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FCC to Bring Shared Spectrum to the Wireless Table with AWS-3

April 1, 2014 - Written By Nick Sutrich

Cell air waves are a tricky business.  Big companies like Verizon and AT&T own quite a bit of the block, as well as most of the coveted lower frequency spectrum that penetrates buildings better than the higher end stuff that companies like T-Mobile own.  We’ve seen the tide shift a little bit in favor of T-Mobile and Sprint, with T-Mobile buying some of Verizon’s spectrum for $3 billion, and Sprint acquiring ClearWire’s spectrum to enhance their LTE network, but there’s still a lot of work to to to balance the odds out in favor of smaller companies in order to truly compete with the big two, especially in lower-population areas.  Because of this the FCC is pushing a new idea called shared spectrum, and it looks like they’re going to be auctioning it fairly soon too.  Since congress mandated that this specific 65 MHz block of spectrum be auctioned by the beginning of next year, it’s important that the FCC, in addition to the major wireless carriers, come up with a plan to share the spectrum, but that’s not going to be an easy task.

For one the wireless carriers have all pretty much come out against the idea of shared spectrum, citing the hassle and headache involved with not just sharing the spectrum between themselves, but also with government agencies.  As many know government isn’t always the easiest thing in the world to work with, as quick decisions can almost never be made, and nailing down something as precious as wireless spectrum is likely to cause many a heated debate, mucking up the gears and causing even more grief for those involved.  This spectrum, termed the Advanced Wireless Services-3 (AWS-3) spectrum, will be the first one shared between government and private entities, and will require some serious consideration before any actual frequencies are used in commercial or government capacities.  This spectrum is one that could be fairly easily integrated into the current 4G spectrum, so it’s a hot commodity for everyone involved, especially for those looking to beef up their networks to meet demand.

All said and done the proceeds from the auction of this spectrum will go toward FirstNet, which is a government mobile broadband network designed specifically for the nation’s public safety and emergency responder units, all designed to unify the current bevvy of communications systems into one.  Also worth noting are the various large and small blocks of geographic areas up for auction, all of which will likely end up helping smaller carriers like T-Mobile and Sprint the leg up in areas where coverage is currently pretty poor.