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Summary:

The FCC is seeking input so it can allocate airwaves currently used primarily by weather balloons and weather satellite for wireless broadband. It is the first step toward getting 35 more megahertz so operators can support Farmville on the iPhone or Pandora on cell networks.

The Federal Communications Commission released a public notice Friday that seeks input on allocating the 35 MHz spectrum currently used primarily by weather balloons and weather satellites for wireless broadband. The spectrum, which sits between 1675 and 1710 MHz, is known as the Big LEO band; using it would help achieve the goal outlined in the National Broadband Plan of finding 300 MHz for wireless broadband within the next five years.

The Big LEO band is part of the spectrum allocated for mobile satellite services, which also encompasses L-band and S-band spectrum and totals 90 MHz. The FCC is giving citizens and businesses until June 28 to let the agency know if they are using the band, what for and when. The FCC also wants to know if there’s a more efficient way that some of the traffic transmitted through those airwaves on behalf of the government could be sent via terrestrial networks.

Since the government is already using these airwaves, and seems OK with possibly sharing them or giving them up entirely for wireless broadband, the public notice is the first step toward figuring out if and how the FCC could allocate 35 more megahertz for operators so they can support you playing Farmville on your iPhone or possibly streaming Pandora. So if you’re using that block, now’s your chance to speak now or forever hold your peace.

Related GigaOM Pro content (sub req’d):
Everybody Hertz: The Looming Spectrum Crisis

  1. Wasn’t a lot of this spectrum dedicated to mobile voice and data using satellites in low earth orbit? There’s already a lot of hardware “up there” dedicated to using chunks of this spectrum, Iridium probably being the most famous example. I think the DOD is biggest and maybe the only Iridium user these days, obviously for tasks that can’t be done with terrestrial hardware. It’s hard to see where this will go.

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  2. I am weak on my spectrum knowledge but I understand its critical importance when it come to wireless broadband. Mobile operators are moving quickly and adopting HSPA+, LTE and LTE Advanced. These radio interfaces are lynch pins. This is especially true since Cisco’s VNI study reports — “Globally, mobile data traffic will double every year through 2014, increasing 39 times between 2009 and 2014.”

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