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Could tax relief legislation allow Sprint to add an "H" to its PCS alphabet?



blog-0082696001329947649.jpgby Andrew J. Shepherd

Sprint 4G Rollout Updates

Wednesday, February 22, 2012 - 4:20 PM MST


While the name of the bill might seem to suggest otherwise, the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 currently working its way through Congress contains several provisions that have direct bearing on the wireless industry.


One, it assigns directly to public safety the Upper 700 MHz D block 10 MHz (5 MHz x 5 MHz) nationwide license—which had been intended for a public-private national network partnership but failed to reach its reserve price at FCC auction in 2008—and provides financing for the construction of a national public safety network.


Two, it authorizes the FCC to conduct incentive auctions in which UHF TV broadcasters can voluntarily give up their broadcast channels in exchange for compensation so that their spectrum may be repurposed for wireless broadband.


Three, it directs the FCC to auction within the next three years additional spectrum between 1600 MHz and 2200 MHz, including the creation of yet another PCS 1900 MHz block, the ostensibly named PCS "H" 10 MHz (5 MHz x 5 MHz) block. See the relevant portion of the draft bill:


   (1) IN GENERAL.—Notwithstanding paragraph
(15)(A) of section 309(j) of the Communications Act
of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 309(j)), not later than 3 years
after the date of the enactment of this Act, the
Commission shall, except as provided in paragraph
   (A) allocate the spectrum described in
paragraph (2) for commercial use; and
   ( through a system of competitive bid-
ding under such section, grant new initial li-
censes for the use of such spectrum, subject to
flexible-use service rules.
(2) SPECTRUM DESCRIBED.—The spectrum de-
scribed in this paragraph is the following:
   (A) The frequencies between 1915 mega-
hertz and 1920 megahertz.
   ( The frequencies between 1995 mega-
hertz and 2000 megahertz.


Recall that, in the 800 MHz public safety reconfiguration order, Sprint (Nextel) was awarded newly created PCS G 10 MHz (5 MHz x 5 MHz) licenses nationwide to compensate for the SMR 800 MHz spectrum it gave up in the reconfiguration effort and that Sprint plans to deploy 5 MHz x 5 MHz LTE in its PCS G spectrum as part of the Network Vision initiative over the next two years. The PCS "H" block would be of particular interest to Sprint and to S4GRU readers because it would be adjacent to the PCS G licenses that Sprint holds nationwide. See a snapshot of the band plan (the PCS "H" block would take the place of the Proposed AWS-2 Block adjacent to the Nextel allocation):





Prior to auction, the PCS "H" block would most probably be divided into geographic licenses, and any current or future wireless carrier could bid on one or all licenses. So, Sprint would not be guaranteed to win any PCS "H" spectrum. But Sprint would gain the greatest utility from PCS "H" spectrum because it could be most easily combined with Sprint's existing PCS G spectrum for 10 MHz x 10 MHz LTE. Thus, consider this a brief, early look at how Sprint could likely augment its spectrum portfolio in the coming years.


Sources: US House of Representatives, FCC, author's notes; special thanks to TMF Associates, Public Knowledge

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That would be awesome for Sprint if they can land a nationwide swath of "H" spectrum. AT&T will probably outbid them just to keep them from getting it and then sit on the spectrum and complain that they don't have enough spectrum and their customers are ruining their network...

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That would be awesome for Sprint if they can land a nationwide swath of "H" spectrum. AT&T will probably outbid them just to keep them from getting it and then sit on the spectrum and complain that they don't have enough spectrum and their customers are ruining their network...


I hope that at&t doesn't get that chance.

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I would love to see Sprint snatch up the majority of the PCS "H" block spectrum licenses so they can expand their PCS spectrum holdings.

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Ridiculous that there is actually a bill for TV broadcasters to give up their channel they are broadcasting on. No OTA...no ratings...you have to become a national channel. No OTA, no "must carry" rules apply, so the cable co/satellite co doesn't have to carry your church channel. No OTA, no satellite company can carry them, and many cable companies as well.

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digiblur, I think that you are taking a highly polarized, overly simplified perspective on a complicated issue.


One, the incentive auctions, if they come to pass, will be entirely voluntary. Broadcasters have to opt in, not opt out. Broadcasters that do opt in may be able to make more money via auction windfall than through continued OTA operation on a dedicated channel.


Two, refarming under utilized UHF spectrum is nothing new, has been successful in the past. Prior to the 1980s, Cellular 850 MHz spectrum was UHF TV channels 70-83, for example.


Three, broadcasters can opt to share physical channels but operate separately as virtual channels or sub channels. Those that opt to share channels retain all of their carriage rights.


Four, besides affiliates of the major networks, many UHF TV broadcasters provide little to serve the public interest; they broadcast the TV equivalent of tripe. The CW, seriously?


Five, incentive auction participants will be limited to full power and class A broadcasters. The "church channel" would not be relevant.


Six, many cable and satellite providers already receive their broadcast feeds not OTA but by cable or fiber optic feeds directly from the broadcast studios.


So, you are condemning incentive auctions based on highly incomplete information. Nothing is quite as black and white as you put it. Keep an open mind.


That said, incentive auctions are still controversial -- both for broadcasters and potential wireless licensees alike. Broadcasters may fail to participate, freeing up little or no additional spectrum. Or if the incentive auctions are successful, that available spectrum may create even more band class fragmentation and likely consolidate even more bandwidth in the hands of VZW and AT&T.



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could Sprint afford to even be involved in an auction? Thought Sprint would be cash strapped to even bid on anything with the whole NV rollouts underway and helping Clear too. Also the whole LS failing not helping their cash status too doesn't help.

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I would be nice to see Google bid on dome Spectrum again, but on their own of course, also seeing as the GOOG has a comfy relationship with T-Mobile/Sprint, we could see some interesting possibilities in the future

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