced, diced, used and reused. Almost every home and business makes use of this unlicensed spectrum. That is a lot of equipment built and sold and who knows how many tax dollars have been generated by 2.4GHz (Just look at the WiFi chipset in your laptop). Giving away 700MHz could generate lots of tax dollars in the near term and give Americans another choice for broadband.

  4. Yes, and turn the 700mhz into a chaotic frenzy as the public goes hog-wild with the spectrum? What’s going to promise that the people will have a usable network in a years’ time?

  5. I have to agree with several of the posters – wouldn’t having the 700 Mhz unlicensed cause a lot of interference?

  6. With the exception of Barlow Keener, your readers are making sense, Om, and you should think about what they’re telling you. WiFi was made good use of unlicensed spectrum at 2.4 and 5 GHz for Local Area Networks. The regulations that govern this spectrum effectively limit transmissions to a hundred feet for the highest data rates. You can’t build a competitor to Cable Internet and DSL out of hundred foot hops. In order to increase the range, you have to increase the power and that limits the number of networks that can be independently deployed and managed in any given area. That’s why Muni WiFi is proving impractical.

    If you want an alternative to cable and DSL, the 700MHz bands must be higher power and that means they must be licensed. We don’t have the technology today to do it any other way.

    Sorry, but that’s reality and you ignore it at your peril.

  7. They should have mandated the 3 sections of 700 spectrum open. That would have created 3 competitive pipes; enough for a market.

  8. Om:
    For a gent with broadband reporting background, you are a bit disappointing here. Unlicensed usage would lead to it being a RF junkyard, especially at that frequency; a zillion different signals colliding with each other making it quite unusable.
    It has to be licensed frequency, for power and QoS reasons

  9. Guys, the spectrum-slice is big enough, and the interference issues can be resolved.

    What cannot be resolved is that once the spectrum is licensed to one of the big three – AT&T, VZ or Google, we are almost always are going to be at their mercy.

    It is the choice between lesser of two evils, though I have faith in technologists’ ability to come up with viable solutions.

    Sure, I am a little idealist about this, but it this whole saga is not very confidence inspiring.

  10. I think they’re are two perspectives here and Om is talking about one , and the comments are talking about the other.

    Om is speaking about the dangers of increasing corporate governance over our lives by giving them even more spectrum.

    The posters are talking about the technical ramifications of having it unlicensed.

    I agree with Om on this , technical problems can always be engineered around. I would much rather have a public technical problem on my hands then being at the mercy of one private body.


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