Hot Spectrum Draws Cash, and Ideals
The New York Times
By JOHN MARKOFF
Published: March 26, 2007
SAN FRANCISCO, March 25 — It is referred to as the last beachfront property in the wireless world — a prized swath of spectrum that is about to be sold at federal auction. And it has touched off an intense lobbying effort pitting cellular companies against a variety of new players interested in the potential of a next-generation mobile Internet.
The Federal Communications Commission will set the rules for the auction, possibly as soon as next month. Depending on that ruling, the spectrum could be used for voice services for cellular carriers, new frequencies for emergency responders, or a commercial high-speed broadband multimedia network.
Among those trying to influence the outcome are three of the nation’s four largest cellular providers, rural and regional wireless carriers, cable and satellite television companies and a range of technology companies — including Google and Yahoo.
Along with other wireless technology proposals, the auction could reshape the debate over who controls access to the networks that deliver digital content to consumers. Opening the door to more network competition nationally could have a tremendous economic impact.
“This offers the potential for a real game changer in broadband spectrum,” said John M. R. Kneuer, assistant secretary for communications and information at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, an arm of the Commerce Department. “It can both generate new innovation and lower prices.”
The airwaves in question are in the 700-megahertz band, a segment used until now for UHF television but freed up by the move to digital broadcasting. Unless Congress reverses itself, those frequencies are scheduled to be reclaimed by the government and reallocated for public safety and commercial broadband networks on Feb. 19, 2009.
Mr. Kneuer points out that because the new band is at a lower frequency than today’s cellular and digital wireless services, it has a far greater range as well as the ability to penetrate the walls of homes and office buildings more effectively.
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