NAB suggests alternative solutions to auctioning spectrum

Looking to head-off a government plan to auction television broadcast spectrum, the NAB has filed a paper with the FCC written by a former employee that claims there is no spectrum crisis in the United States.

The paper, by Uzoma Onyeije, who served as an attorney at the FCC in the wireless and wireline bureaus from 2001 to 2006 during the Bush Administration, questioned the existence of a spectrum crisis in the paper titled, "Solving the Capacity Crunch: Options for Enhancing Data Capacity on Wireless Networks."

Onyeije claims insufficient analysis and reliance on faulty information in the formation of the FCC's National Broadband Plan has led to the overstated assumption of a nationwide spectrum crisis.

"The factual basis for the 'spectrum crisis' claim is underwhelming," Onyeije wrote in the paper. "For example, the answer to the fundamental question of how much spectrum mobile carriers need remains uncertain. It appears that the notion of a need for large-scale spectrum reallocation to address a shortage of mobile spectrum is based on questionable assumptions designed to achieve a particular result."

The National Broadband Plan's conclusion of a spectrum shortage is based on little more than a wish list by wireless carriers, said Onyeije. Rather than auction spectrum, he suggests deploying network technology upgrades that promote spectral efficiency; leveraging consumer infrastructure such as femtocells and Wi-Fi; investing in infrastructure to enhance capacity through the deployment of smart antennas, picocells, sectorization and cell splitting; and encouraging the development of bandwidth sensitive applications.

Onyeije is currently president of Onyeije Consulting LLC and general counsel for Our Faith Channel, a faith-based television network. His views have been countered by a vast number of supporters in both parties who favor the auctions.

To date, more than 2000 companies with over $1 trillion in revenue have called on Congress to pass legislation allowing the FCC to conduct voluntary incentive auctions for broadcasters. They have called the auctions "critical to furthering innovation and growing jobs in America."

Last month, 112 of the nation's leading economists endorsed voluntary incentive auctions for the spectrum. The economists who signed this letter include Nobel Prize winners, former members of both Republican and Democratic administrations and FCC chief economists who served under chairmen of both parties.

"It's become clear that this is an idea whose time has come," FCC Chairman Genachowski told broadcasters at the recent NAB in Las Vegas.