What's happening at 700MHz?
The FCC left the best spectrum, basically the rest of the UHF TV band, for last. March 18, 2008, marked the end of an auction that lasted almost two months and yielded nearly $20 billion. These allocations were divided into five blocks (A-E):
- Block A: 12MHz (698-704/728-734MHz)
- Block B: 12MHz (704-710/734-740MHz)
- Block E: 6MHz (722-728MHz)
- Block C: 22MHz (746-757/776-787MHz)
- Block D: 10MHz (758-763/788-793MHz)
There are a total of 1,099 licenses offered under this auction:
- Block A: 176 Economic Area (EA) licenses
- Block B: 734 Cellular Market Area (CMA) licenses
- Block E: 176 Economic Area (EA) licenses
- Block C: 12 Regional Economic Area Grouping (REAG) licenses
- Block D: 1 nationwide license (subject to conditions respecting a public/private partnership)
In the end, 1,090 licenses were won, however all of the bidding for block D did not meet reserves. The primary reason being a requirement placed on bidders to provide a certain amount of access for public service use. Bidders perhaps felt the requirement limited their commercial use of the spectrum.
The permissible uses for these blocks are similar to that specified in the lower band; however, the wider bandwidth, particularly block C, will permit the deployment of next generation wireless services called 3GPP LTE. LTE is an acronym for long-term evolution and is a technology that represents the transition into the future 4G platform. LTE can provide download speeds of 100Mb/s, and will therefore be a natural platform capable of telephone, radio, television and Internet access applications.
The major winner of the auction, including block C licenses that cover all of the lower 48 states, is Verizon, who has announced its intentions to deploy LTE on the spectrum. AT&T, the next largest bidder, announced similar plans. One catch with the C block is that the licensee must operate an open platform providing access to any application from any device. This requirement came out of a pre-bid petition to the FCC which was subsequently granted.
Other platforms that could materialize on these frequencies by smaller operators include Wimax and UMB (Ultra Mobile Broadband), all competing technologies to LTE.
No matter which technologies surface, one thing is certain: You will start to see a new generation of broadband wireless device on the market, possibly by the end of 2009.
More on the ramifications of the 700MHz changes in the February Podcast at RadioMagOnline.com.
McNamara is president of Applied Wireless, Cape Coral, FL.
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