The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted unanimously today to initiate a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) seeking comment on easing restrictions and paving the way for satellite spectrum to be used for land-based mobile broadband service.
The move would be a significant step toward freeing up the 500 MHz of spectrum bandwidth by 2020 to meet growing wireless broadband needs.
The FCC proposes to change the rules for how satellite companies are allowed to use the Mobile Satellite Services (MSS) airwaves they control to spur more innovation in delivering mobile broadband spectrum. A second proposal from the FCC would allow satellite companies to relinquish MSS spectrum in exchange for a return of the profit when those airwaves are auctioned off.
FCC commissioner Michael Copps explains in a statement, "As demands for speed and mobility increase, so does the demand for spectrum upon which mobile wireless broadband rides. Unfortunately, we can't make any more spectrum, so we need to find ways to optimize our supply by expanding flexibility of use for licensees and improving efficiency through new and innovative technologies."
A statement from FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn says, "On June 28th, President Obama released a memorandum entitled "Unleashing the Wireless Broadband Revolution." That Memorandum asserts that our Nation's exponential increase in the demand for wireless services will likely outpace the supply of spectrum currently allocated. It concludes that to address this looming spectrum shortage, we should promote an environment where innovation thrives, and we should take steps to unlock the value of otherwise underutilized spectrum."
Clyburn adds, "If we make prudent changes to some of the Commission's policies with regard to Mobile Satellite Services, we can create incentives for the wireless industry to find innovative ways to make greater use of the spectrum that we had initially allocated for MSS services. By promoting this innovation, we will help wireless carriers meet the unyielding consumer demand for wireless spectrum."
The explosion of smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices has crowded the available wireless broadband bandwidth--and the problem is only going to continue to grow. If approved, the FCC initiative can help address the impending broadband bandwidth crunch, while also spurring innovation, investment, and partnership within the broadband industry.
It is important to reiterate that--like previous NOI requests from the FCC--this is not a declaration from the government agency. Essentially, the FCC is proposing a course of action, and it has initiated a period for public input and commentary to consider before making a final decision.