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FCC vote may advance Dish spectrum use

Wed, 03/21/2012 - 2:32pm
Maisie Ramsay, Wireless Week

The FCC is expected to pass a proposal at its open meeting today, which could advance Dish Network's plans to use its satellite spectrum for an LTE network.

Dish had asked the FCC to grant it a waiver to deploy ground-based wireless service in its satellite spectrum, but the agency denied the request earlier this month in favor of a formal rulemaking proceeding, which gets underway today.

The agency will vote on a proposed rulemaking that would open the way for flexible use of the 2 GHz satellite band, the same spectrum Dish wants to use for its wireless service.

The draft regulations lay out service, technical, assignment and licensing rules for flexible terrestrial use of 2 GHz mobile satellite service spectrum.

The measure is expected to pass, opening the way for regulations that could officially open the band for Dish.

The FCC's decision to stick with its normal regulatory procedures marked a setback for Dish, which had pushed the agency for an expeditious approval of its waiver, similar to the handling of LightSquared's waiver last year.

Dish claims the delay harms its ability to compete with incumbent providers whose LTE deployments are well underway, and it has said it may have to examine other options – options rumored to include a sale of its spectrum to a bandwidth-hungry operator like AT&T.

Also on the agenda for today's open meeting is interoperability in the 700 MHz band, an important issue for regional wireless operators that say incompatibilities between the beachfront spectrum's various band classes are making it harder for them to deploy LTE.

Many smaller providers hold different parts of the band than AT&T and Verizon Wireless, so even though they're all using parts of the 700 MHz band for LTE, the lack of interoperability is shutting them out of roaming agreements and lowering economies of scale on devices.

“An interoperability requirement will finally allow competitive carriers to build out their 4G LTE mobile networks and compete with the ever-growing duopoly of AT&T and Verizon Wireless,” Steve Berry, president and CEO of the Rural Cellular Association, said last month when the FCC put interoperability on its March meeting agenda.

The FCC will vote on a proposed rulemaking that will examine whether interoperability between the different classes in the 700 MHz band could cause interference to signals in the lower B- and C-blocks, and whether the interference can be "reasonably mitigated" if it does exist. AT&T has expressed concern that mandatory interoperability could pose interference problems.

Finally, the agency will take up a notice of inquiry from the NTIA proposing to reallocate spectrum at 1695-1710 MHz from government to commercial use. The reallocation of federal spectrum for commercial operations is part of the FCC's plan to open up additional airwaves to the wireless industry.

The meeting agenda originally included three other items, but the FCC said yesterday it had already moved to adopt the measures and would not vote on them today. The items covered program access rules, low-power FM radio service and expanding ways to rebroadcast AM radio stations on FM translators.

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