Posted by: Bob Quinn on May 6, 2013 at 10:15 am
Every three months or so, the FCC’s 700 MHz Interoperability Docket finds its way into the Washington media. Given the recent announcement of both new and interim FCC Chairpersons and their coming agendas, I expect the issue to continue to get coverage, so let’s recap the issue and status in that proceeding.
When the FCC created the lower 700 MHz Band Plan, it placed mobile broadband A, B and C Block spectrum adjacent to spectrum used for broadcast television, most significantly, Channel 51 stations. This created substantial interference issues (as well as build out issues due to exclusion zones created around Channel 51 license areas), particularly for A Block license holders, due to the presence of high powered broadcast signals in nearby spectrum.
At auction, markets being what they are, those disadvantages impacted the value of the A Block spectrum, which was sold at a significant discount to other available spectrum. While many regional and smaller competitors purchased A Block licenses, AT&T avoided the A Block and instead purchased licenses at auction and in the secondary market in the B and C bands. Almost immediately after the auction ended, however, the purchasers of the A Block licenses began arguing that any handset used by AT&T to receive B or C Block signals should also be capable of operating on the A Block as well, making all of the spectrum bands “interoperable” – thus the name for our proceeding. Those carriers asserted that handset manufacturers would never make devices just for them, and that the only way they would be able to obtain the latest and greatest technology would be if they could piggy-back on AT&T’s supposedly greater purchasing power.
Posted by: Hank Hultquist on April 29, 2013 at 2:34 pm
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
Lao-Tzu, The Way of Lao Tzu
Over the last few years, discussion of the FCC’s role in IP interconnection has generated lots of heat, a little light, and virtually no progress. On April 18th, the FCC took matters into its own hands and began the transition to all-IP interconnection with not one, but two steps. First, the FCC began a process to authorize IP-based providers to obtain telephone numbers directly from the numbering administrator. Second, and perhaps more importantly, the FCC sought comment on database and routing issues that must be resolved in order to enable the transition to all-IP interconnection.
It is almost impossible to overstate the importance of these database and routing issues. Numbering databases may seem like the driest of telecom issues, but they are the key to enabling this transition. The existing databases, principally the Local Exchange Routing Guide (LERG) and Number Portability Administrative Center (NPAC), lie at the heart of the existing system of TDM interconnection for local and long distance telephone calls. Virtually every telephone call between customers of different service providers is interconnected on the basis of information from these databases. In order to move to IP interconnection, there must be a database that associates IP routing information with telephone numbers.
Once service providers begin to populate IP routing information into the NPAC or some similar database, the momentum for all-IP interconnection will gather into an irresistible wave of innovation and progress. Unlike TDM interconnection, which enables only a homogenized service with a limited and strictly defined set of features, IP interconnection will open the door to higher quality (like HD audio), new capabilities (like video), and a host of new features that will enable consumers to control which modes of communications they will engage in at particular times with particular parties.
Posted by: Jim Cicconi on April 3, 2013 at 11:23 am
The FCC’s 16th Wireless Competition Report is out and, as has been widely reported, the good news is abundant. This year’s report achieves new analytical depth and breadth, and marshals an impressive picture of the U.S. wireless industry.
Virtually everyone in the U.S. now has access to mobile voice and broadband service (99.9% and 99.5%, respectively), and 82% of Americans can choose from between at least four facilities-based mobile broadband providers. Investment in U.S. wireless networks is growing at a rate that is the envy of other countries, with total 2011 investment topping $25 billion and LTE deployments expanding rapidly.
And U.S. consumers are reaping the competitive benefits. Americans are embracing smartphones in record numbers (67% chose smartphones in 2012), mobile data traffic continues its exponential growth, and unit prices, for both minutes and megabytes, are falling. In fact, the Report’s CPI analysis shows that U.S. wireless services are a bargain – since December 1997, the CPI for wireless services has declined by 40% while the overall CPI increased by nearly 40%.