Bi-partisan legislation introduced today would require the government to auction two separate 25 MHz blocks of spectrum as a single pair by early 2015. The legislation, to be known as the Efficient Use of Government Spectrum Act, was introduced by U.S. representatives Doris Matsui (D-Calif.), Brett Guthries (R-Ky.), Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.)
The legislation aims to combine 25 MHz of spectrum in the 2155- 2180 MHz band already slated for auction by February 2015 with another 25 MHz of spectrum between 1755-1780 MHz. This would enable network operators purchasing the spectrum to use spectrum in one block for upstream communications and in the other block for downstream communications, making it well suited to the FDD-LTE form of LTE technology that most U.S. carriers have deployed to date. This plan should maximize the amount of revenue that could be generated from an auction, the bill backers argue.
“Recent estimates have indicated that pairing the 1755-1780 MHz band with [the] 2155-2180 MHz band would raise nearly $12 billion in an auction, where auctioning the 2155-2180 MHz band unpaired would only yield up to $3 billion,” says a press release issued by the bill backers.
Wireless industry associations, including CTIA and the Competitive Carriers Association immediately issued press releases in support of the legislation.
“It is time for the United States to do what most of the rest of the world has done, which is to open the 1755 band for commercial service,” said CTIA President and CEO Steve Largent in CTIA’s release.
“This bill will benefit consumers and the economy, and it will also help promote competition and innovation throughout the wireless industry,” said the CCA.
The legislation could face opposition from some corners of the government, however.
Last year the National Telecommunications and Information Administration issued a report suggesting that spectrum between 1755-1850 MHz be made available for commercial use, but rather than auctioning the spectrum, the report authors recommended that commercial and government users share the spectrum. They argued that removing current users from the band would take too long.
According to the press release from the bill backers, the new legislation “seeks to provide the necessary and responsible safeguards for DoD and other federal agencies to relocate, if necessary.”
It’s important to note that the proposed legislation does not involve the entire swath of spectrum that the report focused on, however. While the report looked at a total of 95 MHz of spectrum, the new legislation proposes only to use the lower 25 MHz of that spectrum.
Companies that have deployed FDD-LTE include all four of the nation’s largest carriers AT&T, Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile. But Sprint’s new owner Softbank has indicated that it plans to use TD-LTE, an alternative form of LTE that does not require paired spectrum, to build out Clearwire spectrum that Sprint now controls.