FCC to send more spectrum to Wi-Fi

FCC in Washington DC

US Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler said the two-sided spectrum auction set for May 15 will be important for broadband competition in rural areas so it's important for the FCC to make it work.

He described the two-sided spectrum auction as the first such auction worldwide. The auction involves a complicated two-sided spectrum auction that should see the FCC reserve 18MHz to 26MHz of spectrum in the 600MHz band for unlicensed wireless uses. The total amount of spectrum will depend on how many TV stations take part in the auction.

This "incentive auction" allows television stations to sell their spectrum in return for a slice of the profits in the auctions. The FCC said the auction will sell generic 5MHz blocks of spectrum in the 600MHz band to bidders instead of selling specific spectrum bands.

The 600MHz spectrum band is valuable spectrum for mobile broadband and related services.It will allow mobile providers to build fewer base stations than in higher spectrum bands, which is an especially important feature of this spectrum for rural areas.

"The incentive auction is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to expand the benefits of mobile wireless coverage and competition to consumers across the nation -- particularly consumers in rural areas -- offering more choices of wireless providers, lower prices, and higher quality mobile services," Wheeler said.

"Not all spectrum frequencies are created equal. Spectrum below 1GHz--such as the incentive auction spectrum--has physical properties that increase the reach of mobile networks over long distances."

Part of the incentive auction will be a reverse auction during which TV stations will compete against each other to be paid for their spectrum. The reverse portion of the auction will determine the prices at which TV stations give up spectrum and the amount of spectrum available in the so-called forward auction, the FCC said. After the auction ends, participating TV stations will have 39 months to clear the sold spectrum. 

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