Bloomberg News

FCC Proposes Sharing Federal Airwaves With Wireless Carriers

July 24, 2013

U.S. regulators proposed easing a shortage of airwaves for smartphones by giving mobile carriers such as Verizon Wireless and AT&T Inc. (T:US) access to airwaves used by federal agencies, including the military.

The Federal Communications Commission, in an e-mailed statement yesterday, called for comments through October on plans it said “will help ensure that the speed, capacity, and ubiquity of the nation’s wireless networks keeps pace with the skyrocketing demand for mobile service.”

The government would auction rights to use of the airwaves, setting up a possible competition among No. 1 Verizon, second-largest wireless carrier AT&T, as well as Sprint Corp. (S:US) and T-Mobile US Inc. (TMUS:US), the remaining two nationwide competitors.

“This proceeding has the potential to repurpose a significant amount of spectrum for flexible commercial use, benefiting consumers and businesses across the nation,” Mignon Clyburn, the FCC’s acting chairwoman, said in an e-mailed statement.

President Barack Obama’s administration has called for sharing airwaves to help ease congestion from explosive growth in mobile traffic.

Some of the frequencies at issue -- those in the 1755-to-1780 megahertz band -- have been identified by carriers as suitable for helping to handle soaring wireless traffic from smartphones and tablet computers.

Teresa Takai, the Pentagon’s chief information officer, in a July 17 letter to the FCC proposed moving some military functions, such as microwave links and aerial surveillance, to other airwaves and letting commercial users share frequencies currently devoted to satellite operations and air-combat training.

Takai’s proposal “represents meaningful progress,” Jot Carpenter, vice president, government affairs for CTIA-The Wireless Association, a Washington-based trade group, said in an e-mailed statement.

Separately, the FCC is preparing to auction airwaves relinquished by broadcasters for use by mobile carriers.

To contact the reporter on this story: Todd Shields in Washington at tshields3@bloomberg.net;

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Bernard Kohn at bkohn2@bloomberg.net


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