Another welcome push for more broadband spectrum

19 February 2016 by Steve Blum

The text of a bill to free up more spectrum for broadband purposes has finally been published. It’s called the “Mobile Now” bill and one of its main objectives is prod the federal bureaucracy into transferring frequencies that have been reserved for government agencies – in some cases since the dawn of time – to broadband companies and, potentially, for use as unlicensed spectrum. It also targets non-federal spectrum that’s under used now.

The bill sets a deadline of 2020 to make “a total of at least 255 megahertz of Federal and non-Federal spectrum below the frequency of 6000 megahertz for mobile and fixed wireless broadband use”, with an eventual goal of 500 MHz.

Which is nice, except that’s already the deadline set by president Obama in 2010 for converting the entire 500 MHz. But any added push to get the wheels of the federal bureaucracy turning is welcome. Ten years to move federal users to different frequencies is regarded as horribly short by some agencies.

Another provision would “permit unlicensed services where feasible to use any frequencies that are designated as guard bands to protect frequencies allocated after the date of enactment of this Act by competitive bidding…including spectrum that acts as a duplex gap between transmit and receive frequencies”. In order to ensure there’s no “harmful interference”, it’s not likely to mean a complete free for all in guard bands, but rather something more like the current open coordination methods used to access television white space.

The proposal has bipartisan support, and more or less tracks with existing administration initiatives, so the chances of it passing this year are better than most bills.