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:
REALLOCATION AND AUCTION.— (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 (4)— (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