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Wednesday, December 01, 2010
FCC Proposes Steps To Open TV Spectrum To New Wireless Broadband Services

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission today took important steps to meet the demand for wireless broadband services and preserve the benefits that free over-the- air TV provides for consumers.

In addition, the FCC launched two proceedings that will help to promote investment and create jobs in developing spectrum-efficient technologies and services to help meet the growing demand for wireless broadband services.

In adopting proposals to make more efficient use of the U.S. airwaves, the FCC set the stage for voluntary broadcast spectrum auctions that could provide consumers with the mobile broadband services they demand while preserving over-the-air TV that many rely upon.

Specifically, a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking adopted by the FCC today proposes that wireless broadband providers have equal access to television broadcast frequencies that could become available in spectrum auctions. The Notice seeks comment on establishing new allocations for both fixed and mobile wireless services in the TV broadcast bands.

The Notice also explores enabling TV stations to voluntarily combine their operations and distinct programming lineups on a single TV channel. The Notice requests comment on the proposed rules that would enable TV broadcasters to opt to share channels by further tapping the technical capabilities that became available following the nation?s historic transition to digital television in 2009.

Finally, the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeks comment on steps that would improve TV reception on the VHF channels (2-13), such as by increasing transmitting power and establishing minimum performance standards for indoor antennas. These improvements could provide better VHF reception for consumers and encourage broadcasters to use valuable VHF channels in the future.

The proposals in today?s rulemaking will pave the way for future actions that will propose service, licensing and auction rules for new broadband service operators to utilize voluntarily vacated TV spectrum.

The Federal Communications Commission also today launched two proceedings that will help to promote investment and create jobs in developing spectrum-efficient technologies and services to help meet the growing demand for wireless broadband services.

The first action is a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that seeks to expand the FCC?s existing Experimental Radio Service rules to promote research and foster development of new wireless technologies, devices, and applications. Specifically, the Commission proposed a new type of license, called a "program license," which would give qualified entities broad authority to conduct research without the need to seek new approval for each individual experiment.

The Commission proposed three types of program licenses:

- Research license: This would allow universities, laboratories, and other qualified research institutions to conduct experiments over a wide variety of frequencies and other operating parameters.

- Innovation Zone license: This would identify discrete geographic areas -- generally relatively remote locations -- where researchers could conduct a wide range of experiments.

- Medical license: This would allow medical institutions to innovate and develop new devices that can save lives, have a significant impact on reducing medical costs for consumers, and provide new treatment options for wounded service men and women.

The Commission also proposed ways to streamline and clarify the existing rules that support conventional experimentation. Among other things, these changes would expand opportunities for researchers and manufacturers to conduct market trials as part of product development.

The second action is a Notice of Inquiry to promote wireless innovation by examining how "dynamic access" radios and techniques -- which use technology to squeeze the most use out of available spectrum -- can provide more intensive and efficient use of spectrum. The Commission seeks comment on how to advance these technologies, whether by creating test-beds or modifying spectrum management practices and policies for future uses of both licensed and unlicensed devices and services.

The Notice of Inquiry specifically seeks feedback on the usefulness of the model recently adopted for television white spaces devices for providing access to other spectrum bands. The Commission also asks whether spectrum sensing is, or could become, a viable technology for providing dynamic access in certain frequency bands. The NOI seeks comment on whether dynamic access technologies and techniques can be used in conjunction with current FCC secondary market policies to increase spectrum use. Finally, the NOI asks whether the Commission?s "Spectrum Dashboard" could be enhanced to better utilize the potential of dynamic access technologies. The Spectrum Dashboard tracks how spectrum licenses are used around the country and the availability of spectrum locally.

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