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FCC approves new WCS rules

Thu, 10/18/2012 - 4:04pm
Andrew Berg, Wireless Week

The FCC on Thursday said it has officially approved a set of revised rules governing the use of WCS spectrum in the 2.3 GHz band.

AT&T and satellite radio provider Sirius XM submitted the revised rules that the two companies say would limit interference between Satellite Digital Audio Radio Services (SDARS) and providers of wireless communications, both of which have been operating for the past 15 years in the 2.3 GHz band.

According to the FCC, of 30 megahertz of total spectrum, 20 MHz may be used for mobile broadband services and 10 MHz for fixed broadband services, with possible future use as downlink spectrum to serve mobile broadband devices.

The revised rules also provide Sirius XM greater certainty and flexibility by adopting conditions for identifying and resolving harmful interference to SDARS operations on roadways and by relaxing the SDARS licensee notification requirements for low power terrestrial repeaters and for minor modifications to repeaters.

The FCC is encouraging WCS and SDARS licensees to enter into coordination agreements with one another for interference mitigation.

Specifically, the new rules provide for everything from the prohibition of mobile transmitters in the WCS C and D blocks to AT&T's separate proposal to extend the build-out deadlines to permit the deployment of LTE equipment.

AT&T has been on a WCS spectrum-buying spree recently. The company announced in August an agreement to acquire NextWave for its WCS and AWS spectrum licenses. The carrier has also purchases licenses in a number of markets, including San Diego, to support its on-going LTE deployments.

AT&T and NextWave were actually criticized last year for putting up for auction their jointly held 2.3 GHz C and D block spectrum.

At the time, the companies said they were looking to sell the spectrum due to "unrealistic performance rules" and "unduly restrictive technical rules" that they claimed inhibited the use WCS spectrum for mobile broadband wireless services.

AT&T says that the new rules “represent an alternative approach to creating additional wireless network capacity to help support skyrocketing wireless data usage on smartphones and tablets.”

Public Knowledge was particularly critical of the move last year, saying that AT&T was being hypocritical by selling spectrum at the same time it argued that spectrum shortages were the main reason its proposed purchase of T-Mobile should be approved.

The FCC today unanimously approved a joint proposal AT&T and Sirius XM submitted in June to maximize spectrum efficiency and make mobile broadband services in the WCS band possible.  You may attribute the following to Joan Marsh, AT&T Vice President of Federal Regulatory.

Joan Marsh, AT&T vice president of federal regulatory affairs, said in a statement that the new rules mark and end to regulatory dispute and uncertainty in the WCS band. Marsh said AT&T took "real risks" to develop the WCS band.

"We expect to commence deployment of LTE infrastructure in the band in as early as three years, allowing us to enhance our wireless broadband services," Marsh said.

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