FCC Grants 800 MHz Air-Ground Licenses

As previously noted in RF Report, AC BidCo LCC and LiveTV LLC were the two successful bidders for 800 MHz air-to-ground licenses. This spectrum can be used for providing telephone or Internet communications on aircraft. Last week the FCC said these two companies had filed their long form applications and that the FCC had received their payments for the spectrum.

AC BidCo LLC was awarded license WQFX728 for channel block C and LiveTV LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of JetBlue Airways Corp. received license WQFX729 for Channel Block B.

The original 800 MHz air-to-ground telephone systems relied on a form of single-sideband (SSB) amplitude modulation. The new systems are expected to employ the latest digital modulation methods, allowing not only voice but Internet connectivity as well. What isn't clear is how these systems will be connected to passengers' laptops. There have been discussions about allowing cell phones to be used on aircraft communicating with "pico-cell" base stations on the plane. Another option would be to allow use of 802.11b/g 2.4 GHz wireless links on aircraft. This would eliminate the need to run special wiring to seats to allow a wired Ethernet connection, although if handsets are added for voice communication an RJ-45 jack could be easily added.

The FCC Auction 65 Web page does not have the latest information, but it does have useful information on the channel blocks, services allowed and the auction. See Public Notice (DA 06-2254) for additional information on the license grants.