Carrier Wrap: Spectrum demand driving unique solutions – Episode 10


On this week’s Carrier Wrap we dig into unique government solutions to meet spectrum demand

Consumers’ insatiable demand for mobile data services has wireless carriers scrambling to bolster their networks. This includes the ongoing deployment of new network technologies like small cells as well as more established methods like adding new spectrum resources.

The federal government is very much aware of the need to free up spectrum resources for the commercial wireless space, highlighted by President Obama’s push for 500 megahertz of new spectrum to be set aside for commercial use by 2020. Those efforts have already resulted in a pair of spectrum auctions, with a third on tap this year, as well as initiatives for shared spectrum in the 3.5 GHz band.

On this week’s Carrier Wrap, we spoke with Karl Nebbia, director of spectrum policy at Alion Science & Technology, to gauge his views on the current spectrum market, how the government has handled meeting the spectrum needs of the commercial wireless industry and efforts made in developing more robust spectrum sharing programs. Nebbia has an extensive history in the space, having been a former head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration Office of Spectrum Management.

Nebbia laid out some historical context in how the federal government has worked to free up spectrum assets for commercial services, including efforts towards the sharing of assets with federal agencies like the Department of Defense. These efforts were core to the Federal Communications Commission’s advanced wireless service auctions, which included the AWS-1 auction that generated nearly $14 billion in winning bids, and last year’s AWS-3 auction, which generated a record $41 billion in net bids.

Looking ahead, Nebbia noted the planned 600 MHz incentive auction, while extremely complicated, could provide some relief for the federal government in terms of working to free up new spectrum assets and spectrum sharing plans.

“From the government side, one of the great things is it takes the heat a little bit off the government, because people are looking and saying ‘we see here on the private sector we have a hard time getting everybody to talk together and work together to,” Nebbia said. “I am impressed by the commissions efforts to make this work. To bring together people from both sides and conducting an auction with participation from both sides where the participants can actually talk to each other. … It’s a complex business, but I think with every auction the commission’s held over the years there’s always been a new spin to it, something new about it … and this one’s going to be particularly complicated.”

Thanks for watching this week’s Carrier Wrap and please make sure to check out a new episode of Carrier Wrap next week.

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