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FCC Spectrum Summit makes case for more wireless bandwidth

The take-away message of the FCC Spectrum Summit today in Washington, D.C., was clear: The United States faces a future spectrum deficit for mobile wireless services and without freeing up 300MHz within the next five years and a total of 500MHz over the next decade, the general welfare of U.S. citizens and the country’s economy will suffer.

Setting the tone for day, FCC chairman Julius Genachowski said the commission must have a “laser-like focus on our invisible infrastructure” — namely spectrum — to lay the foundation for future economic growth and development of new technologies, such as e-books for students and medical devices to facilitate remote patient monitoring, to benefit the society at large.

In making his case for more spectrum, the chairman referenced a commission white paper released today that lays out the dimensions of the spectrum shortfall and the cost to the U.S. economy of not meeting the growing demand for spectrum. According to Genachowski, the United States is likely to see a 35-times increase in mobile broadband traffic as smartphone usage continues to grow; new devices, such as the Apple iPad, gain popularity; and people increasingly use multiple wireless devices. Failure to take action now will cost the United States many hundreds of billions of dollars in lost productivity and unrealized business opportunities in the future, he said.

Genachowski announced during his remarks that the commission would take steps at its open meeting in November to address these spectrum demands, including:

• A Notice of Proposed Rule Making to implement quickly incentive auctions for TV broadcasters who relinquish some of their spectrum in return for a portion of the proceeds of an auction of that spectrum if Congress acts to authorize this approach. The NPRM also will address changes in licensing rules to allow channel sharing among broadcasters and ways to improve broadcast use of VHF spectrum to make it more appealing to broadcasters.

• Action to expand experimental licensing for universities, businesses and others to reduce the time needed to go from the lab to the market with innovative wireless devices.

• A Notice of Inquiry to investigate “opportunistic use of spectrum” to make it easier for secondary use of spectrum and ways to unlock spectrum via the use of spectrum databases, spectrum sensing and dynamic spectrum leasing.

Following the chairman’s remarks and an overview of the new FCC white paper, separate panels discussed the growing demand for spectrum for wireless service and policy issues surrounding implementation of incentive auctions.