A venture-backed startup’s attempts to offer free broadband in the AWS-3 spectrum have moved closer to reality today. The company released FCC-observed tests results today that show that devices operating in the band of spectrum eyed by M2Z Networks won’t interfere with devices operating in nearby spectrum bands.
M2Z, which was formed in 2006 to provide an alternative wireless broadband service to most of the country, plans to use the AWS-3 band for its wireless broadband network, but spectrum holders in the AWS-1 band — notably T-Mobile — claimed such devices would interfere with their network operations. Other carriers also stepped up to stop the idea, arguing that they had paid for their spectrum (T-Mobile paid about $4 billion for its AWS-1 spectrum), whereas M2Z was essentially seeking a giveaway of the valuable asset. It does say it will share 5 percent of its revenue with the FCC in addition to providing free broadband.
But carrier opposition was also related to competitive fears caused by M2Z’s plans to price its upper tier of broadband at $20 to $30 per month, charge nothing for lower speeds and create an open network for any device. Kevin Martin, chairman of the FCC, has supported M2Z’s plan to reserve 25 percent of its network to provide free broadband at lower speeds to the 100 million Americans without existing service. While M2Z wouldn’t provide mobile wireless broadband, capable of downloading content in a moving vehicle, it would be useful in the same way Wi-Fi is today.
So while T-Mobile is launching the new Android phone this morning in New York, M2Z is launching its final attack in getting access to the AWS-3 spectrum in the 2155-2175MHz band to use for wireless broadband ranging in speeds from 768 kbps to 3 Mbps. There’s a conference call later today where I will ask about the time frame, how M2Z plans to raise the billions needed to build out a network of towers, whether device makers are on board and all the other things that can trip up a new wireless operator between buying spectrum and running a network. Stay tuned.