NAB, Wireless Offer Alternative TV Band Plan
Negotiating behind the scenes, the NAB, major wireless carriers and chip makers have found common ground on how the 600 MHz TV band should be organized in the wake of the FCC’s upcoming incentive auction.
In the joint letter to the FCC, the NAB, AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile, Intel and Qualcomm asked the commission to adopt a "core set of band plan principles" that would maximize the auctioned spectrum, avoid interference between broadcast and wireless services and support the performance and size of smart phones and tablets.
In essence, NAB EVP Rick Kaplan said, the joint agreement outlines how "wireless and broadcast are going to co-exist” in the post-auction world.
The letter was sent to the FCC as it begins accepting comments in the proceeding aimed at writing the rules for the incentive auction, in which the FCC plans to buy spectrum from broadcasters willing to give it up and then package and auction it to wireless carriers. Initial comments are due today.
According to Kaplan, the joint proposal offers an alternative to an FCC proposal under which broadcasters would be packed into two non-contiguous blocks separated by a block of wireless spectrum.
"The most important thing is that we are not stuck in between the wireless uplink and the wireless downlink to devices," he said. "Putting us there would create enormous interference challenge for us and wireless. It goes both ways, which is why they are concerned to."
The letter also addresses the need for careful coordination in band planning with Canada and Mexico. According to Kaplan, that's needed so TV stations along the border are not "stranded" on high channels.
Without proper coordination, a few stations in markets like Seattle and Detroit could end up on chs. 47 or 48 while most stations are below ch. 41, Kaplan said. "You could imagine over time that’s not ideal for things like receiver design and it’s not a great long-term home to be separated from the rest of your industry for things like interference protection."
Kaplan said he could see the broadcasters and wireless carriers reaching agreement of other matters, but the parties have fundamentally opposing goals. "We want to maintain as much spectrum as we can so that we can continue to grow and to be relevant in the next decades, and they want more spectrum for a variety of reasons including its appreciating value."
Kaplan has expressed doubts that the FCC would be able to meet its timetable of wrapping up the rulemaking this year and conducting the buying and selling of spectrum next year. That NAB and the wireless carriers have been able to reach an agreement on the fundamentals of band organization has not changed Kaplan's assessment.
"I would be shocked to see the whole thing concluded in 2014 and not for any other reason than there are just a lot of issues to work out."