FCC Sets 700MHz Auction Rules

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Federal Communications Commission has set rules in three areas regarding the 700MHz spectrum auctions set for later this year.

The rules include setting up the commercial services for portions of the 700MHz band, as well as for the 700MHz Guard Bands and for the 700MHz Public Safety Spectrum. In addition, the FCC issued several proposals for rules to be adopted later this year.

The Commercial Services auctions would involve a mix of geographic area sizes for licensing the spectrum. These would include Cellular Market Areas, Economic Areas and Regional Economic Area Groupings. The FCC also established power limits and initial license terms, and it adopted rules that would apply 911 and Enhanced 911 rules, and hearing aid compatibility rules, to commercial devices operating in the 700MHz band.

The FCC said that it would seek comments on build-out requirements for the new frequencies and that it would hear proposals submitted by a number of public interest groups on the use of the 700MHz band. The frequencies in the 700MHz range are being freed by the transition to digital television, which is set to take place no later than Feb. 17, 2009. The new licensees would be able to start using those frequencies the next day.

In addition, the FCC adopted provisions for the use of the existing Guard Band spectrum. Guard Bands are the unoccupied radio frequencies between television channels that keep stations on adjacent channels from interfering with each other. The Commission has announced that it has adopted new leasing rules for this spectrum that would allow Guard Band licensees more flexibility.

The FCC is investigating broadband deployment in the United States. Click here to read more.

Public Safety licenses will be divided into two portions of the 700MHz spectrum, according to a tentative decision by the FCC. The public safety frequencies would be devoted to interoperability, with a set of nationwide standards for broadband communications. The upper part of this frequency spectrum would be devoted to narrowband communications.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said that access to a greater choice of broadband data was critical to consumers. “One important factor spurring both increased broadband availability and reduced prices is competition among broadband platforms,” said Martin. “In much of the country, however, consumers have a choice of only two broadband services: cable or DSL. And in some parts of the country, consumers don’t even have that choice,” he said in a statement. “The most important step we can take to provide affordable broadband to all Americans is to facilitate the deployment of a third ‘pipe’ into the home. We need a real third broadband competitor. And we need a technology that is cost-effective to deploy not just in the big cities, but in the rural areas, as well. All Americans should enjoy the benefits of broadband competition—availability, high speeds, and low prices,” Martin said.

Much of the interest in the soon-to-be-available 700MHz band is for wireless broadband services.

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