CTIA Takes on Rival Spectrum Users in FCC Letter

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The CTIA reiterated its demands for more radio spectrum for mobile broadband in a letter sent Friday to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, laying down the gauntlet to other industries in what may become a growing battle over access to prized frequencies.

The organization, which is the major industry group for U.S. mobile operators, wants the FCC to consider all spectrum bands below 3GHz for possible use for commercial mobile data services. It previously had told the FCC that carriers would need 800MHz of additional spectrum to meet the rapidly growing demand for mobile broadband. The agency is currently seeking comment on a possible national broadband plan.

User demand for mobile data is growing rapidly, and the most economical frequencies for delivering those services to devices are low-frequency bands, which require fewer cellular base stations because they have a longer reach.

In Friday's letter, which cited comments from CTIA member organizations and other respondents to the FCC, the CTIA targeted the broadcast TV, fixed microwave and MSS (mobile satellite service) industries as inefficient users of spectrum and set its sights on the frequencies they use.

"Any spectrum usage below 3GHz that has not been licensed in an exclusive, flexible fashion for commercial wireless service should be investigated for potential broadband usage," the CTIA wrote.

The CTIA wants the FCC to identify large blocks of spectrum, primarily between 400MHz and 3GHz and preferably adjacent to bands already used for commercial mobile data. To take advantage of the high-capacity capabilities of emerging 4G (fourth-generation) technologies such as WiMax and LTE (Long-Term Evolution), those bands will have to be bigger than the 5MHz to 10MHz ones that are typically allocated today, the group said.

Though it supports broad reviews of spectrum use that are being considered by Congress, the CTIA has its eye on some bands being used by specific industries. Though recently mandated digital TV makes more efficient use of spectrum than the earlier analog TV, that industry can still do better, the group said. It criticized TV broadcasters for using more spectrum than they need, for selfish reasons rather than the public interest.

"Recent media reports make clear that broadcasters must hold on to unused and underutilized spectrum only to profit from mobile TV and multicasting -- not to ensure the public receives free over the air programming," the CTIA wrote. TV frequencies are close to the 700MHz band recently auctioned for mobile data, so turning over some of that spectrum to carriers could bolster the coming 700MHz mobile services, it said.

The CTIA also targeted the 2GHz band, which it said had been allocated to mobile satellite services including mobile voice, data and paging by operators such as Iridium. Such services have not flourished commercially and the FCC should consider reallocating spectrum that was set aside for them, the CTIA said.

In addition, some of the spectrum assigned to fixed microwave transmission systems, such as in the 900MHz bands, might also be reallocated, the CTIA wrote.

The group also attacked proposals for dedicating spectrum to special-purpose networks such as electrical "smart grids," saying locking in frequencies to specific uses is inefficient and existing networks could meet those needs.

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