Key markets may drop spectrum auctions

Caroline Gabriel/Wireless Watch
25 Jun 2013

In the constant quest for new wireless broadband spectrum, the US government has been particularly active in encouraging spectrum sharing and other approaches.

These may, in time, dilute the influence of the traditional auction process on the economics and processes of the cellular industry. That could, in turn, potentially reduce barriers to entry into the 4G market, and accelerate broadband expansion.

In some countries, auctions have never been a key tool, with beauty contests or government allocations being used instead, but in others, regulators are only just starting to consider attacking the sacred cow.

US president Obama has signed a White House memorandum that orders federal agencies to use their spectrum more efficiently and open up to sharing with cellcos. The memo builds on many government efforts over the past year to boost sharing between federal agencies and commercial carriers and to transfer more spectrum to commercial use.

The White House also said it would pledge $100 million in R&D funding to advance those goals. By September, the National Science Foundation will hand out $23 million in spectrum sharing R&D grants and the Defense Department‘s DARPA agency will announce the first of a planned $60 million in contracts for federal spectrum sharing efforts over the next five years. Additionally, two government technology bodies, the NTIA and NIST, will distribute $17.5 million for advanced research in spectrum and communications.

Last July, the US administration showed its hand on federal sharing when the president's Council of Advisors on Policy and Technology called on the Commerce Department immediately to identify 1,000MHz of spectrum that could be opened up for new wireless uses. It recommended that these airwaves should be the foundation of the “first shared-use spectrum superhighways”. The NTIA has already identified 95MHz of federal frequencies in the 1755-1850MHz band, which could be repurposed for commercial wireless use.

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