Thursday, May 15, 2014

The FCC’s Important Step to Power Wireless Broadband

Posted by Aparna Sridhar, Google Policy Counsel

Today, the Federal Communications Commission took an important step toward powering tomorrow’s wireless broadband.  The FCC adopted new rules that will designate some spectrum--resources that, under the FCC’s plan, would not in any event be auctioned for wireless carriers’ broadband services--for unlicensed devices and applications on a shared basis.  

Unlicensed uses of spectrum are an important complement to carriers’ mobile broadband services.  For example, the Wi-Fi networks in homes, businesses, and coffee shops allow users to take data off the wireless carriers’ licensed networks, which enables faster service and reduces congestion on cellular systems.  For smartphones and tablets in particular, Cisco has found that daily data consumption over Wi-Fi is four times that of cellular.  Offloading data from cellular networks to Wi-Fi has saved mobile network operators billions of dollars in network deployment costs.  Faster and cheaper access to online services drives usage of those services and thus demand for all forms of network access, creating a virtuous cycle of investment.  Access to new, lower-frequency TV band spectrum could accelerate this process and create more unlicensed service options, allowing better indoor coverage and service in rural and underserved areas.  

The FCC’s plan allows television broadcasters to sell their spectrum rights voluntarily so they can be purchased by mobile operators.  This will enable more efficient spectrum use and spur economic growth.

The FCC had a challenge in designing its plan for an auction of TV broadcast spectrum, and we’re pleased that it is supporting both licensed and unlicensed uses.  While the plan doesn’t provide as much unlicensed spectrum as we recommended, it should provide just enough unlicensed spectrum to attract investments in equipment and operations in the new band.  Google will do its part to ensure that our Spectrum Database supports sharing of the newly allocated spectrum.

We’re grateful that Congressional supporters of unlicensed spectrum use have continued to back the FCC’s progress on this front. While there’s still a lot of work ahead to get the final details of the auction right, we look forward to working with all stakeholders to build the next generation of wireless technologies and see them deployed across America.

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