FCC Re-allocates Spectrum for Wireless Broadband
By Eric Lin, Thu Jun 10 23:45:00 GMT 2004

Instead of just discussing it, the FCC has actually made a decision to reallocate spectrum in the 2500-2700 mHz band for new wireless broadband applications.

The US FCC has approved a plan to reorganize 190 mHz of spectrum for use in new wireless broadband applications. The new arrangement moves higher power licenses to four large chunks on either end of the spectrum for less interference, and squeezes lower power licenses into the middle. Both Sprint and Nextel already own chunks of the spectrum, but it was primarily leased to universities for distance learning and other educational applications.

Under the new rules the schools cannot sell their spectrum, but they can lease up to 95% of it to wireless providers. This could be a boon to American Universities starving for money, and to the lessees if wireless broadband is successful. The new regulations also open up the spectrum to cable providers, who were previously banned from using the band at all. No doubt this is a nod to cable providers' efforts to provide broadband internet to subscriber. However cable companies are still banned from using the spectrum to broadcast pay TV.

Sprint has tried fixed wireless broadband in this very spectrum once before, and failed. However the technology Sprint was using at the time was finicky at best. Technology has improved and carriers like Nextel, i-Burst and Vodafone KK are trial OFDM solutions to see if wireless broadband has evolved enough to offer a successful alternative to wired systems or cellular 3G hardware. The hardware may be ready but the real question is marketing and the public's perception. With blazing fast wired broadband speeds, Wi-Fi hotspots in every cafe, and constantly improving cellular packet data rates, what can wireless broadband offer that users can't get already? That's not to say the FCC should have allocated this spectrum for some other use, but that the licensees have a big challenge ahead of them.