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FCC Mobile Wireless Report Cites Higher Frequency Advantage

I almost moved the FCC's Annual Report and Analysis of Competitive Market Conditions With Respect to Mobile Wireless, Including Commercial Mobile Services to a footnote in RF Shorts, but after reading through the Executive Summary I noticed the following:

"Lower-frequency spectrum potentially allows for a higher quality of coverage with fewer cell sites, when compared to other frequency bands used to provide mobile services. Conversely, higher-frequency spectrum may be effective for increasing capacity, particularly within smaller, more densely-populated geographic areas."

As previously reported, the FCC's National Broadband Plan would take away 20 TV channels. The impact of this is significantly less in isolated rural areas than in congested urban areas. I hope this statement is a hint that the FCC may consider taking away less than 20 channels in "more densely-populated areas."

The Report notes that five providers--Verizon Wireless, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint-Nextel and Clearwire--hold more than 80 percent of the entire spectrum, that's suitable for mobile wireless services.

The Report refers to the below 1 GHz UHF spectrum as "beachfront property." And while the Report uses several paragraphs in listing advantages, it also notes that in some cases, bands higher in the spectrum "can achieve greater improvements in capacity."

For instance, some capacity enhancement technologies, such as MIMO, may perform better at higher frequencies. While spectral efficiency is the same within any spectrum bands when using a given technology (and bandwidth), there's currently significantly more spectrum potentially available for use above 1 GHz.

And in many parts of those higher bands, the spectrum is licensed in larger contiguous blocks, enabling system operators to deploy wider channels and thus simplify the design of communications devices deployed. The Report concludes that this "higher-frequency spectrum can be ideally suited for providing high capacity where it is needed, such as in high-traffic urban areas."

The FCC is likely to face obstacles in reallocating 20 channels from the most densely populated TV markets on a voluntary basis, and broadcasters in the top markets are unlikely to give those slots up without a fight.

By using higher frequency bands and wired connections instead of TV channels in some markets, and by providing incentives and cost reimbursement for broadcasters to change channels to allow spectrum reclamation in others, the National Broadband Plan could be implemented with less impact on the population currently watching off-air TV and broadcasters readying for deployment of Mobile DTV services.

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. He has been with NBC since 1985 and is currently vice president of broadcast technology for NBC/Telemundo stations.